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In case you missed it, there was a flurry of notable medical cannabis stories at the state level in the past several days. Below is a recap and brief analysis of medical cannabis news from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and North Carolina.
Connecticut Legislature Approves Pediatric Access to Medical Cannabis
On Saturday, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill that will allow patients under the age of 18 to have access to medical cannabis products. The bill, HB 5450, will allow pediatric patients to have access to medical cannabis edibles and extracts. Minors must have a recommendation from two physicians (one primary care and one specialist) and they will not be able to smoke or vaporize their medicine.
The bill also authorizes the CT Department of Consumer Protection to regulate laboratory testing of medicine and approve research studies. Opponents of the state's medical cannabis program attempted to add amendments that would have removed qualifying conditions and imposed criminal penalties for minor program violations. Thankfully, these amendments were defeated.
Connecticut is currently the last state medical cannabis program that outlaws pediatric access. Governor Dan Malloy is expected to sign the bill.
New Hampshire's First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opens to Patients
The long wait for safe and legal access to medical cannabis is finally over in New Hampshire. The Sanctuary Alternative Treatment Center opened its doors to patients in Plymouth, NH on Saturday, nearly three years after the law went into effect back in 2013. The dispensary is soon expected to serve nearly 1,000 patients. Four other dispensaries in the state have been licensed and are expected to open later this year. While the number of licensed dispensaries will likely need to be increased to fully serve the state's patient population, the opening of Sanctuary marks a tremendous milestone for Granite State patients.
Hawaii Selects Eight Dispensary Licenses
Patients in Hawaii have come one step closer to having retail access to medical cannabis. The state Department of Health has chosen eight companies to be licensed to cultivate and sell medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers. Each selected company now has one week to submit their $75,000 license fee to the state. The companies will be allowed two cultivation and two dispensing locations, which may open in July.
One of the firms that was selected, Manoa Botanicals, is currently pre-certified for ASA's Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program. PFC is looking forward to working with Manoa to help ensure patients in Hawaii are able to obtain the highest quality medicine available.
The state is also considering the regulation of lab testing. This issue could prove to be difficult, as smaller islands, such as Molokaʻi, may not have testing labs. Transporting medicine between islands is not permitted because the federal government has jurisdiction over the air and sea between islands.
North Carolina House Introduces Medical Cannabis 'Tax Stamp' Legislation
Lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a novel medical cannabis law that would utilize the state's existing drug "tax stamp" law. The bill, HB 983, would allow patients who have been diagnosed with a "terminal or chronic illness" to possess and use up to three ounces of cannabis if they have obtained the proper tax stamps.
Patients would be subject to a base tax of $8/ounce plus an additional tax based on the THC percentage of their medicine. For example, patients whose medicine is under 5% THC would be subject to an additional $7/ounce, with a graduated scale for increasing THC percentage. The highest tax rate would be medical cannabis over 25% THC, at a rate of $42/ounce.
The bill fails to include any guidelines for how cannabis would be tested for THC content. Additionally, the bill fails to clearly define how patients would acquire their medicine. There is some language in the bill that medical cannabis "dealers" would bear the burden of proof that the product they are distributing is "medical marijuana." However, the bill is short on details and implementation of the law as written would be difficult, if not impossible.