Pennsylvania ponders allowing smokable flower to combat a medical marijuana supply shortage, police in Juneau, Alaska, green light transporting cannabis on commercial airlines, and Idaho lawmakers shelve a CBD bill.
Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.
Slim pickings in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program hit the ground running, but high demand and a dearth of growers have strained the cannabis supply.
So state regulators are considering adding smokable flower to the list of approved MMJ products to help address the shortage.
Sara Gullickson, a cannabis application consultant with clients in Pennsylvania, believes the move to allow flower and dried leaves could cut out the processing time and help alleviate supply shortfalls.
“But a lot of times you have to crawl before you walk.”
Pennsylvania’s cannabis shortage stems in part from the state’s push to have MMJ businesses up and running only six months after the law took effect, she said.
“It would have made more sense if they awarded cultivation licenses first, cultivators got up and running, and dispensaries were awarded after – which we’ve seen in other states,” Gullickson added.
She believes regulators didn’t want to see the program delayed as it rolled out, as has happened in several other MMJ states.
Pennsylvania’s MMJ demand is strong, and the program has support from doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana.
“The state did do a lot of right things,” Gullickson said, “but they ended up crippling the program because they have too many patients.”
Pennsylvania’s regulators are aware that 12 cultivators and 27 dispensaries aren’t going to be enough to supply the market, she said, so there’s talk about beginning Phase 2 in the next month to license more businesses.
In the meantime, Gullickson’s hopeful a few more MMJ cultivators could be coming online as soon as next week, “so we can get going.”
Fly, Alaska, Fly
Now that the police department in Juneau, Alaska, is formally allowing licensed MJ business owners to board commercial flights with carry-ons packed to the brim with cannabis, air travel is almost certainly going to become the default way of shipping product within the immense state.
“It’s kind of been a rolling experiment for us up here to see what we can get away with,” said Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.
“But now, we’ve figured out a process with the (Transportation Security Administration), we’ve figured out a process that works for the local police.
“Juneau was kind of the last hurdle.”
The problem facing Alaskan cannabis entrepreneurs when the recreational MJ industry launched in late 2016 was a lack of legal shipping options.
Because many towns and cities aren’t connected to the mainland by roads, there wasn’t any clear option for shipping marijuana products such as flower and edibles.
So business owners began cramming as much inventory into carry-ons as possible and then boarding commercial flights.
Some would fly with several pounds of marijuana flower at a time to stock licensed retail shops that then sell to adult-use customers.
That practice has now become commonplace, Carrigan said.
“I know of at least a half-dozen (MJ businesspeople) who are regularly using air traffic to deliver to different parts of the state,” Carrigan said.
“It’s basically people who are remotely located, and they’ve got a transportation issue.”
But now, with Alaska’s entrepreneurs working hand-in-hand with law enforcement and state regulators, the shipping problem has pretty much been solved, Carrigan said.
“As long as it’s manifested through the Metrc system … and you have the paperwork, then you’re good, and you just go,” he added.
CBD ruckus in Idaho
A closed-door shouting match over CBD in Idaho has resonated all the way to Washington DC, with a GOP member of Congress criticizing how state lawmakers tried to quash a CBD bill.
U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who is running for governor of Idaho, accused fellow Republicans in the state Capitol of trying to “deny our citizens a voice in this important debate” by keeping the public out of a meeting before a CBD bill was shelved.
“That is politics at its worst,” Labrador said in a statement.
The state senator who called the vote to reject the CBD bill backtracked a day later, saying the measure is still alive because the vote was improper.
But that doesn’t mean the first measure to give Idahoans some access to a cannabis product is going anywhere.
Lawmakers still must hear the bill, which is no certainty.
Republican Gov. Butch Otter hinted recently he’d again veto a bill to allow CBD treatments in Idaho, as he did in 2015.
“We are the bastion of freedom from marijuana in our state, and I like living here,” Otter said last week during a “Capitol for a Day” session in eastern Idaho.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected]
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]
Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected]