Medical Cannabis Bill Passes in New Zealand

New Zealand Medical CannabisOn December 11, 2018, nearly a year after it was first introduced, New Zealand’s Parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill on its third and final reading. With a vote of 63 in favor and 53 against, the bill was backed by the Labour, New Zealand First and Green Party. It received royal assent and became an official Act on December 18.

Chloe Swarbrick, Green Party drug law reform spokesperson, had this to say about the passed bill, “This is a huge day for New Zealanders in pain and suffering who’ve been denied the only medicine that works for them. Too many New Zealanders are going into debt to access expensive big pharma products, or being turned into criminals in having to access an unregulated black market for cannabis.”

Welcome Changes to the Original Draft

Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we have been watching New Zealand’s progress since the bill was announced last year. We’re pleased to see that changes have been made to alleviate certain limitations regarding patient access and the timeline for implementation.

While the original bill only provided medical cannabis for terminally ill patients expected to live less than a year, the final legislation gives access to patients requiring palliation. The goal is to “alleviate pain and suffering for a person with an advanced progressive life limiting condition, who is nearing end of life.”

In addition, there will be “an exception and statutory defence” for patients who possess and use illicit cannabis. This will enable people who have or acquire a doctor’s certificate to be fully protected from prosecution in court. Around 25,000 New Zealanders are expected to benefit from this change.

New Zealand will now move forward in establishing a legal medical cannabis system to provide patients with quality cannabis products. And while the original draft indicated that it would take up to two years to implement regulations for licensing the cultivation, manufacture and production of medical cannabis, the final bill will require the scheme to be put into place no more than a year after its passing.

In order to meet this timeline, a channel will be opened to allow cannabis strains currently being grown by illicit operations to join the regulated domestic market. This will enable New Zealand to jumpstart its program without relying on imported cannabis products.

To create and implement the framework, a Medicinal Cannabis Oversight Panel will be brought together to ensure all points of view are represented. Medical professionals, including doctors and pharmacists, along with industry experts, consumers and Māori leadership will be able to weigh-in on processes. The group will also consult with the public later next year to gauge their concerns and share information.

Another noteworthy update is the removal of cannabidiol (CBD) as a controlled substance and making it a medicine that may be prescribed by a doctor without Ministry of Health approval. Products containing CBD will only be restricted if tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) or other psychoactive substances are present.

What’s Next for Cannabis in New Zealand

A week after the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament, Justice Minister Andrew Little also announced that a binding referendum ending cannabis prohibition will be held during New Zealand’s general election in 2020. If passed, it would legalize personal, adult use cannabis. Medicine Man Technologies will provide updates as the vote approaches.

If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.

Voters Approve Medical Cannabis in Utah, Compromise Bill Will Replace It

Medical Cannabis in UtahOn election day, Utah surprisingly passed Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, with nearly 53% of people voting in favor of the measure.

However, before residents even headed to the polls, a compromise bill to replace Prop 2 was already in the works. And during a special session of the state’s legislature on Monday, December 3, Utah lawmakers passed the bill with the Republican-controlled House voting 60 to 13 and the Senate sealing the deal with a decisive final tally of 22 to 4.

Governor Gary Herbert then signed the bill into law on the same day with the statement, “Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country.”

Behind the Scenes of the Compromise Bill

Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve certainly witnessed how contentious the push for progress can be, but Utah comes with a unique political landscape. Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded.

Prior to the election, representatives from the Utah Patients Coalition, Prop 2 sponsors, and Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute (a libertarian think tank and financial backer of the campaign) met with opponents of the legislation, including the Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The goal was to gain early buy-off from these influential groups as well as support from the conservative-leaning Utah State Legislature and Governor Gary Herbert.

During weeks of private talks, both sides hashed out amendments that would alleviate the opposition’s concern that the original measure’s language left the door open to recreational use while still providing patients access to medical cannabis when Prop 2 passed. What made these talks so vital is that Utah is one of 11 states that allows unrestricted legislative alteration. Without a proactive move, it was possible that a simple majority vote by the legislature could have gutted the bill or completely repealed it.

Boyack stated, “Even though we wish it were so that they would leave it alone, the entire establishment we’ve known forever hates Proposition 2. You got the governor’s office, the House, the Senate, law enforcement, church groups and many others in that machine…We have to be frank about the situation that we’re in and recognize that notwithstanding Proposition 2 passing we don’t have the ability to forever defend it from being touched at all. That’s why these negotiations have been so important.”

