Maine Regulators Update Medical Marijuana Rules

MAINE:  The Office of Marijuana Policy today released preliminary draft rules meant to bring the state’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program regulations into congruence with state law. Administrative rulemaking is a standard process within government and, in this case, necessitated due to significant changes that have been made to state law since rules were last revised in February 2018, pre-dating the creation of OMP.

In addition to being thematically reorganized to better reflect the structure of Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program, one of the most notable changes included in the draft is the introduction of a process by which medical marijuana establishments are regulated at the local level prior to state review, as is currently mandated by law. Additionally, the draft rules include provisions for inventory tracking to enhance accountability and transparency and delineate packaging and labeling requirements that prioritize patient protections.

“Along with being more user-friendly, these draft rules are meant to address changes to state law over the last two years. This draft framework will further ensure our regulatory priorities of safety, accountability, and transparency,” said OMP Director Erik Gundersen. “As relationships with local communities, industry, and other stakeholders are at the heart of all we do, we look forward to connecting with the public throughout the rule-making process.”

Current plans call for OMP to engage in both an informal and formal public comment period as it considers and develops revisions to the revamped medical rule. This approach is modeled after OMP’s development of the adult use program’s rules, an experience which allowed the Office to receive critical feedback and, ultimately, propose a better rule when beginning the formal rulemaking process defined by the Maine Administrative Procedures Act.

A copy of the preliminary draft rules is currently available for review on the OMP website: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/omp/medical-use/rules-statutes/rulemaking/draft-rules. Parties interested in providing feedback in response to the preliminary draft rules may do so through the following page: https://www.maine.gov/dafs/omp/medical-use/rules-statutes/rulemaking/feedback.

In line with the state’s standard rule-making process, the preliminary draft will transition into a proposed rule over the coming weeks, and OMP will begin the public hearing and public comment phase required by statute. A final draft of the proposed rule will be provided at least 20 days prior to the date of a scheduled public hearing. Following the public hearing, at least 10 days of written public comment will be allowed.

Once the public comment period concludes, OMP will review and consider all feedback received, make any appropriate revisions to the proposed rule, and complete final adoption.

Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency Announces Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Workgroup

MICHIGAN:  The Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) is facilitating a standing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workgroup (DEIW) to continue to advance the proposals of the ad hoc Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup, to empower stakeholders to take ownership in the programs that directly impact their communities, and to continue to guide the Agency on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This workgroup is to be held on the last Friday of every month.  Term length will not exceed 24 months.  The terms of the members will be staggered with new members accepted every 8 months.

Individuals interested in participating in the workgroup must send an email to MRA-SocialEquity@michigan.gov with WORKGROUP in the subject line – the body of the email must contain the following information:

  • Your name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Occupation
  • Job title
  • The name of the employer or organization that you are affiliated with
  • A brief explanation (no more than 250 words) describing what diversity, equity, and inclusion means to you and the perspective you believe you can bring to this group. Please do not include attachments with your email

The Agency will consider all email requests that meet these requirements, and any additional relevant information when establishing the workgroup. Requests and inquiries made via telephone or to other Agency contacts may not be accepted.

The deadline to email your request to participate in the workgroup is Friday, January 29, 2021 at 5:00 PM. Selections for the workgroup will be announced by Friday, February 12, 2021. If you are chosen for a workgroup, you will be notified directly by the Agency.

Emmy Award-Winning Executive Elizabeth Browde Joins A New Cannabis Channel As COO

NEW JERSEY: Emmy award-winning media executive Elizabeth Browde is taking her talents to cannabis media, joining as COO of A New Cannabis Channel, a mainstream omni-channel scheduled to debut on 4/20/2021.

Ms. Browde, whose vast experience includes significant roles in platform start ups, television programming, celebrity global brands, brand building, TV commerce, will join CEO Kerri Accardi in the venture, designed to bring a variety of cannabis-infused edutainment programming to the canna-curious.

