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June 4, 2018
Maine Overrides Governor’s Veto on Adult Use Cannabis
In May, Maine’s Legislature utilized a two-thirds vote to override Governor Paul LePage’s second veto of a bill to regulate the state’s adult use cannabis market. The House voted in favor of an override 109-39, and the Senate’s tally was 28-6, more than enough to seal the deal.
The team here at Medicine Man Technologies applauds this move to uphold the will of the voters who approved Question 1 in 2016 and made Maine the fourth state to legalize recreational cannabis. Even the tight 50.3% to 49.7% vote was ultimately confirmed by a required recount.
As of January 2017, adults over the age of 21 are able to possess up to 2.5 ounces and use it in private, non-public spaces. Growing in your home or a non-visible area was also allowed, with a limit of 6 mature plants per adult. Question 1 also included social clubs and retail dispensaries as points of purchase. The sales tax rate was set at 10% with 98% of that revenue going to a general fund.
The Ups and Downs of Adult Use Cannabis in 2017
The start of the year saw the quick passing of a bill that gave lawmakers until February 2018 to hash out laws for the new cannabis market. This framework became LD 1650 which encompassed rules for licensing and regulating legal enterprises for cultivation, processing/production, and retail facilities. It also included language delaying cannabis use in social clubs until 2019.
With the House voting 81-50 and the Senate voting 22-9, LD 1650 was finally sent to Gov. LePage for approval in October of 2017. Unfortunately, he vetoed the bill.
In response, David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Maine political director and campaign manager for the 2016 Question 1 campaign, stated, “Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market. In 2014, the governor said he would implement a legalization law if approved by voters, but he has failed to uphold that commitment.”
At the time, LD 1650 also didn’t have the required two-thirds majority to overrule the veto. So, a special committee was assembled to revisit the bill and make more adjustments. The revised version, LD 1719, will now go into effect thanks to the veto override. Here are key the changes to the original referendum:
- Adults who grow at home can only have 3 plants instead of the original 6
- Halts the establishment of social clubs for adult use cannabis
- Eliminates delivery businesses, internet sales and retail drive-thru windows
- Number of commercial grow licenses will no longer be capped
- Maine residents with 4 current years of in-state living will be given licensing priority
- Individual municipalities may enact a moratorium on adult use retail facilities
- Doubles sales tax to 20% and sets aside 6% of those revenues for law enforcement
- Retail licenses will not likely be available until spring of 2019
Meanwhile, Adult Use Cannabis is Still Legal in Maine
While advocates collectively groaned at the thought of waiting until 2019 for retail dispensaries to open, there are still ways for adults over the age of 21 to enjoy cannabis.
Residents of Maine can either grow their own plants or rely on friends with green thumbs to share their harvest or homemade edibles. The law allows people to possess and transport up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to give it to another adult as long as no money or other items of value are exchanged.
And in another bit of good news, one very unique provision of the original 2016 law went into effect on February 1st. Maine is now the first state to protect employees and job applicants (over the age of 21) from discrimination based on their cannabis use outside of the workplace. The state’s labor board has even removed it from the list of substances employers can have applicants or employees tested for.
While a simple, straightforward rollout of a medical or adult use cannabis program is always the goal, Medicine Man Technologies has seen far too often how complicated it can be to launch a new enterprise. Hopefully, things will move ahead more smoothly in Maine. We’ll keep you updated.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.
June 1, 2018
Door Open to Legalizing Medical Cannabis in Thailand
After decades of draconian laws and brutal punishments, a bill allowing the limited consumption of medical cannabis in Thailand has been approved by its cabinet. While this won’t help patients right away, it does open the door to medical research into its therapeutic efficacy. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’re excited to see progress of any kind in a country notorious for a lack of tolerance.
The bill will now be in the hands of Thailand’s Parliament, also called the National Legislative Assembly, for further consideration and hopefully, approval.
A Brief History of Cannabis in Thailand
Cannabis was once very common in Thailand and used in many ways, from being the main ingredient in a traditional soup to providing medicinal relief for ailments such as migraines, cholera, malaria, digestion issues, dysentery, asthma, parasites and pain after giving birth. Topical treatments and oils for massage were also customary throughout the country. Even hemp was widely used for clothing.
