Posts Tagged ‘cannabis’

Court Provides More Clarity Regarding Marijuana Extracts

March 23rd, 2014

Judge Cooper from Maricopa County Superior Court ruled on Friday that: “The language of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and its ballot materials make clear that proponents and votes intended the Act to provide access to medicine for debilitating medical conditions without fear of criminal prosecution.  The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act does not limit the form in which that medicine can be administered.  Nor does it prohibit the use of extracts, such as CBD oil.”

 

This ruling provides some clarity regarding how we’ll regulate the sale of edibles that contain extracts from the marijuana plant.  Here’s a summary of the issue addressed by the Court:
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act provides registry identification card holders and dispensaries a number of legal protections for their medical use of Marijuana pursuant to the Act.  Interestingly, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) differs from the Arizona Criminal Code’s (“Criminal Code”) definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 13-3401(19).  The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act makes a distinction between “Marijuana” and “Usable Marijuana.” A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) and (15).  The definition of “Marijuana” in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is “… all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.”  The definition of “Usable Marijuana” is  “…  the dried flowers of the marijuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalks and roots of the plant and does not include the weight of any non-marijuana ingredients combined with marijuana and prepared for consumption as food or drink.”  The “allowable amount of marijuana” for a qualifying patient and a designated caregiver includes “two-and-one half ounces of usable marijuana.”  A.R.S. § 36-2801(1).

 

The definition of “Marijuana” in the Criminal Code is “… all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, from which the resin has not been extracted, whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.”   “Cannabis” (a narcotic drug under the Criminal Code) is defined as: “… the following substances under whatever names they may be designated: (a) The resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus cannabis, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant, its seeds or its resin.  Cannabis does not include oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any fiber, compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stalks of such plant except the resin extracted from the stalks or any fiber, oil or cake or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination; and (b) Every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such resin or tetrahydrocannabinol.” A.R.S. § 13-3401(4) and (20)(w).

 

An issue the Department had been wrestling with for some time is how the definition of “Marijuana” and “Usable Marijuana” in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and the definition of “Cannabis” and “Marijuana” in the Criminal Code fit together. In other words, prior to this ruling it had appeared as though registered identification card holders and dispensaries could have been exposed to criminal prosecution under the Criminal Code for possessing a narcotic drug if the card holder or dispensary possesses resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis or an edible containing resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis.

 

At least for now, it appears that forms of marijuana that include extracts from the plant are provided the same level of protection (for patients and dispensaries) as the actual dried marijuana plants under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Medical Marijuana News

January 17th, 2014

We published our mid-year update of the medical marijuana annual report this week.  It contains different data than our  standard annual report in that we’re reporting aggregate dispensary transaction data.  In the report you’ll see that there were about 422,000 transactions made at dispensaries in ‘13 among the 40,000 patients (about 10 transactions/patient/year).   Dispensaries sold 2,700 Kg of marijuana in ’13 for an estimated gross revenue stream of about $33M.  Transaction data is broken down by age group as well.   Fridays are the busiest day of the week at dispensaries.  

In other news, we completed our review of the latest petitions to add debilitating medical conditions to the official list this week.  As you recall, the AZ Medical Marijuana Act charges us to periodically accept petitions to add new medical conditions to the list that qualifies folks for a card.  Last summer we accepted petitions from the public to add new medical conditions for PTSD, depression and migraines. We also received a lot of informal comments regarding adding PTSD; depression & migraines and heard in person testimony from dozens of folks at our public hearing in October. 

We also contracted with the U of A College of Public Health to do an evidence review of published scientific studies.  You can see the UA’s analyses for depression; migraine headaches and PTSD on our petition website.  Our ADHS Medical Advisory Committee reviewed and analyzed the data, as in past submission periods, and provided me with recommendations earlier this week. 

Our literature review found limited scientific evidence to support permanently adding the petitioned conditions to the statutory list of qualifying debilitating conditions identified in the Act.  I didn’t approve the petitions because of the lack of published data regarding the risks and benefits of using Cannabis to treat or provide relief for the petitioned conditions.  We’ll be accepting petitions again January 27 – 31, 2014.

Medical Marijuana Edibles

September 4th, 2013

Last week I posted a blog that points out that the words “Marijuana” in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and “Cannabis” in the Arizona Criminal Code have different definitions…  and that the distinction may be an important one for Qualifying Patients. 

