Red Tape Could Keep MMJ from Legal Users Till 2013
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Red Tape Could Keep MMJ from Legal Users Till 2013
Posted by CN Staff on September 04, 2011 at 07:59:19 PT
By Chad Livengood
Source: Delaware Online
Dover -- Delaware's new medical marijuana law is so loaded with red tape that experts in other states predict it could be at least 18 months before people who are seriously ill or suffering from chronic pain can obtain pot legally here.Experiences of advocates in other states who have ventured into the risky business of growing and distributing a drug the federal government still deems illegal illustrate the bureaucratic hurdles that lie ahead.
Medical marijuana operators across the country say there are tremendous financial, logistical, societal and bureaucratic issues to resolve before marijuana seeds can even be planted legally.Delaware's law, Senate Bill 17, requires the Department of Health and Social Services to start seeking applications for operating three medical marijuana dispensaries by July 1, 2012, and issue licenses to the highest-scoring applicants in each county six months later.If state officials use the entire 18 months allotted under the law, it could be spring 2013 before the first crop of marijuana buds are ready to be harvested, experts say."I would be shocked if they were able to implement one year after passage of the legislation," said Steve DeAngelo, a dispensary operator in Oakland, Calif., and consultant for medical marijuana programs across the country.When Gov. Jack Markell signed the medical marijuana bill into law in May, supporters envisioned million-dollar facilities selling the drug to Delawareans with qualifying conditions sometime next year.Authors of Delaware's law now acknowledge, however, it may take longer than originally projected to create a highly regulated industry from the ground up."It's not something that any of us want DHSS to rush into," said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, who co-sponsored the law. "I want to make sure that we get it right from day one."In nearby New Jersey, where DeAngelo has been a consultant, 20 months have passed since the Garden State legalized medical marijuana and sales aren't likely to begin until early next year -- at the earliest."So far not a single patient ID card has been issued," said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, where just a handful of doctors have registered with the state to be able to recommend marijuana usage.  Law Criticized Some marijuana advocates think Delaware's law is a half-hearted attempt to join a growing national movement of 15 other states that have decriminalized the plant for medicinal purposes. The law, for example, excludes glaucoma from the list of qualifying illnesses, even though some studies have concluded marijuana usage can relieve intraocular pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma."Why would you exclude a perfectly viable option?" asked Eric S. Allen of Claymont, founder of a group that promotes the use of hemp from male marijuana plants for industrial products.Unlike most states where medical marijuana is legal, Delawareans with qualifying illnesses -- such as AIDS, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder -- aren't allowed to grow their own marijuana at home.New Jersey also isn't allowing residents to grow their own pot, restricting its sale to six dispensaries across the 7,417-square-mile state of 8.7 million people."The problem with the Jersey law and the problem with the Delaware law is that it does not allow for home cultivation," Wolski said.Critics of Delaware's law argue it unnecessarily delays the ability of sick residents to get marijuana until 2013."It is a less patient-friendly system," Rick Thompson, editor of Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, said of Delaware's law. "What they've done is they've created a cannabis monopoly in each of the three counties."Michigan's law, approved by voters in a 2008 ballot initiative, allows registered patients and caregivers to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes. Following a recent court decision that shut down Michigan's commercial dispensaries, home-growing marijuana is now the only viable access for registered patients, Thompson said.Delaware lawmakers have said passage of the law hinged on keeping the growing and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes limited to a small number of licensed, not-for-profit operators that law-enforcement agencies could closely monitor.Rep. Nick Manolakos, R-Limestone Hills, said lawmakers could reconsider home-growing in the future. "Clearly the state was not ready to consider that kind of an issue right now," Manolakos said.Jerry Williams, 35, of Lincoln, is among the scores of potential medical marijuana patients in Delaware who will likely have to wait for the regulatory process to play out before getting legal access to what he considers a medicine.Williams suffers from polymyositis, a rare inflammatory muscle disease, which may qualify him to purchase medical marijuana under a section of the law that addresses cannabis use for chronic or debilitating diseases that have not been successfully treated with traditional pharmaceuticals.Williams said he's smoked marijuana in the past for pain relief and to help him deal with nausea he gets from some of the 15 pills he swallows daily.He foresees another problem for Delaware: convincing doctors marijuana works and that they should recommend its usage for chronically ill patients."The two physicians I talked with were basically against it," Williams said. "They're basically afraid the same thing is going to happen in Delaware -- the abuse and that basically it's going to be a free-for-all."In order to be successful, advocates and dispensary operators will have to educate the public and physicians to help create a paying client base, Manolakos said."I don't think they're just going to start writing prescriptions the first day the facility opens," Manolakos said of doctors.  