Medical Marijuana Update

Dispensaries get regulation in Oregon, a dispensary will open in Delaware, and they're already popping up in Arizona. There's more medical marijuana news, too; let's get to it:

Arizona

Last Wednesday, the first medical marijuana dispensary in Yuma opened for business. The Jamestown Center on East 32nd Street will serve qualifying patients and is staffed with three pharmacists and a biochemist.

On Tuesday, a new dispensary opened in Tucson. The Downtown Dispensary could potentially be the city's busiest; it is the closest one to the University of Arizona.

California

Last Wednesday, state legislators gave up on a dispensary regulation bill in the face of strong opposition lobbying from law enforcement unions. Senate Bill 439 would have given the state attorney general's guidelines on dispensaries the force of law. Under the status quo, which will now continue indefinitely, the guidelines are not legally binding, allowing recalcitrant law enforcement and local prosecutors to ignore them.

On Tuesday, Fresno County supervisors sought to beef up the county's marijuana growing ordinance. They asked legal staff to explore ways to toughen up the ordinance after county residents complained about rampant pot farming. Residents talked of generators humming all night, dogs running loose and squatters. They said they are afraid to walk off their property or have guests over. Under the current ordinance, violations are punishable by a $100 fine. Some supervisors want to emulate nearby Kern County, where grow ordinance violations are treated as misdemeanors, with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Other supervisors said the county should just enforce the existing ordinance.

Also on Tuesday, the Napa city council scrapped a proposed dispensary ordinance. The city had spent four years trying to craft it. The council also declined to move forward on a proposed ban. The only action the council could agree to was to send a letter to lawmakers bemoaning the confusion over medical marijuana laws. The city has an existing moratorium on dispensaries, but that is set to expire in October.

Colorado

On Wednesday, activists protested at the state Board of Health over allegations that the Department of Public Health and Environment has been illegally sharing confidential patient information through an online database. Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute and Kathleen Chippi of the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project authored an emergency petition calling for the database to be disabled. The Health Department has agreed to improve security, but the protesters want to see quicker action.

Delaware

Last Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell (D) announced he would move forward with opening a state-registered dispensary. He had balked at implementing that portion of the state's 2011 medical marijuana law after receiving a threat letter from federal prosecutors, leaving the state's patients without any legal access to their medicine. The law called for one dispensary in each of the state's three counties, but Markell said he would start with one.

Florida

Last Thursday, medical marijuana initiative organizers cleared their first hurdle on the way to the November 2014 ballot. They handed in more than 110,000 voter signatures, well above the 68,000 valid signatures required to trigger a review of the initiative's language by the state Supreme Court. See our feature story on the Florida effort.

Massachusetts

On Saturday, a Sandisfield town hall meeting rejected a proposal for the town to explore running a nonprofit dispensary. The proposal would have allocated $30,000 for a consultant who would advise the town on how to submit an application before next week's competitive filing deadline.The state is currently accepting applications for up to 35 statewide dispensaries. The deadline is August 22.

Michigan

On Tuesday, DEA agents raided an Ann Arbor dispensary. Hit was People's Choice Alternative Medicine. The dispensary had a sign on the door Tuesday afternoon saying it was closed until further notice. It's the second such raid by the DEA in Washtenaw County in a month. On July 30, a search warrant was executed at The Shop -- a medical marijuana dispensary in Ypsilanti.

New Jersey

Last Thursday, the state's only dispensary reopened after being closed for seven weeks. The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair had closed its doors because of a lack of supply. Because it is the only dispensary operating in the state, it quickly was overwhelmed by demand. Now, they will limit new patients to the seven-county north Jersey region it was originally licensed to serve. Two other dispensaries, one in Woodbridge and one in Egg Harbor, have been given permission to begin growing their crops and are expected to open this fall.

Last Friday, Gov. Chris Christie (R) conditionally vetoed a bill allowing medical marijuana for children, but signaled to the legislature that he would okay it if it were changed to require that kids see not only a pediatrician, but also a psychiatrist, and if the use of medical marijuana edibles were limited to children. On Monday, the state Senate approved those changes. Action awaits in the state Assembly.

New Mexico

Last Wednesday, the state Medical Board postponed a hearing on proposed new rules for providers, saying high public interest required it to find a larger meeting space. The hearing was set for a space holding 100 people, but the board said it now expects 400 to attend. It will provide 30-day notice of the new hearing date. The proposed new rules include requiring providers to consult with a patient's other medical providers and requiring a periodic re-diagnosis of conditions warranting medical marijuana use.

Oregon

Last Thursday, Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) signed into law a medical marijuana dispensary bill. Kitzhaber signed House Bill 3460, which authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to establish procedures to license and regulate dispensaries. Oregon has an estimated 200 dispensaries already operating, but until now, they have operated in a legal gray area and have been subject to harassment and prosecution depending on the attitudes of local police and prosecutors. This bill will require them to register under OMMA and comply with regulations, which will include testing, tracking to ensure that only valid patients are receiving marijuana, and restrictions on location.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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