Daily Changes Across the Cannabis Legal Landscape

At this point, it should be no surprise to anyone that on a daily basis, the legal landscape of Cannabis law changes.  Zoning issues, licensing and potential medical conditions that can utilize cannabis for treatment are just some of the areas that face consistent legal scrutiny.  Below are just a few examples of some of the changes that have occurred in various states within the past two DAYS.

In Richmond, Maine, voters at a special town meeting on September 24th decided against imposing a temporary ban on allowing medical marijuana storefronts to open while town officials finalize a plan in which the stores might be permitted.  Until this framework is finalized, the medical marijuana storefronts can open anywhere.  The potential issues that are being worked out involve locations of stores, i.e. will they ultimately be permitted to be located next to/near schools, ice cream shops, etc., and if not, how far will away will they need to be located.

On the opposite side are the cannabis business owners who fear that any moratorium on their openings would jeopardize their business plans without a clear indication of when any ban would be lifted.  Previous disputes occurred over who was allowed to grow medical marijuana and where and were settled when businesses learned of a loophole allowing them to grow medical marijuana anywhere.  However, the location of the secure grow facility is located only 240 feet away from Richmond Middle/High School.  This resulted in a change in the law restricting the location of cannabis businesses.

Within the past two years, state lawmakers have grappled with how to best regulate both medical and recreational use cannabis businesses.  In early 2018, Maine lawmakers paved the way for the expansion of medical marijuana storefronts.  However, this resulted in certain towns imposing moratoriums on the expansion of the businesses until town ordinances could be updated limiting potential locations.

In New York, Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law on Monday, September 24th, that allows medical marijuana to be recommended for patients as a treatment for pain management.  The bill intended to allow medical marijuana to be recommended as an alternative to opioids as well as allowing for substance use disorder treatment providers to use the drug to help manage underlying pain.  A registered physician is still required to sign off on the recommendation by agreeing that a patient’s pain degrades health and functional capability, along with other requirements.  In July of this year, the Department of Health added opioid replacement as a qualifying condition to prescribe medical marijuana in New York.

Finally, in Virginia, five applicants were recently awarded conditional licenses to open the first medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.  One of these was New York based company Columbia Care, LLC.  One conditional license was awarded for each of the state’s five health service districts, as designated by the Virginia Department of Health.  Conditional licenses were also awarded to Pharmacann Virginia, Dalitso, Dharma Pharmaceuticals and Green Leaf Medical of Virginia.

The conditional licenses allow companies to cultivate cannabis plants to manufacture cannabis oil for medicinal use, according to the board’s website.  In the last two years, Virginia’s General Assembly passed several bills to expand its medical marijuana use laws to allow in-state production, sale and dispensing of medical cannabis oil for patient use.   They also expanded the medical conditions that may be treated by medical marijuana.  In March, the state expanded medical cannabis use to include any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use.

What we’ve seen from these examples is that the one constant is change.  Change in zoning laws, changes in laws that govern medical conditions to be treated by cannabis and the awarding of licenses to new companies in an effort to increase the availability of medical cannabis to those who will most benefit from its use.  Companies need to continually monitor their states for these changes as they occur on a daily basis.

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