When the United States got involved in the Vietnam War during the 1960s, the local market really took off. American soldiers encountered “Thai Sticks”, a native form of cannabis (dipped in opium), which they began mailing and packing to bring back home. It didn’t take very long for patients and enthusiasts around the world to seek out these sticks, making cannabis one of the prime exports out of Thailand.
In 1971, President Nixon officially declared a “war on drugs” and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was established in 1973. They went after Colombian drug lords trafficking cocaine and eventually turned their attention to Thailand.
Likely feeling the pressure, Thailand passed a Narcotics Act in 1979 which severely punished anyone who produced, exported or imported cannabis. Punishment was harsh, up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of 1.5 million Thai baht ($40,000 USD). Visitors who were caught for possession even faced the death penalty – though it was primarily a threat tactic used by the police for bribery.
By the 1980s, Thailand had become one of America’s biggest allies in the war on drugs. However, zero tolerance policies led to massive busts and incarceration rates. It also gave rise to the rampant use of methamphetamine. Because meth labs are portable and producers are able to manufacture the drug in relative secrecy, it became the drug of choice while the government and law enforcement officials were focused on destroying a once thriving cannabis market.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Thailand’s Justice Minister, Paiboon Koomchaya, finally acknowledged that the so-called war on drugs had been lost, and it was time for both citizens and the government to approach the country’s drug epidemic as a public health matter requiring new, more sensible policies.
Medical Cannabis in Thailand Faces Long Road
If the bill is approved by Thailand’s Senate and House, the country’s existing Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) will begin to approve and set up legal operations to support medical research efforts.
At this point, researchers from the country’s Rangsit and Mahidol universities have already presented the ONCB with plans to research the medicinal properties of cannabis in treating cancer and providing pain management for various conditions. In addition, Rangsit has developed an oral cannabis spray that alleviates pain in cancer and multiple sclerosis patients. They’re pushing for patient use to be legalized so that the spray can be brought to market.
Another venture, to be carried out by the Thai Cannabis Corporation, includes cultivating 5,000 hectares (over 12,000 acres) of medical cannabis in Thailand over the next five years. It will be overseen by The Royal Project Foundation and all research will be conducted by Maejo University. The project will focus on sustainable and low-cost ways to grow and produce cannabis oils and extracts. Compliance with Thai law will require growing strains with high cannabidiol (CBD) and minimal tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to reduce psychoactive effects.
As for people wanting to grow medical cannabis in Thailand for patient use, the ONCB’s secretary general Sirinya Sitdhichai tempered expectations saying, “Three years from now, we may consider granting people such permission.” As for recreational, he was far more straightforward, “While we will allow the growing of marijuana and its use for medical purposes, we will control such activities. We will not allow marijuana use for entertainment purposes.”
Though progress may appear glacially slow, it’s still a drastic change for a country infamous for ruthlessly punishing anyone caught with illegal substances. Medicine Man Technologies will be watching closely as the bill progresses and research begins. We hope to see a new era of cannabis acceptance in Thailand.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.
May 8, 2018
Recreational Cannabis in Massachusetts to Launch in July
In our last update on recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, Medicine Man Technologies provided a look at changes state lawmakers made to Question 4, the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized adult-use cannabis during the November 2016 election.
A compromise bill, known as HB 3818, included tax hikes and the option for municipalities to ban sales. It was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 28, 2017.
In addition, the scheduled date to start taking license applications for cannabis enterprises was pushed out to April 1st of this year with the earliest date for legal sales to commence targeted for July 1, 2018.
So, where is Massachusetts today?
Cannabis Licensing Rolls Out in Phases
With sales of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts set to begin in less than two months from now, the state is cutting it far too close for licensing to be granted and product to be grown, prepared and stocked. This will create a severe short-supply issue similar to what was seen in California, Nevada and other states.
Steven Hoffman, Cannabis Control Commission Chairman, is hopeful that the state’s current Registered Medical Dispensaries (RMD) will sell to retailers since these are the only enterprises that are cultivating legally at this point.
However, dispensaries are not required to sell, and the decision will be solely in their hands.
