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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Politics

Medical pot creates regulatory quagmire


Published:

Prospective pot business owners are griping about being forced to haul their product across the state instead of being able to sell it at multiple storefronts as part of draft regulations for the state’s new medical marijuana industry.

The Department of Health held a workshop Friday as it races to meet a Jan. 1 deadline to implement a new law that legalized strains of marijuana that purportedly do not get users high but can dramatically reduce or eliminate life-threatening seizures for children with a rare form of epilepsy. Patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or cancer would also be eligible to get cannabis that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, if their doctors order it.

As they did at a workshop a month ago, regulators heard a litany of complaints about a revised draft rule released earlier this week setting up guidelines for the new industry. At the top of the list: health officials’ plan to use a lottery system to pick who will be granted one of five highly sought-after licenses to grow, process and distribute the low-THC cannabis.

Lawyers for Costa Farms, one of the state’s biggest nurseries, implied that the rule might be challenged if the lottery provision is not dropped. Health officials have indicated they want to keep the lottery system intact in part to avoid drawn-out legal fights.

The draft rule also includes a compromise that would allow dispensaries to have transportation plans approved and deliver their product to patients.

Potential vendors almost universally back the idea of statewide distribution. But allowing pot businesses to truck their product throughout the state is a bad idea and potentially dangerous for patients, drivers and others, multiple speakers objected.

Another unanswered question concerns how growers will get the product to start cultivating the low-THC substance in the first place. All strains of marijuana are still illegal under federal law, although Congress is considering a law that would legalize low-THC cannabis.

“For my company, this represents a great opportunity, not just financial … but it also puts the rest of our businesses at risk,” Mark Dunlop, vice president of sales for Sun City-based Speedling, said. “It seems that we need some state-authorized source of plant materials. …”

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