By Omar Sacirbey and John Schroyer
Nevada works to avert a recreational marijuana supply shortage, New Hampshire adds chronic pain and PTSD to its medical cannabis qualifying conditions, and Maryland reorganizes its MMJ commission.
Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.
Supply crisis averted in Nevada
When Nevada launched its recreational marijuana industry July 1, a major problem immediately cropped up: Demand was so immense retailers quickly began running low on inventory.
The issue was so prominent it led to a flurry of activity this week, including:
- The Department of Taxation issued licenses for the state’s first adult-use cannabis distributors.
- The tax agency on Thursday approved emergency rules to accelerate licensing for marijuana distributors.
But tax regulators rewrote the rules to make it clear that it’s legal under certain circumstances to license some retailers to transport marijuana from growers to storefronts.
The situation amounted to growing pains for the infant rec industry, said Riana Durrett, the executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association.
However, she said she’s confident the problems will be resolved within a few months and, most important, retailers won’t completely run out of adult-use products.
“There won’t be a period when people can’t get recreational products, fortunately,” Durrett added.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what will happen with the distributor license situation, which is tied up in a court battle involving alcohol wholesalers who filed suit against the state.
Durrett said she’s aware of several Nevada cannabis businesses that are working on ways to obtain their own distributor licenses.
She also expects the state Supreme Court to hear an expedited appeal on the distributorship case, which she believes could resolve the entire situation by the end of September.
Even an alcohol distributors’ court win would fix retailers’ rec MJ inventory issue, meaning the industry could move forward without major hiccups.
It’s encouraging, Durrett said, that industry stakeholders – including businesses, regulators and other public officials – are working together to smooth out kinks in the system to ensure a workable industry.
“So nothing is impossible to overcome,” she said.
New Hampshire’s new conditions
New Hampshire’s four dispensaries could see a major increase in medical marijuana patients after a new law goes into effect next month adding chronic pain and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) to the state’s list of qualifying conditions.
“This will allow much more patient access,” said Jason Sidman, CEO of Sanctuary Alternative Treatment Center in Plymouth. “We’re gearing up.”
He already was planning to expand his operation because of a recent spike in the state’s patient pool, which, in turn, has increased Sanctuary’s.
Sidman estimates the state’s been receiving 60-80 new applications per week, and he expects “that number to double or triple” because of the additions of chronic pain and PTSD.
The recent patient hike has brought Sanctuary’s client list to 950-plus, Sidman said, up from the 612 patients that state statistics show the company had last December.
Sanctuary has been adding 40-60 new patients per month, Sidman said, but he expects the addition of chronic pain and PTSD to raise his dispensary’s monthly total of new patients to over 100.
So he feels justified in his decision to increase the days Sanctuary is open from five to six, starting in August, and to hire another salesperson. He also hopes to bring at least one or two flowering rooms online during the first quarter of 2018. Currently, only two of seven are operational.
In other states that allow marijuana use for chronic pain, typically 1%-2% of the population signs up for MMJ. Such numbers in New Hampshire could boost the patient count to roughly 26,000, based on a population of 1.3 million.
New Hampshire’s dispensaries likely will see a larger-than-usual boost in patients from the addition of PTSD. State Rep. Jess Edwards wrote in a legislative report that “medical cannabis (for PTSD) may bring more patients into a clinical setting.”
Changing face of Maryland’s MMJ commission
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission – which governs the state’s MMJ industry – is undergoing a significant face-lift after the governor replaced a majority of the panel.
The overhaul could also mean changes are in store for MMJ license winners and applicants still seeking permits, said Ivan Lanier, the CEO of Greenwill Consulting Group, a Maryland government affairs consultancy. Some companies, for example, could lose their licenses if they aren’t up and running on schedule, he noted.
“The big issue this new commission will have is that there will potentially be a few growers, processors and dispensaries that may not be operational (as planned),” Lanier said.
The businesses in question could have “some capital issues,” he added, “so the commission may have to come back and take a very hard look at the applicants that were awarded (licenses) and decide who has the capital, who’s on track to open and so on.”
So there could be a shake-up in which applicants who were initially denied licenses may wind up with MMJ business permits, Lanier suggested.
“We certainly don’t want growers and processors that are looking to open in the next two to three years when they’re supposed to be open within a one-year timeline,” he said.
The commission also could:
- Give more consideration to diversity in issuing licenses, since that’s been a hot-button controversy in Maryland and the panel includes some minority members.
- Decide to issue additional licenses, meaning many applicants that didn’t win dispensary or cultivation permits may still be in line for permits.
“Certainly everyone is holding their breath and hoping that this new commission will review the past decisions … and start to do another round of applicants,” Lanier said.
Omar Sacirbey can be reached [email protected]
John Schroyer can be reached [email protected]
– The Associated Press contributed to this report