Week in Review: Seniors, McCain & Puerto Rico Consider Saying Yes to Cannabis

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By Anne Holland

The cannabis industry gained support from diverse sources this week, highlighting the growing support for cannabis – and cannabusinesses – in the US.

Citing US reform trends, two Puerto Rico lawmakers co-sponsored a medical marijuana bill that would allow dispensaries as well as home-grow permits for patients who lived too far from a dispensary.  Conditions would range from cancer and glaucoma to anxiety. This is the second cannabis-related bill up for debate; the first proposed earlier this year, which is not expected to pass, suggested legalizing marijuana for adults’ personal use.

Also citing trends, Senator John McCain (R) reportedly said in a public town hall meeting in Arizona on Thursday, “Maybe we should legalize. We’re certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people.” After Arizona Star columnist Tim Stellar reported the quote via his Twitter feed, the quote was retweeted by nearly 150 people.

On the East Coast, Southern New Jersey patients – who have waited since 2010 for a dispensary to open – had good news when the town of Bellmawr announced it had approved a location. This was a second try for Compassionate Sciences, who had been soundly voted down in another New Jersey town in 2012. Bellmawr’s mayor and police chief went on record saying they were fine with the dispensary in large part due to Compassionate Science’s extensive and open communications with them during the seven month approval process.

Meanwhile in Washington State, the Liquor Control Board released its much-awaited round of proposed changes to recreational cannabis business regulations. Based on intensive research conducted by consultants Botec Analysis Corporation and an enormous amount of public feedback both from formal hearings and via email, the Board proposed licensing 334 retail establishments, with 21 to be located in Seattle. They also redefined the 1,000 foot rule – in terms of how how 1,000 feet would be measured – to make those locations physically possible. In addition, in order to block monopolies and possible chains, the Board proposed fairly strictly limiting the number of cultivation, processing and/or retail licenses anyone could have.

Nationally, the big mainstream cannabis story last week was the release of the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The report indicated a growing number of consumers who used cannabis recreationally on a regular basis (20+ days in the past month), and in particular, a growing number of consumers among seniors – a demographic shift which should be carefully noted by entrepreneurs hoping to serve recreational markets successfully. Although the more visible face of recreational cannabis was on display in warm and sunny Seattle this weekend at the first Cannabis Cup to be held in Washington since legalization passed last November, the youth market segment is likely just the tip of the iceberg for recreational markets.