“Our focus is on educating the mainstream through compelling content, high-quality production, innovative advertising, and easy accessibility,” Accardi told MJNews. “We are on a mission to educate the world about cannabis.”

Scheduled for a soft launch on the stoner holiday 4/20, A New Cannabis Channel, will feature original programming with the leading voices in cannabis business, science, sports, medical, growing, and consumer culture.  Super Bowl Champion Marvin Washington will host “5th Quarter: What Happens After the Game.”; Nurse Heather Manus will host “Nurse Talk: Nurses Take on Medical Cannabis”; while “Faces of Cannabis” will feature thought-leaders in legal cannabis and hemp.

“This isn’t your stoner channel.” Browde tells David Rheins, “It is really about showing people the many uses of cannabis, and providing them with the information and tools they need to make decisions about how and when to use cannabis.

Listen in on this Marijuana Channel One exclusive, as MJNews Network’s David Rheins talks to Elizabeth about the role of media in the cannabis cultural revolution; women-run enterprises and how they are changing the canna-business; and the programming that will soon be coming to a screen near you.

Ohio Board Of Pharmacy Updated Patient & Caregiver Numbers For December 2020

OHIO:  The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today published updated patient & caregiver numbers for December 2020. These numbers include:

  • 214,916 Recommendations
  • 160,228 Registered patients
    • 10,938 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 11,591 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 861 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 139,458 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 18,211 Registered CaregiversFor the full list of program numbers, please visit the Program Update page.

California Cannabis Authorities Publish Proposed Regulations to Facilitate Financial Services for Cannabis Businesses

CALIFORNIA: The California state cannabis licensing authorities—Bureau of Cannabis Control, California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Public Health—provided notice to the public of proposed emergency regulations to implement the provisions of Assembly Bill 1525 (Jones–Sawyer, 2020). The proposed regulations are intended to facilitate greater access to financial services for licensed cannabis businesses that face challenges obtaining banking, insurance and other financial services commonly available to other businesses.

The proposed regulations create a pathway for licensees to authorize sharing of non-public information with selected financial institutions and provide a mechanism for financial institutions to more readily conduct the federally required reviews of the cannabis business. By reducing the burden of providing financial services to cannabis businesses, more financial institutions may be willing to provide services, thereby reducing the need to keep cash on hand and improving public safety.

The proposed regulatory text and supporting documents can be viewed at the following links:

Following the required minimum five working-day notice to the public, the licensing authorities will file the emergency regulations with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The five calendar-day formal public comment period will begin when OAL publishes the proposed regulations as being “under review” on its website.

USDA Publishes Final Rule For The Domestic Production Of Hemp

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the United States. The final rule incorporates modifications to regulations established under the interim final rule (IFR) published in October 2019. The modifications are based on public comments following the publication of the IFR and lessons learned during the 2020 growing season. The final rule is available for viewing in the Federal Register and will be effective on March 22, 2021.

“With the publication of this final rule, USDA brings to a close a full and transparent rule-making process that started with a hemp listening session in March 2019,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach. “USDA staff have taken the information you have provided through three comment periods and from your experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers. USDA staff will continue to conduct education and outreach to help industry achieve compliance with the requirements.”

Key provisions of the final rule include licensing requirements; recordkeeping requirements for maintaining information about the land where hemp is produced; procedures for testing the THC concentration levels for hemp; procedures for disposing of non-compliant plants; compliance provisions; and procedures for handling violations.

Background: 

On Oct. 31, 2019, USDA published the IFR that provided specific details on the process and criteria for review of plans USDA receives from states and Indian tribes regarding the production of hemp and established a plan to monitor and regulate the production of hemp in those states or Indian tribes that do not have an approved state or Tribal plan.

The IFR was effective immediately after publication in the Federal Register and provided a 60-day public comment period. On Dec. 17, 2019, USDA extended the comment period until Jan. 29, 2020, to allow stakeholders additional time to provide feedback. USDA re-opened the comment period for 30 days, from Sept. 8 to Oct. 8, 2020 seeking additional comments from all stakeholders, especially those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle. In all, USDA received about 5,900 comments.