At this point, the Cannabis Control Commission has been flooded with applications from its first two phases and that trend is set to continue:
- On April 2nd, priority was given to existing medical dispensaries wanting to expand into adult use, as well as “economic empowerment applicants.” These included businesses owned by, that employ or benefit communities affected by unfairly high cannabis-related crime arrests.
- On May 1st, Massachusetts began taking applications from individuals and cannabis enterprises seeking licenses for cultivation, microbusiness, craft cooperatives, transport, independent testing labs and lab agents.
- On June 1st, phase three will open licensing to applicants for cannabis product manufacturers and retail.
According to Hoffman, “I think the supply issues are going to – and I hate this bad pun – but we’re going to grow out of them. People are going to get cultivation licenses. It's going to take however many months it takes to grow plants. We're going to get that resolved."
Another Round of Changes is Made
In creating the infrastructure needed to regulate a system for recreational cannabis in Massachusetts, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission and Cannabis Advisory Board also made more changes:
- For now, delivery services and on-site, public cannabis use (such as cafes) will not be allowed. A set of regulations to manage these ventures should be rolled out in the coming year.
- Originally unlimited, regulators will restrict licensed growers to 100,000 square feet of canopy to help ensure that excess cannabis isn’t diverted to the black market.
- To ensure that medical cannabis patients do not face a medication shortage, dispensaries must earmark 35% of their inventory for these patients.
- At the point of sale, all cannabis products must be sold with a label utilizing an approved design that includes the wording, “contains THC” and “not safe for kids.”
- For individuals and enterprises looking to enter the market, Massachusetts will ban anyone with a felony conviction for drug trafficking – other than for cannabis.
Final Hurdle Needs to be Overcome
While July 1st will be a big day for cannabis in Massachusetts, residents will not be able to buy it in every municipality. As we mentioned, HB 3818 gave each area the ability to ban cannabis businesses, including cultivators and retailers.
According to the Attorney General’s office, 189 of the state’s 351 municipalities currently have a ban in place. Most of these were established to give local lawmakers time to pass their own regulations and will expire in time for cannabis businesses to commence operations.
However, there are 59 bans with no set end date which means they could become “dry municipalities” and force residents to travel for purchases.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we look forward to seeing recreational cannabis in Massachusetts finally launch this July. While the road ahead presents supply and demand challenges, legalization has been a well-deserved win for its supporters and the entire state.
It’s our hope that the municipalities with bans will see the many benefits and enable the industry to grow and thrive in their communities.
If you want to start a legal enterprise in Massachusetts or anywhere across the globe, please get in touch with us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.
May 1, 2018
Medical Cannabis in Malta is Now Officially Legal
After months of debate, medical cannabis was legalized by lawmakers in Malta, an archipelago located off the southern coast of Italy. On a third and final reading of the legislation, the amendment to Malta’s Drug Dependence Act was passed on March 6th by parliament and signed into law by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on March 9th.
While the country decriminalized cannabis in 2015, restrictions and other bureaucratic hurdles made it nearly impossible to obtain and use a medical prescription for cannabis. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’re optimistic that medical cannabis in Malta is finally moving in the right direction.
What we know thus far is that patients first need to apply for a control card and receive approval from Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health before seeking a doctor’s prescription. The new law also allows general practitioners, not just government-approved specialists such as oncologists, to then prescribe medical cannabis for their patients.
The New Cannabis Law is Far from Perfect
While we always applaud progress, there are areas where we and Maltese advocates would like to see improvements made. First, in a departure from similar programs, only three conditions are eligible to be treated with medical cannabis: chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy.
Here are a few more areas of contention:
- It is still illegal to consume medical cannabis in smokable forms
- Patients will not be allowed to cultivate plants for personal use
- Costs will not be covered by Malta’s public healthcare system
Additionally, Maltese doctors are yet to be thoroughly educated on evidence-based research showing the medicinal properties of cannabis, much less how to administer it to their patients. And according to an article from ReLeaf Malta, a cannabis advocacy group, the first networking meeting between medical practitioners and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health did nothing to improve the situation for medical cannabis in Malta:
“Regrettably, Prof. Seracin Inglot warned doctors of the dangers of using cannabis and called on them to refrain from using it. He also informed doctors that in spite of the approval needed by the Medicines Authority for the patients to start using cannabis, the responsibility falls on the doctor. Prof. Seracin Inglot told members present to use common sense above everything else and to not trust cannabis.”