Public Weighs in on Proposed Changes

After Utah voters approved the medical cannabis initiative, meetings continued between the groups as Governor Herbert announced that he intended to call a special session of the legislature so that a vote could be taken on the compromise bill. Prior to the session, a public hearing of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee gave proponents the opportunity to express their concerns that the new regulations would lead to higher costs and potentially force patients to return to the black market.

One attendee, Debra Jenson, who suffers from a neurological condition and had this to say, “For every extra mile you add for where we can pick up our meds, for every extra layer of red tape you add when we go visit our doctors, for every extra question, for every extra doctor visit we go to, you are adding to our agony. You are adding stress to our lives, which adds to our pain. You are shortening our lives.”

Despite such impassioned pleas, Greg Hughes, Utah House Speaker and sponsor of the replacement bill, stated, “This idea that something’s being sabotaged, that something’s being undermined, is just not the case. There is no gutting of any proposition, there is no undermining of any will of the people.”

How Changes Will Affect Patients

Now that the compromise bill has been passed, several changes will be implemented. One of the most controversial is reversing the ability of patients who do not live within 100 miles of a pharmacy to be allowed to grow cannabis at their homes.

However, as of December 1, patients have “affirmative defense” protection. In essence, if a patient with a qualifying condition and recommendation from a doctor were to purchase cannabis in a format now legal in the state, they could technically be arrested but prosecution would be very unlikely. Protection extends to illegal acquisition as well as legal purchases from bordering cities in Nevada and Colorado.

As for qualifying conditions listed in the original Prop 2 language, two were removed because they were perceived to be too open-ended. These include autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal issues other than Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis which were originally specified. However, hospice was added and the definition of “pain” was expanded, allowing doctors to recommend medical cannabis instead of an opioid medication for patients who might be allergic or at risk of overdosing.

According to Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute, doctors will also be able to recommend medical cannabis if a patient has persistent pain that does not respond to over the counter drugs (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) or other interventions such as chiropractic care or acupuncture.

On the Friday prior to the special session, one of the final changes made to the compromise bill was to improve access for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly veterans. Previously, they were required to receive a diagnosis and recommendation from a doctorate-level psychiatrist or psychologist. Now, veterans can also go to doctorate-level clinical social workers or providers with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.

Part of the framework for Utah’s medical cannabis system was also amended. And while a “state central fill pharmacy” will be created and send out products for patients to pick up at state health departments, there will still be opportunities for private companies. Boyack explained, “seven dispensaries are what are being called medical cannabis pharmacies – those are privately owned, all of the growers are privately owned and all the processors are privately owned. So the entire system, including seven dispensaries, is privately owned with the exception of one dispensary that will be state-owned.”

In addition, the number of grower licenses that will be issued was reduced from a maximum of 20 to just 15. Newly added caps for cultivation include 100,000 square feet for indoor operations and 4 acres if grown outdoors. As demand for medical cannabis grows down the road, these growers will be able to submit an annual request to expand their space by up to 20%.

Other changes to the original Prop 2 language include:

  • Dispensaries will be called pharmacies and must have a full-time, licensed pharmacist on staff.
  • Before a doctor or pharmacist is able to recommend or dispense medical cannabis, they must undergo four hours of ongoing education.
  • To better serve smaller communities, the ability to recommend medical cannabis to patients has been expanded to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • Landlords will be able to prohibit use or refuse to rent to patients that use medical cannabis.
  • Cannabis flower will be permitted but must be weighed for uniformity and sold in blister packs.
  • Edibles must be in a plain, cube-shaped gummy or lozenge form. Shapes appealing to children, such as gummy worms and bears, are banned.
  • Patients under the age of 21 will first require a doctor’s recommendation then receive approval from a state-appointed “Compassionate Use Board” which will serve as a second opinion.

What’s Next for Medical Cannabis in Utah

Opposition to the compromise bill has now extended beyond a public backlash. Two Utah advocacy groups are now on the verge of filing lawsuits. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah both allege that the Mormon church undermined Prop 2. In a letter sent by their attorney, Rocky Anderson, the church is accused of attempting to interfere with the passage of a voter-approved initiative.

While Medicine Man Technologies was certainly disappointed to see the will of the people ignored by the legislature, this is still progress for a notoriously conservative state. We will continue to watch as the new program is rolled out and hope that no further changes will be made.

If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.