On Feb. 27, 2020, USDA announced the delay of enforcement of the requirement for labs to be registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the requirement that producers use a DEA-registered reverse distributor or law enforcement to dispose of non-compliant plants under certain circumstances until Oct. 31, 2021, or the final rule is published, whichever comes first. This delay has been further extended in the final rule to December 2022.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) directed USDA to issue regulations and guidance to implement a program for the commercial production of hemp in the United States. The authority for hemp production provided in the 2014 Farm Bill was extended until January 1, 2022, by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021, and Other Extensions Act (Pub. L. 116-260) (2021 Continuing Appropriations Act) allowing states and institutions of higher education to continue to grow or cultivate industrial hemp at certified and registered locations within the state for research and education purposes under the authorities of the 2014 Farm Bill.

More information about the provisions of the final rule is available on the Hemp Production web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.

Over 200 Drug Policy, Harm Reduction, Health Care, and Community Groups Call on Biden Administration to Prioritize Public Health Solutions to Curb Overdose Crisis and Dismantle Drug War

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Over 200 drug policy, harm reduction, health care, and community based organizations from across the country today sent a letter to Rahul Gupta, Team Lead for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on President-Elect Biden’s Transition Team. The letter urges the Biden administration to implement proven, bold solutions to curb the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war. Led by People’s ActionVOCAL-NY, the Drug Policy Alliance, and National Harm Reduction Coalition, the letter also makes clear the disproportionate consequences the drug war and overdose crisis have on Black, Brown, and low-income communities, which have contributed to the U.S. leading the world in mass incarceration and preventable overdose deaths.

“Like the President-elect, we too have watched the nation stigmatize our loved ones for substance use, and, instead of judging, we unconditionally love and support them. And, like the President-elect, we too have experienced the insurmountable grief brought on by the loss of family members,” the groups wrote. “It is our strong hope and belief that ending the drug war that has inflicted incredible harm in communities across this nation, and centering evidence-based solutions to address the overdose crisis, could be a great catalyst for a national transformation.”

In the letter, the groups outline immediate and longer-term policy recommendations based on to combat the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war, such as:

  • Ground the ONDCP in evidence-based drug policies backed by science and public health approaches;
  • Commit the ONDCP to dismantling the drug war, advancing a national drug budget that prioritizes harm reduction, treatment and recovery and looks beyond enforcement and supply side strategies that only perpetuate mass incarceration, systemic racism and the failed drug war;
  • Include in FY22 budgets and future COVID relief packages dedicated funds to sustain harm reduction providers including syringe service programs;
  • Direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw litigation challenging the operation of overdose prevention centers (OPCs), refrain from filing new lawsuits against or from prosecuting organizations that operate OPCs, and work with Congress to revise federal laws to permit the operation of OPCs;
  • Permanently extend the SAMHSA/DEA COVID-19 accommodations for methadone and buprenorphine access (the gold standard for opioid use disorder treatment); and
  • Support policies that would eliminate requirements that inhibit practitioners to easily prescribe medication for opioid use disorder, prohibit state Medicaid programs from requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment, and include people directly impacted by the crisis to help decide where resources would be best targeted locally.

The full text of the letter, which includes the 212 organizations that signed on, may be found here.

Cannabis Licensing Authorities Consolidation Part Of Governor’s Proposed State Budget

CALIFORNIA:  Governor Newsom’s fiscal year 2021-2022 budget proposal released today includes a proposal to consolidate the three state licensing authorities into a single Department of Cannabis Control. This proposal was first announced in January 2020 but was delayed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. If approved by the Legislature, the new Department will be created on July 1, 2021.

In an effort to improve access to licensing and simplify and centralize regulatory oversight of commercial cannabis activity, the Governor’s Budget proposes to consolidate licensing and associated regulatory functions into a single state Department. This proposal seeks to better serve stakeholders including cannabis businesses, local governments, and members of the public by acting as a single point of contact as well as leverage existing funding in a more efficient way by reducing redundancies. Further, it seeks to establish uniform operations and procedures that will streamline processes for applicants and licensees and offer better service and coordination.

