What does a medical cannabis program look like in a conservative U.S. state?

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A conservative approach may be the only way some states will warm to cannabis reform.

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Andrew Ward • • The fresh toast

Release date:

February 15, 2021 • • 1 hour ago • • Read for 4 minutes Two orange pill bottles face each other.  One is filled with marijuana flower buds and the other is filled with white prescription pills.  While there are concerns, some believe that vertical integration could benefit US states with a more rational model. /. Photo by Getty Images

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Cannabis reform is undoubtedly spreading in the United States as more states legislate on medical and adult use. However, many states that have done this over the years have been classified as conservative for a variety of reasons. And it’s not just traditionally red states that are making the restriction.

Until the reform in recent years, New York was considered one of the most restrictive states, among other things because of its upper limits for qualification requirements, licenses and high prices.

The trend continues to this day, as states like South Carolina announce the possibility of having the most conservative market in the US when laws are passed.

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While the rules can frustrate operators, consumers, and advocates, some in the room say a conservative approach is the only way some states will warm to cannabis reform.

Key Features of a Conservative State Cannabis Market

“Conservative” is a nuanced term when used in cannabis markets. Chanda Macias, owner and CEO of National Holistic in Washington DC, said a conservative market includes product bans that usually restrict access to flowers and vapes, as well as THC potency caps.

“While this is often done with good intentions, I believe that the medicinal value of THC is often misunderstood and THC limits drastically limit the benefits of the drug and limit the options for doctors,” Macias said.

Product and potency caps combine license restrictions and other rules to create conservative markets.

Abby Stoddard, pharmacist and founder of The Client Centered Network, gave Macias a similar answer. Stoddard also discussed vertical integration, a requirement in many states that requires a company to own all aspects of production, from cultivation to sales.

Diagonal chain of zeros and ones.  Cryptocurrency and mining.  A bitcoin metaphor.  Gray background.  A close up.  3D rendering model While there are concerns, Stoddard believes that vertical integration could benefit US states with a leaner model. /. Photo by ismagilov / iStock / Getty Images Plus

While there are concerns, Stoddard believes that vertical integration could benefit US states with a leaner model. “Using government software to track sales of seeds can make this possible [to a] System, but initially vertical integration offers the easiest products to trace from a regulatory perspective, ”she said.

Stoddard also agreed that product restrictions are a hallmark of a conservative market, as is the ban on home growing.

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Jeff Zucker, vice chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), expanded patient access restrictions. While it’s about states allowing few kinds of conditions on quality, the South Carolina-based Sugar said that sometimes that’s the only way to get a bill off.

“The tighter the bill can be without rendering it unusable, the more likely we are to get a vote,” he said of the prospects for cannabis reform in the most conservative states.

Which state is the most conservative?

With all the criteria to be assessed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to describe a state as the most conservative.

With all the factors at play, Macias, who is also the chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Women Grow, said that what matters is how a person defines conservatively. She views several states as leading candidates for the award.

Macias included Louisiana due to regulations requiring that cannabis be treated as a medicinal product. “Referrals have a far greater involvement from physicians than any other state, and products are only retailed by a licensed pharmacist,” Macias said.

Macias researched other low-THC states and found that the current program in Texas “literally doesn’t work” by capping the medicine at 0.5 percent THC. /. Photo by BLAIR GABLE /.REUTERS

Georgia, once online, could get even more restrictive, she said. Currently, the government’s “Low THC Oil” program allows patients to consume up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with less than five percent THC.

Macias researched other low-THC states and found that the current program in Texas “literally doesn’t work” by capping the medicine at 0.5 percent THC. However, legislators began efforts in 2021 to expand the program’s qualification requirements and its registered pool of patients.

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Stoddard, a member of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Review Panel, offered her state as a candidate, or, as she put it, “the leader of this unfortunate club.”

Citing the state’s ban on flowers for businesses and patients as a significant setback, she noted that the state has only allowed two vertically integrated producers. The two manufacturers operate around 15 pharmacies for the 5 million citizens.

Patient fees are also an issue. “Minnesota’s program also requires a large patient enrollment fee: $ 200 a year for those who are not eligible for discounts,” Stoddard said.

Patient fees are also an issue. /. Photo by megaflopp / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Both Stoddard and Zucker see South Carolina as a potential continuation of his most conservative claim. Still, Stoddard sees more leeway in South Carolina’s proposal in terms of allowing one pharmacy for every 20 pharmacies in the state.

“That would easily be hundreds of retailers,” she said. While patients have still not been able to buy or grow smokable flowers, Stoddard sees the proposed food allowance as a reason to give the award to their home state.

In some states, conservative is the only way to go

Macias and Stoddard emphasized how a conservative program could benefit certain aspects of the market. Zucker, who has worked on the bill with MPP for more than four years with supporters from South Carolina, said conservative bills could help open the door to otherwise reform opponents.

In some cases, he added, a restrictive bill is the only measure that can be passed.

While sugar isn’t ideal for proponents, it said that passing such bills can bring progress for some in the present and for others down the line. “From an advocacy perspective, the restrictive approach still allows us to provide some relief to patients in extreme need while hopefully changing hearts and minds across the state so the laws can open up,” he said.

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The FreshToast.com, a US lifestyle website that serves lifestyle content and, through its partnership with 600,000 doctors, distributes medical marijuana information to The GrowthOp through Skipta.

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