Adult Use Cannabis in Michigan Approved by Voters

Adult Use Cannabis in MichiganDuring the November election, 56% of voters passed Proposal 1 making adult use cannabis in Michigan a reality. Spearheaded by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the effort to pass the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) started with 277,370 certified voter signatures that got the proposal on the midterm ballot. What comes next is still up in the air.

At Medicine Man Technologies, we are hopeful that state lawmakers will move more quickly than they have since voters passed a medical cannabis bill in 2008. A basic framework and regulations took nearly 10 years to develop and the newly established Medical Marihuana Licensing Board didn’t begin taking applications for growers, transporters, dispensaries and other operations until December 2017.

In addition, changes continue to hinder the market. Right now, unlicensed medical dispensaries are operating under temporary emergency rules while they await state approval. Many purchase cannabis from a network of 40,000 registered caregivers who can legally grow up to 72 plants for their patients and sell their excess to dispensaries. Because of recent changes to the laws, once dispensaries are fully licensed, they will not be allowed to purchase cannabis from caregivers after 30 days.

Meanwhile, growers are still in the process of licensing and establishing their operations, much less cultivating. Supply shortages are inevitable and some dispensaries could be forced out of business.

With that being said, how will adult use cannabis in Michigan move forward?

A Quick Overview of What Prop 1 Covers

While recreational cannabis will be legal as of December 6, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will first need to focus on setting up the state’s framework and won’t begin licensing businesses (growers, retailers, processors, etc.) until December of 2019.

That means residents will likely have to wait until 2020 for retail sales to begin – longer if roadblocks similar to the state’s medical cannabis program arise. In the meanwhile, here’s what MRTMA covers:

  • Michigan adults, 21 years of age and older, will be allowed to possess, transport and use (only in a private setting) up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of concentrate.
  • Adults may grow a maximum of 12 cannabis plants inside their home or a secured, outdoor area that’s hidden from public view (such as from the street).
  • Each household is allowed up to 10 ounces of dried cannabis flower for personal use, however, anything over 2.5 ounces must be kept in a locked container.
  • Adults may also transfer, without payment, up to 2.5 ounces or 15 grams of concentrate to another adult. Unlicensed sales by an individual are illegal.
  • Landlords can decide if tenants are allowed to grow or use cannabis inside their rental units.
  • The laws for adult use cannabis in Michigan does not provide any disciplinary protection from an employer’s drug policies, testing requirements, or working under the influence.
  • Operating any type of vehicle under the influence of cannabis is illegal.
  • Like alcohol, anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from possessing or using cannabis, and it’s illegal to transfer or purchase it for anyone underage.

Once the program is launched, there will be a 10% excise tax on top of the current 6% sales tax for all sales. This will first go towards funding the ongoing operations of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Another $20 million is earmarked until 2022 to research the use of cannabis in treating U.S. military veterans and preventing suicides. The remaining will be split between cities and counties based where cannabis-based businesses are located, as well as schools and transportation.

At Medicine Man Technologies, we were excited to see voters embrace adult use cannabis in Michigan. And we can only hope that it won’t take another 10 years for state officials and lawmakers to develop the foundation and launch a properly working system.

If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.

Medical Cannabis Makes Its Way to Eastern Europe

Medical Cannabis in LithuaniaIn October, medical cannabis in Lithuania was legalized by the country’s Parliament. While it will not go into effect until May of 2019, it will allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to treat a number of conditions. The legislation is expected to be officially signed into law by the country’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite.

Medicine Man Technologies has been watching the progress of this bill since November of 2017 when it was introduced by Lithuanian MP, Mykolas Majauskas. A member of the country’s conservative party, Homeland Union, Majauskas emphasized the need to change the laws in order to help patients forced to use, “morphine, opioid-based medicines, on a daily basis, when they can take cannabis medicines that are significantly less harmful [instead].”

To move the bill forward, lawmakers first amended the country’s laws on Pharmacy and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Previously, cannabis was listed in the same category as highly addictive drugs such as heroin, opium, MDMA, cocaine and morphine. Possession of a small quantity came with a harsh penalty of up to 2 years in prison and growing for personal use could be punished with 5 years.

As the legislation gained momentum and moved through its phases, Majauskas was asked about what he predicted for medical cannabis in Lithuania. He stated, “In the longer term, I am confident we will be growing cannabis, producing food supplements, conducting clinical research, and making the best possible medicine for our patients. For the time being, we expect to import registered pharmaceuticals from other EU countries, just as many other countries do.”