The three state licensing authorities have begun to prepare and plan for the consolidation and, most importantly, to ensure continuity of operations. We are committed to making this transition in a manner that reduces unnecessary disruption to the marketplace and California businesses. Our team members will remain available to applicants and licensees as they continue their routine business activities.

NIH Study Suggests Using Cannabis While Trying To Conceive May Reduce Pregnancy Chances

MARYLAND:  Women who use marijuana could have a more difficult time conceiving a child than women who do not use marijuana, suggests a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Marijuana use among the women’s partners—which could have influenced conception rates—was not studied. The researchers were led by Sunni L. Mumford, Ph.D., of the Epidemiology Branch in NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study appears in Human Reproduction.

The women were part of a larger group trying to conceive after one or two prior miscarriages. Women who said they used cannabis products—marijuana or hashish—in the weeks before pregnancy, or who had positive urine tests for cannabis use, were around 40% less likely to conceive per monthly cycle than women who did not use cannabis. The authors noted that although the findings suggest cannabis could affect women’s fertility, they should be tempered with caution as the study observed a relatively small number of cannabis users. However, the authors say their results suggest that women trying to conceive should exercise caution with cannabis use until more definitive evidence is available.

The researchers analyzed data from a broader study of more than 1,200 women ages 18 to 40 with one or two pregnancy losses. The women participated in the study for up to six monthly cycles while attempting pregnancy and throughout pregnancy if conception occurred. After enrolling in the study, the women responded to a questionnaire asking if they had used marijuana, pot, or hashish in the past 12 months, with responses ranging from never, rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, to daily. Each woman also provided urine samples for analysis when they first entered the study and after six months if they did not conceive or at the time of positive pregnancy test if they conceived.

A total of 62 women (5%) either had a positive urine test or responded that they had used cannabis before conception.

For each monthly cycle, women who had used cannabis while trying to conceive were 41% less likely to conceive than non-users. Similarly, a smaller proportion of cannabis users than non-users became pregnant during the study—42% versus 66%. The authors found no differences in miscarriage rates between users and non-users who had achieved pregnancy.

The authors noted that, compared to non-users, cannabis users also had differences in reproductive hormones involved in ovulation. These differences could potentially have influenced their likelihood of conception. Specifically, users had higher levels of luteinizing hormone and a higher proportion of luteinizing hormone to follicle stimulating hormone.

The authors also noted that animal studies had found that cannabis use could alter the lining of the uterus, making it less likely an embryo to implant and establish a pregnancy. Until more information is available, the authors said, women trying to become pregnant should be aware that cannabis could potentially affect their pregnancy chances.

Reference
Mumford SL et al. Cannabis use while trying to conceive: a prospective cohort study evaluating associations with fecundability, live birth, and pregnancy loss. Human Reproduction. 2020. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deaa355

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all. For more information, visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit https://www.nih.gov.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission Licensing Director Message: Marijuana Licensing Streamlining Update

January 8, 2021

A Phased Approach

Early in 2020 because interest to enter Oregon’s expanding recreational marijuana market continued to grow, it became clear that we needed a new approach for processing marijuana license applications. In response, my staff and I conducted a program evaluation in March 2020, to identify opportunities for improvement throughout the licensing program. Aside from the need for our staffing resources to grow to match the industry’s requirements (which we will continue to address with our legislative partners) we developed a formal year-long improvement strategy outlined below in three phases.

Phase 1: Streamlined license renewal process (Complete)

This included reducing the complexity of renewal applications, making licensing system updates and updating internal processes regarding renewals. Improvements to our renewal system went live August 4, 2020.

Outcome: Marijuana license renewals process times have been reduced from an average of 347 days from submission in Q4 2019, to 156 days from submission in Q4 2020. Current licensees should realize these improvements at their next renewal period occurring after August 4, 2020.

