2017 Medical and Rec Cannabis Programs in the US

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A plant walks into a bar, and the bar loses its liquor license. In Colorado, at least, this is true, following changes in what type of establishments can operate with a liquor license. The plant in question: Cannabis, and since we all know that plants can grow, but not, well, walk, let’s assume that our cannabinoid-laden, terpene-oozing plant flower was in the pocket of a bar patron (whom is also at least 21 years old, of course).

Ordinance 300 is a Denver voter-backed initiative that is intended to navigate controlled, regulated, permitted social cannabis use on a limited scale. The passing of Ordinance 300 in Denver is both a victory for marijuana policy and complimentary to the eight out of nine States that had passed recreational or medical marijuana measures on 2016 state ballots. Nationwide marijuana laws were democratically chosen and, among other things, the new year brings more cannabis (legally) to America. Let’s take a gander at two of the states that opened legal pathways to cannabis — one medical, one recreational — and what comes next for them.

Arkansas Issue 6

Asa Hutchinson is a former director within DEA, yet currently he finds himself part of an Arkansas voter-backed amendment that breaks the laws of the Controlled Substances Act. As the Governor of Arkansas, Hutchinson had publicly opposed Issue 6, the measure legalizing marijuana use to individuals with approved medical conditions, yet when it passed, he accepted his role in a representative democracy and is working to make sure the benefits of cannabis are available to only those who need it. Gov. Hutchinson is poised to keep good on the promises of Issue 6, including licensing timelines and appointment deadlines. Nationwide, marijuana laws have creeped into more than half the US states; what sets Arkansas apart: it is the first foray onto the American Bible Belt.

Issue 6 on Patient Access

Issue 6 took effect immediate the vote. This means that doctors can begin making recommendations, though without a place to purchase the medicine, such a recommendation carries the same value as the newspaper — informing, but mostly just a good way to waste time. Once the councils are set, licenses issued, plants will be able to grow legally in Arkansas. Until then, here is some of the rules laid out by Issue 6:

  • Patients with only approved medical conditions by the Arkansas Department of Health are eligible for medical marijuana. Don’t fret if you don’t see a qualifying ailment, disease, or syndrome on their list, as the amendment allows for petition. HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, PTSD, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and fibromyalgia, as well as conditions involving prolonged, persistent pain and epilepsy
  • Patients are not eligible to grow their own marijuana, it is required they see a caregiver
  • The state is required to have AT MINIMUM 20 dispensary licenses and 4 cultivation licenses at all times, and may have no more than 40 dispensaries or 8 cultivation. Additionally, no more than 4 dispensary licenses in a single county.
  • As a patient, by law you may only pick up 2.5 oz of cannabis per every two week period.

Countdown to medicate

nationwide marijuana lawsIf we look at cannabis nationwide, marijuana laws vary state to state; however, a resounding similarity among them all: the need for an administrative body to either create or oversee the regulations, sales, and taxing of marijuana. Arkansas is no different. A council of five members, appointed by the Governor, House Speaker, and State Senate is set to have all the regulations, laws, and licensing procedures worked out and finalized by May 1st, 2017. Additionally, this council and the Arkansas Department of Health will come up with rules on how individuals may apply for a medical card, patient management and registry, as well as oversee the accepted medical conditions, to be set-up by the first of May, 2017. The dispensaries in the state will be inspected by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, who will also issue the licenses for the dispensaries, and is set to begin the 1st of June, 2017.

Nevada Question 2

In 2016, Nevada voters joined California and the entire U.S. west coast in legalizing adult cannabis use and legal cultivation. While the state has had a medical marijuana industry and regulatory framework since 2001, Question 2 will expand the population with access to cannabis extensively. As such, the law as dictated by question 2 and regulatory forces working within it have a few deadlines that have to be met, with similar ambitions to those the Arkansas council aim to achieve. Here is what the law allows and when you can expect it:

Marijuana is legal to use, grow, and carry beginning in 2017

Unlike California, where the ability to grow and consume cannabis as an adult was made legal the day the measure passed, Nevada postponed resident’s legal endowment of cannabis freedoms until New Year’s, wherein residents, visitors, and anyone one age 21 and up now had the legal ability to consume marijuana, possess limited amounts (an ounce of flower, 1/8th of concentrates respectively).

However, there is nowhere to buy it for one year

Similar to what we’ve seen in Colorado and Washington, often the ability to use cannabis predates the regulatory policy that governs the sales. While this means people won’t be wasting the time of law enforcement with cannabis related charges as often, it still leaves black market sales uninterrupted. In terms of timeline: the state has until January 1st, 2018 to implement a licensing and regulatory structure (though that is just a deadline, the state can begin prior). After which point, license applications will be reviewed and accepted or rejected. As soon as this happens, it’s only a matter of growing the plants.

As you can tell, it is going to be a while before you can go into a store and buy your favorite varietal of infused chocolate, wax, or buds. In the meantime, you can grow up to six plants per adult age 21+ with a maximum of 12 per residence, keeping you swimming in ganja, smoking blunts while waiting on regulation. Clever days we live in, eh?

Do cannabis flowers dream of being famous?

The federal law still prohibits marijuana by cultivation, distribution, possession, and use. Over half the states nationwide have marijuana laws that contradict federal law. If this wasn’t enough, even international drug treaties, such as those ratified by members of the UN in 1961, 1971, and 1988, have yet to sanction a total shut-down where cannabis is concerned. The world is looking at cannabis through an entirely modern lense, boosting it beyond the realm of prohibition that has hindered cultivation and study for around 80 years.

Today, marijuana strains, dispensaries, and the customers and consumers they attract are front to the reversing tide of cannabis prohibition. In this exhibition of modern adult freedom and personal liberty, the plants have taken center stage, with laws now looking to integrate the infamous green substance within communities rather than judicially purging it.

If the cannabis industry is in it’s infancy, recreational sales are the barely conceived brother. After all, we are the first people to make it this far, and I don’t just mean in a sense of where marijuana laws are nationwide. Rather, this is the furthest point of historical time anyone has ever existed in and this experiment with cannabis has never been propped up on more momentum — scientific or social — than in the states that have opened their borders (and businesses) to a peculiar, scented plant.