As our team at Medicine Man Technologies has seen time and again, it’s not just about passing laws but educating the public, the medical community, as well as the government. All stakeholders need to have the information they need to advocate for patients and establish a working medical cannabis system.
What’s Next for Medical Cannabis in Malta
Beyond patient laws for medical cannabis in Malta, a separate bill to regulate the system and medical cannabis products is now being discussed by Malta’s Parliament. It will cover licensing and other rules for:
- Cultivation, importation or processing of cannabis; and/or
- Production of any products intended for medicinal use deriving from or resulting from the use of cannabis; and/or
- Trade in cannabis and, or any preparations intended for medicinal use as deriving from cannabis.
While the bill could potentially be passed by summer, five medical cannabis production projects have already been given the green light. However, the companies involved are not Maltese. In the group are three Canadian enterprises along with one Australian and one Israeli company. Together, their operations should create around 185 new jobs which will certainly help the country’s economy.
Even Malta’s struggling farmers are making plans to capitalize on a legal medical cannabis industry. Over the years, their own industry has seen a drop-off and many have been looking for a way out. While many farmers in other countries switch to growing a lucrative cannabis crop, Maltese farmers are answering the call of outside cultivators looking to buy their land and establish their own operations.
Like many other medical cannabis programs, Malta is off to a decent but somewhat shaky start. Our Medicine Man Technologies experts will be keeping an eye on developments, and we certainly hope to see improvements made to better serve Maltese citizens in need.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, just get in touch with us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.
April 13, 2018
Medical Cannabis in South Korea Moves Forward
There is suddenly hope for patients and the parents of children suffering from medical conditions that could be treated with medical cannabis in South Korea. Despite decades of prohibition, archaic opinions and any talk of drug use in South Korea being extremely taboo, a new bill seeks to legalize cannabis for medicinal applications.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we see this as a rather huge development for a typically conservative country and will be watching closely as the bill progresses.
What the Bill Would Entail for South Korea
What we know so far is that Representative Shin Chang-hyun, member of the ruling Democratic Party, introduced a bill in February to legalize medical cannabis in South Korea. Doing so would require making changes to the country’s long-standing and broad-reaching Act on the Control of Narcotics.
Listed under the reason for the bill’s proposal, the following statement was included by Shin, “The current law strictly prohibits the sale of cannabis. Recently, there was a case in which the mother bought a cannabis oil on the overseas fasting line for the treatment of a son with a brain tumor (4 years old) and was arrested and sentenced in court.” (translated from source)
Cases like this have popped up more frequently, and The Korea Times reported that the Korea Customs Service stopped 80 people from trying to smuggle in cannabis products for medical use in 2016. During the previous year, there were only six instances.
This certainly indicates that people are seeing the validity of cannabis as a treatment option. And with patients and parents of patients willing to accept risks such as prison sentences of up to 5 years or fines of 50 million won, or $48,000, it’s certainly beyond time for the country’s lawmakers to allow change.
Of course, it will be one step at a time.
Likely because of the controversial nature of the bill, it only recommends moving medical cannabis to a section of the current law that provides exceptions for certain drugs and opiates that can be used for medicinal purposes. Beyond that, there would be no changes such as developing and implementing a more robust system as seen with other similar legislation here in the U.S. and globally.
In fact, patients seeking medical cannabis in South Korea would first need to have it prescribed by their doctor. Requests would then need to be approved on an individual basis by the commissioner of the Korea Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The bill also does not allow domestic cultivation which means the South Korean market would be reliant on imports from Canada and Australia, as well as rather recent entries to the medicinal cannabis export market, Colombia and even Lesotho, Africa. While Shin’s bill seems simple, there will certainly be issues to address in order to best serve the needs of patients.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we hope that South Korea will continue to shed the stigma and embrace the benefits of cannabis by watching and learning how the world is making it a viable commodity. Until then, we will watch and wait as the bill heads to lawmakers of the Legislative Welfare Committee for further debate. According to news reports from South Korea, this will be the real test and the outcome should be announced later in April. Keep an eye on the news!
If you want to start your own legal enterprise here in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, simply get in touch for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.