While May 2019 is a long way out and changes to the law are certainly possible, here’s what we know at this point. All cannabis-based medications will need to be registered with Lithuania’s National Medicine Control Agency and their efficacy backed by scientific research. The agency will also be responsible for granting licenses to sellers and distributing permits for clinical trials.

Doctors may issue medical cannabis prescriptions for patients who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), severe or rare forms of epilepsy, or autoimmune diseases. Recreational use will remain illegal.

Medicine Man Technologies will continue to monitor medical cannabis in Lithuania in hopes that the current launch date will be moved up and the program expanded to include more conditions. For now, we’re excited to see this small country adopt a progressive stance in providing compassionate care.

If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.

Medical Cannabis in the UK Inches Forward After Controversy

Medical Cannabis in the UKDrug policy reform in the United Kingdom is notoriously slow, more or less non-existent, which makes its most recent steps forward highly surprising. While change only came about after a public backlash over the confiscation of legally obtained CBD oil for a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy, medical cannabis in the UK is now available for patients with specific and extreme circumstances.

Medicine Man Technologies watched the story unfold this June when Charlotte Caldwell, the mother of a young boy who endured nearly 100 epileptic seizures each day, flew to Canada to legally purchase a high-CBD, low-THC oil to treat his condition. She publicly announced her plan to challenge Britain’s ban on medical cannabis by openly “smuggling” her son’s medication back through customs.

Ms. Caldwell had this to say, “I will ask them if they will let me keep this safe, regulated medicine that has kept my little boy alive – or are they going to take it off me, condemning my son to possible death? If they confiscate Billy’s medicine and arrest me, they are signing his death warrant.”

As feared, the CBD oil was confiscated by authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport. Caldwell then met with the UK Minister of State for Policing, Nick Hurd, who denied her request to have the oil returned.

What’s perplexing is that Caldwell’s son, Billy, was actually the first patient to be granted a prescription for medical cannabis by the National Health Service in the UK after first being successfully treated in the United States. However, Billy’s doctor was threatened with disbarment by the Home Office, British law enforcement, and the family was forced to seek out medical cannabis elsewhere – Canada.

Inevitably, after Billy’s medication was confiscated, the lack of treatment caused Ms. Caldwell’s son to suffer his first seizure in over a year. The episode was recorded and posted to social media where their plight gained worldwide attention and generated pressure on lawmakers to address medical cannabis in the UK. The stakes were soon raised when Billy was admitted to the hospital in severe condition.

Finally, government officials at the Home Office realized that they could no longer deny the boy his life-saving medication. Billy was granted a license that allows him to break the law and access the CBD oil he needs. It was also given to another boy, Alfie Dingley, facing similar circumstances.

According to Sajid Javid, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory. That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on license applications in exceptional circumstances. This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need but is in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.”

In October, Javid announced that medical cannabis in the UK would be rescheduled under its drug laws and available for patients by prescription as of November 1.

What Medication is Available for UK Patients Today?

The National Health Service has since clarified that very few people will qualify for a prescription of medical cannabis in the UK.

The first hurdle is that it must be prescribed by a specialist, not a general practitioner, on a case-by-case basis. And at this point, the only conditions that would likely qualify are severe or rare forms of epilepsy in children and adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. Another possible application is for spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS) only when other treatments have not helped.

In fact, the first round of clinician guidelines provided by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Paediatric Neurology Association clearly state that, “cannabis-based products for medicinal use should only be prescribed for indications where there is clear published evidence of benefit or UK Guidelines and in patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted.”

These limitations have been perceived as overly restrictive and are compounded by the longstanding prohibition of medical cannabis in the UK which means many doctors are not aware of existing studies on efficacy or trained on treatment options and dosages. The likely result is that very few patients will receive their much-needed medication until further research has been done and training implemented.

Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we absolutely would like to see more progress made in the very near future. However, thinking back to just a year ago, we would never have imagined the UK making this small step forward. It’s our hope that given time, they will embrace and empower a legal medical cannabis market for the sake of Billy Caldwell, Alfie Dingley and all of its citizens in need.

If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.


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Forbes Magazine (August 27, 2016) Act 16 legalized Medical Marijuana in PA! How Long Till Patients Have Access?

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CNN (January 24, 2015) Colorado’s Booming Marijuana Industry – Medicine Man was featured in this recent CNN story about our Grow Technology.

The Denver Post (January 19, 2014): Family-owned pot shop in Denver seeks to become national player

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TIME Magazine: Pot’s Money Problem

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