Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law was implemented over a year ago, and now the state has granted its first 20 dispensary licenses. The Department of Public Heath received 100 applications and judged them based on proposed location and the ability of the dispensary to ensure public safety while simultaneously meeting the needs of its patients.
The law allows for 35 dispensary licenses; however, only 20 have been granted so far. More competition will mean lower prices for patients, so, the sooner the last 15 licenses are granted, the better.
The Michigan House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two important bills today. HB 4271, sponsored by Rep. Mike Callton, would allow local governments to license and regulate dispensaries. HB 5104, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Kowall, would extend the protections currently in place for smoked forms of marijuana to marijuana extracts, a key ingredient in topical emollients, edibles, and tinctures.
The dispensary bill received a landslide vote of 94-14, while the vote for the extracts bill was an even more lopsided 100-9 in favor. We wish to thank both Rep. Callton and Rep. Kowall for sponsoring these important pieces of legislation, and thanks to the many groups, lobbyists, and patients who supported this effort. Great work!
The bills will now be transmitted to the Senate. Stay tuned for more alerts as progress on these bills continues.
At a Denver City Council hearing held on Monday to discuss implementing a 5% marijuana sales tax, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey held the floor to claim that medical marijuana dispensaries are a haven for assaults, robberies, and murder.
“We have had 12 homicides related directly to medical marijuana,” Morrissey told the council. “We have had over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions. Many of you probably didn’t read about the double-execution-style homicide that we had here in Denver… This is an ugly secret.”
Several council members expressed their shock and concern over the DA’s previously unheard-of claims. When questioned about the validity of his statistics on Tuesday, though, Morrissey clarified that he’d cited “loose figures” and that none of the homicides actually occurred at a medical marijuana facility. In reality, most of the homicides happened during home invasions, and in some cases, it is uncertain whether marijuana played a role.
“Morrissey’s suggestion that the state- and locally-regulated medical marijuana industry is somehow at fault for crimes that occurred entirely outside of its scope is ludicrous and irresponsible. I cannot imagine any other instance in which he would place blame for violent crimes on law-abiding businesses and citizens who have fallen victim to them.”
Tvert’s claim that dispensaries are not causing violent crime is backed by police statistics. In 2009, the Denver Police Department found that robbery and burglary rates at dispensaries were lower than area banks and liquor stores and on par with those of pharmacies. In 2010, police in Colorado Springs found that robbery and burglary rates at area dispensaries were no higher than at non-marijuana-related businesses. Discussing the findings, Sgt. Darrin Abbink said, “I don’t think the data really supports [dispensaries] are more likely to be targeted at this point.”
Of the robberies and assaults that have occurred, industry representatives say that medical marijuana dispensaries may only be targeted because current banking laws force them to deal in cash rather than credit.
Tvert continued, “If Morrissey is truly concerned about enhancing public safety, he should be testifying in support of policies that will eliminate the underground marijuana market and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated like alcohol. He should not be resorting to scare tactics and reefer madness.”
Just as marijuana reform advocates predicted, marijuana in a legal market will be safer for users. In response to Colorado and Washington’s legalization laws, laboratories are springing up that test marijuana for its safety, purity, potency, and active ingredients.
Like alcohol, the regulatory boards in Colorado and Washington will require marijuana products to carry health warnings, ratings for potency, and certification that the product meets safety standards. The regulations are designed to control for adverse health effects that could result from a consumer’s lack of knowledge or from a producer’s poor growing techniques.
Labs are also moving into Oregon, following the state legislature’s recent approval of a bill to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical experts, politicians, and marijuana research groups have chimed in to support the proposed state requirements for testing.
“This does demonstrate a shift in how we are beginning to treat marijuana in this country,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP. “Legal products are regulated and sold in a controlled marketplace. And that’s what we are going to see – are already beginning to see – with marijuana, be it for medical purposes or simply for adult use.”
Since August 2012, Arizona has seen 98 registration certificates awarded for those wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries. Last December saw the opening of the first dispensary, Arizona Organix, and 16 were reportedly open in late April 2013. However, Arizona state government has not been the industry’s biggest supporter.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery have all done their part to derail progress for medical marijuana, and you can find those details here. Luckily, the courts have supported the will of the voters against challenges to the program. The Arizona Department of Health Services is still issuing ID cards for medical marijuana patients, and the list of approved dispensaries continues to grow.
New dispensaries are still burdened by heavy restrictions and regulations, but access to medical marijuana for patients has never been better. In fact, the Arizona Health Department reports that “47 dispensaries have been inspected and approved to operate, and 35 of those are open and operating throughout the state. Approximately 90% of all Arizonans now live within 25 miles of an operating dispensary.” Arizona’s medical marijuana industry, despite troubles from the government, continues to prosper and works to improve access to all patients in need.