Boom Times for Medical Marijuana Businesses

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  Boom Times for Medical Marijuana Businesses

Posted by CN Staff on April 04, 2010 at 07:47:27 PT
By Betsy Cohen 
Source: Missoulian 

Montana -- Medical marijuana is rapidly becoming big business in Missoula, but it has emerged with very distinct growing pains. Since September, the city of Missoula has processed 28 applications for business licenses related to the commerce of medical marijuana.“I haven’t seen anything come on like this,” said Scott Paasch, account coordinator for the city of Missoula’s Finance Department, which oversees business licenses.
“We get at least one or two people a day who come in and at least three or four phone calls a day from people who want to know what would it require to get a license in the city to dispense or deliver medical marijuana,” he said. “This isn’t a business boom. It’s more like an explosion.”In Missoula specifically, the bumper crop of entrepreneurs includes a wide variety of services.Montana Caregivers Network is a resource service that, among many things, connects patients to caregivers and helps people find doctors who support the use of medical marijuana.Other businesses, like Zoo Mountain Natural Care Inc., a member of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, have commercial storefronts and offer clinic-like settings with caregivers on staff who help patients choose from a smorgasbord of marijuana varieties.Still other licensees cultivate the plants that produce medical marijuana in facilities outside the city limits, but deliver the final product in Missoula, and many are individuals who distribute the medicine from their home, Paasch explained.All of them are certified “caregivers” as required by Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act, Initiative No. 148, which voters approved in 2004.By state law, each caregiver is allowed to serve an unlimited number of registered patients. For each individual patient, a caregiver is allowed to have six plants and an ounce of usable marijuana.Likewise, each registered patient who has one of the qualifying conditions (see related graph) and a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana as treatment is allowed to assign one caregiver, grow six marijuana plants and possess an ounce of usable marijuana.Mark Muir said he isn’t surprised by the rapid acceleration of Missoula’s medical marijuana economy. The city’s police chief believes it is a direct result of a change in federal perspective. While it is still illegal to grow or use marijuana under federal law, Muir explained, the Obama administration announced last fall that federal law on this matter would defer to state law. “I believe that this was a good-faith gesture that relied on trust that states who passed medical marijuana laws would have controls in place to adequately handle the issues surrounding this drug,” he said. “But with respect to medical marijuana, Montana just didn’t have enough controls in place when the change in policy took place at the federal level.“Now we are trying to close the barn door after the horses got out.”As this niche sector continues to boom, everyone connected with it – from patients to caregivers to community leaders and politicians – has a growing list of concerns that revolve around two main issues: regulation and oversight.While state law allows for possession, use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified individuals, it is silent on key issues, said Jason Christ, who launched the Montana Caregivers Network in Missoula and received the city’s first medical marijuana business license.Among the many gray areas: Do “grow sites” need to be identified? Can patients and caregivers form growing cooperatives? Do renters need to tell landlords about their medical marijuana use? If a patient or caregiver lives within 1,000 feet of a school – which is a drug-free zone – can he or she grow, use or possess medical marijuana?Adjustments to the law are needed because demand for usable medical marijuana has far outpaced the supply, and it’s illegal to import the drug from out of state, said Christ.Such issues prompt both skepticism and concern in the law enforcement community, Muir said.“There’s just no control over sales, over the amount of dosage that is given out, the amount of refills, the pricing of the product. If the law, such as it is, is being followed, who is making sure patients are only getting their supply from one caregiver and caregivers aren’t selling to people who aren’t their card-carrying patient?” Muir said. “There’s no control over any aspect of who can be a caregiver and who can be a patient.“It’s a joke. The law is so loose, it’s no wonder the list of registered patients grows by the hundreds every month.”Adding to those many issues is the headache around monitoring the many digestible forms of medical marijuana, such as tinctures, honey, oil and brownies. Aside from the difficulties of ensuring state and federal food production guidelines are followed in the manufacture of such items, there’s no way to determine how much marijuana is in each product and how that plays into the ounce possession rule for each patient and caregiver.“Our laws around medical marijuana don’t fit with our society’s medical protocol,” Muir said. “There are no medical standards here.”State Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, plans to bring many of these emerging issues to light this month when she calls together the legislative Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee she chairs.Because the state Department of Public Health and Human Services regulates medical marijuana, Sands said she has offered up the committee to help sort through the emerging problems, prioritize them and develop a list of options for the 2011 legislative session. It’s imperative to do so, Sands said, because the haze and conflicts that surround medical marijuana will only increase.Consider this: As of March 7, 10,582 Montana residents are legally entitled to use medical marijuana, and 2,635 Montanans can legally provide the drug, according to data from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.Compare those numbers, which are expected to be noticeably higher later this month when April’s data are released, with the department’s early records. In March 2005, Montana had 86 registered patients who qualified for medical marijuana and 35 caregivers. Just a year ago, there were 2,074 patients and 640 caregivers.“I think everyone is surprised by the volume of increase,” said Roy Kemp, deputy administrator of the state’s Quality Assurance Division in the DPHHS.Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is eager for the state Legislature to take a hard look at the law and provide clear direction.He’s not surprised to learn that the largest age group of Montana’s card-carrying medical marijuana patients – 2,635 of the 10,582 patients – are ages 21 to 30. Patients age 51 to 60 comprise the second-largest group, or 2,407 of the total.“It’s obvious to me that there’s an explosion in this business and to me it’s equally obvious that the law that was passed by initiative is being grossly abused by people who want to smoke marijuana,” Van Valkenburg said. “This law was intended for people who had severe pain or an illness that couldn’t be treated with traditional medical means.“I think it was probably working in that fashion until the current federal administration said they weren’t going to enforce federal law in states that had medical marijuana laws and people saw the chance to make a lot of money with the quasi-legalization of medical marijuana – and off they went.”As one would expect, Jason Christ sees things differently. He says the federal government’s change of heart allows him to help a lot of people.Although he boasted to the Missoula Independent last month that he would be a millionaire by the end of the year, Christ says financial gain isn’t his goal.Christ said he knows what it is like to suffer and to have conditions that are best treated with medical marijuana, not modern medicine. He has celiac disease and hemorrhoids – and he wouldn’t want anyone else with a delibilating condition to be denied the medicinal plant as a treatment option.“I do this to help people and end suffering and make it accessible for people to find a doctor who recommend medicinal cannibis,” Christ said. “I’m a patient and I’m a caregiver and I help people get in front of a doctor.”Coming Monday in the Missoulian: In absence of regulations, the medical marijuana industry struggles to set its own standards.Source: Missoulian (MT) Author: Betsy CohenPublished: April 3, 2010Copyright: 2010 Missoulian Contact: oped missoulian.comWebsite URL: Medical Marijuana Archives