Challenges Ahead State regulators have spent the summer studying the law and the hurdles other states faced.No timetable has been set for publishing proposed regulations for marijuana growing and distribution facilities that the law mandates to govern everything from security of the facilities to the potency of the pot."We've currently been reviewing best practices of other states to come to a concept that's best for the state of Delaware," said Thom May, section chief for health systems protection in the Division of Public Health at DHSS.The law calls for the Legislature to appoint a nine-member committee to oversee the medical marijuana program. But lawmakers adjourned for the year on July 1 without appointing committee members.Another potential roadblock for the industry is protecting dispensaries from federal raids that have occurred in other states. Charles Oberly, the U.S. Attorney for Delaware, has said the Department of Justice is not looking to prosecute sick people, but has noted the state's new law can't pre-empt federal prohibition of marijuana distribution.  Experiences Elsewhere In Oakland, DeAngelo had to raise $400,000 in personal loans from friends and family to open his not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center.DeAngelo's work is seen as a success story in the national medical marijuana movement and will be documented in "Weed Wars," a Discovery Channel reality TV show scheduled to debut in November. Harborside prices its medical marijuana between $7 and $17.50 a gram, DeAngelo said."People should not get into distribution of cannabis if they think they're going to get rich off of it," he said.Even after licenses are issued to dispensaries, some states have seen significant delays in medical marijuana distribution because of the time it takes to build an indoor growing facility and cultivate the first crop."The minute they get their license, the best possible case [for opening] is four months. Six months is much more likely," said Len Goodman, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Fe, N.M.Growing and harvesting a crop of marijuana can take between two and six months, Goodman said.New Mexico passed its medical marijuana law in February 2007, and it took two years for the first licensed dispensary to open, Goodman said.Delaware's law will require dispensaries to be not-for-profit organizations."I think whoever comes is going to really have deep pockets," said Manolakos, who became a supporter of the bill after touring a million-dollar marijuana health care facility in San Francisco last winter. "It's not a sure-fire way for a profitable business." Colorado is the only state that legally allows for-profit marijuana dispensaries.There are now 700 dispensaries in Colorado, with 250 shops in Denver alone, said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief, which sells cannabis for profit in a holistic health care facility that also offers massage, yoga instruction and chiropractic services.Khalatbari said the competitive environment has driven down the price of marijuana and put an emphasis on the quality of the drug.Banks fear losing their Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation protection from the federal government for financing medical marijuana growing and retail operations. A medical marijuana industry group in Colorado is currently forming a credit union to provide a banking "safe haven" for its member businesses, Khalatbari said.Khalatbari said he's one of the lucky operators, though. He has a bank -- whose name he wouldn't disclose -- that looks the other way and accepts his money."It's almost been a 'don't ask, don't tell' thing," Khalatbari said.  The Delaware Scene Just who in Delaware may be willing to privately finance a tightly secured medical marijuana facility with indoor growing remains to be seen.One Wilmington businessman considering applying to operate a dispensary requested anonymity out of fear that making his interest public could hinder his other business interests.The state's regulations and requirements for operating a dispensary will dictate whether he and a business partner even submit an application."If we have to come up with several hundred thousands of dollars of our money in addition to the cost of operating it, it's just not going to be feasible," the businessman said.Source: Delaware Online (DE)Author: Chad LivengoodPublished: September 4, 2011Copyright: 2011 Delawareonline.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on September 04, 2011 at 09:16:24 PT
Let this an example to us all.
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him A super-calloused-fragile-mystic-hexed-by-halitosis.
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