 

Phase 2: Removal of Pre-licensing Inspections and streamlining workflows (Complete)

In April 2020, the Commission eliminated the requirement to conduct pre-licensing onsite inspections before issuing a license, and during last summer we made improvements to licensing workflows by reducing redundant routine reviews of work and providing more empowerment to staff. Our evaluation showed this was taking as much as 40-50% of the processing time for new applications; these improvements removed that constraint.

Outcome: Marijuana license application process times from assignment have been reduced from an average of 168 days in Q4 2019 to the average of 61 days in Q4 2020.

 

Phase 3: Entrusting the Industry (Complete)

The overall philosophy of this change was rethinking how we address marijuana licensing. Specifically, phase 3 changes reduced the level of scrutiny for applicants who have already been vetted and previously licensed. Further, the agency reassigned personnel and added contract workers to solely focus on licensing activity. The Commission also approved “streamlining licensing,” rule changes at our October 15, 2020 Commission meeting.

Outcome: License application processing times approved during the month of December 2020, averaged 54 days from the date of assignment. These tangible changes have reduced the back and forth between applicants and the Commission.

 

The Readiness Checklist: Who’s ready? Who’s not?

In addition, we’ve implemented a new process to provide us more insight into applicants within our applicant pool by utilizing a request for assignment form (aka “The Readiness Checklist”). This process helps identify a marijuana license applicant’s desire to be assigned and enables them to self-determine their readiness to complete the license process within the required 60 day period.

As of November 16, 2020, my staff has reached out to all 881 “pre-pause” applicants, to determine their desire and readiness to be assigned. Pre-pause applicants include applications submitted prior to the June 15, 2018, pause on processing licenses. As of January 5, 2021, we have:

  • 319 or approximately 36% of the 881 applications are ready to be assigned
  • 360 or approximately 40% of applicants have said they are not ready
  • These applicants have delayed assignment by an average of 5 months.
  • 139 applicants not respond at all.
  • 49 application withdrawals.
  • The remaining 14 are in process.

As of January 6, 2021, we have assigned all applicants who’ve requested to be assigned as of that date. Additionally, as we receive requests for assignments, now we are consistently able to assign applications within two to four weeks of receiving the request for assignment form.

In addition to this progress on new marijuana license applications, we have been able to reduce the time it takes to assign change requests (e.g. location, ownership, etc.) from four to six months in Q3 2019, to approximately two months in Q3 2020. Moving forward, while we further refine our processes, our standard is to be able to assign these requests within 60 days of receiving them.

Regarding the non-responsive applicants, we’ve reached out to each one and subsequently followed up with those applicants prior to December 12, 2020 in order to provide a final opportunity for them to respond before inactivating their application.

Industry members and applicants should ensure they are monitoring any communications from the Commission and double check that the contact information affiliated with the license application is up to date.

 

The New Year: What’s next?

Earlier this year, OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks committed to reducing the backlog of license applications by one third by February 1, 2021; at the time he made that pledge that meant reducing our application pool by a total of 350 applications. The progress we have demonstrated leads me to believe we will meet, or come close to, accomplishing that goal. Should we not be able to, this will be in large part due to the number of applicants who’ve indicated they’re not ready to be assigned. As mentioned above, we are assigning applications within two to four weeks of receiving a request for assignment form. The average time to process a license application once it’s assigned was 61 days in Q4 2020; that’s a significant reduction and close to the new standard we’ve set.

With the changes we’ve made this year and at the current pace that we receive license applications, this should not be difficult to maintain going forward. These accomplishments truly deliver what the industry asked us to address, both in timeliness and predictability. We hope this serves as an example of how we will continue to work with the industry and to strive to improve and make Oregon a leader in the cannabis industry and a model for cannabis regulation.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with feedback and guidance that will help us collectively make constructive improvements to the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Program.

Jason Hanson

OLCC Director of Licensing

Jason.hanson@oregon.gov