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Comment #6 posted by FoM on April 05, 2010 at 05:55:36 PT
Related Article From The Missoulian
Medical Marijuana Labs, Providers Aim To Self-RegulateApril 4, 2010URL:
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on April 04, 2010 at 17:53:21 PT
OT: Hope These Earthquakes Don't Continue
7.2-Magnitude Quake in Baja California Felt on West CoastApril 5, 2010URL:
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Comment #4 posted by runruff on April 04, 2010 at 10:14:19 PT
In my neighborhood...
We know many and we know of many more who make a real good living just servicing the industry. Right now the going wage for trimming is $20 an hour [cash] around here and people all stay busy. Many friends without "visible" jobs are building, remodeling homes and everyone is driving a nice car. The worst things get, out in the real world, the better thing are getting in Hemp World!
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Comment #3 posted by HempWorld on April 04, 2010 at 09:49:11 PT
Amen Storm Crow!
Has anyone seen the new Marijuana Movie? It's called Cash Crop and parts of it can be seen on here: has a trailer from the maker Sierra!
Cash Crop
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Comment #2 posted by Storm Crow on April 04, 2010 at 09:38:46 PT

Has anyone else noticed........
That this country is in the middle of some "minor" financial difficulties? And amidst all the gloom and doom- cannabis shops are creating a flood of new JOBS FOR AMERICANS! (Kind of hard to "outsource" a dispensary job to India or China!) Our 3 little dispensaries employ at least 6 people each as staff- then there are the growers, the folks who bring in the magazines, or supply the rolling papers, glasswork and edibles, etc. Then all those dispensary-employed folks who are NOT drawing unemployment, or living on welfare, go out and spend their paychecks- employing others! Our OFFICIAL county unemployment rate is 19%. (The real number is even higher!)And here, just like in Montana, THEY want strict restrictions to LIMIT dispensaries! I guess as well as not giving a dang about whether people can heal themselves, they don't care about the financial state of the country, either! Bet not one of them has lived on a tight budget since they were in college!LEGALIZE IT! NOW!!!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 04, 2010 at 09:33:32 PT

Just a Comment
I hope everyone is having a good day and enjoying the holiday. Reform is finally leaning in our direction. It made me think of this song.Neil Young ~ Farm Aid II URL:
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