The major difference is that the definition of “Useable Marijuana” in AMMA includes “… dried flowers of the marijuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof…” without specifically addressing the “resins” and “extracts” identified in the Criminal Code.

Dispensary Ruling

July 31st, 2013

The Superior Court judge ruled this morning that our requirement for Registration Certificate holders (dispensaries) to get an approval to operate within one year in order to renew their certificates is unreasonable.  Because of today’s ruling, we’re going to accept renewal requests for all the current dispensaries in the state, whether they’re open or not.  The initial year for dispensaries is over next week.

The ruling also means we’ll need to rewrite our rules – but that’s not a simple process.  We’ll begin the process of adjusting our regulations to be in accordance with today’s ruling, but it will likely take several months to have everything in line.  Today’s ruling will also delay our decision about how to proceed with “year 2” dispensary applications.

Petitions to Add Debilitating Conditions to the MM List

July 23rd, 2013

The AZ Medical Marijuana Act also requires us to periodically accept petitions to permanently add new medical conditions to the list of conditions that qualify folks for a card.  In Jan 2012, we’ve received petitions to add PTSD 1PTSD 2; Depression; Migraines; and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In short- I didn’t approve the petitions because of the lack of published data regarding the risks and benefits of using Cannabis to treat or provide relief for the petitioned conditions.  

We’ll begin accepting petitions to add debilitating conditions tomorrow; July24th-July31. Our medical team will meet after that to get me an initial analysis regarding whether any petitions we receive meet the screening criteria.  Assuming we receive qualified petitions, I’ll need to make a final decision by December 2013.  Our website shows folks how, what, where, and when to submit petitions.

Dispensary Zoning Case

December 13th, 2012

Last week a Superior Court judge ordered Maricopa County to process the zoning paperwork that has been submitted by the applicant for the Sun City CHAA.  The Maricopa County Attorney asked for a Stay of the decision while he appealed the case to the Court of Appeals.  This morning, the Superior Court judge denied that request for a Stay.  There’s still an appeal pathway for the Maricopa County Attorney if he asks for a Stay of the decision from the Appellate court while the pre-emption arguments are made at the Appellate level.  For our part- we did not take a position at today’s hearing… and we will simply continue to wait for the applicant in the Sun City CHAA to turn in its zoning paperwork, which would complete the application.  At that point we would process it the same as the other 98.

By the way- AZ now has 3 operating dispensaries, one in Glendale and one in Tucson.  Another dispensary in Cochise County opened today.  Because of the 3 operating dispensaries and provision in the voter approved language that only people that live more than 25 miles away from a dispensary are authorized to cultivate, more than 70% of Arizonans now live in areas where self-cultivation will no longer be permitted.  However, we’re grandfathering the cultivation rights for current card-holders until they renew their card or move into an area that’s within 25 miles of a dispensary.

Dispensary Court Ruling

December 4th, 2012

  

A Superior Court judge ruled today in the dispensary case concerning the applicant in the Sun City CHAA.  The judge ordered the county to begin processing the required zoning paperwork.  This was the only application for this area,  so the next step for the applicant is to submit to us a completed application including  the zoning paperwork from the county.   The Department will process this application the same as the other 98 applications.

Glendale Dispensary Opening Postponed

November 19th, 2012

Last Thursday I announced in a blog post that our team had just returned from a field inspection for a dispensary applicant in Glendale, that there were no major deficiencies, and that we had awarded the dispensary an “Approval to Operate”.   Today the Applicant asked for a short delay in the effective date for their Operating License in order to ensure that things run smoothly when they officially begin operations.  Our team approved a delay in their license’s effective date this afternoon.  

Once the new dispensary begins its operations, we will no longer be approving “requests to cultivate” among new (and renewing) cardholders in most of the metro area… because self-grow (12 plants) is only allowed when the patient lives more than 25 miles from the nearest operating dispensary according to the law.  The vast majority of the Valley is within 25 miles of this new (but not yet operating) dispensary. 

As an FYI…  once a dispensary is operating, it is required by our rules to be “…  operating and available to dispense medical marijuana to qualifying patients and designated caregivers at least 30 hours weekly between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.”

First Dispensary

November 15th, 2012

Our team just returned from a field inspection for a dispensary applicant in Glendale.  There were no major deficiencies, and we awarded the dispensary an “approval to operate” late this afternoon.  This is the first dispensary approval to operate we’ve issued in the State.  By law, we’re not allowed to publicly disclose the address. 

The fact that a dispensary is now licensed in the Valley also means that the “self-grow” part of the law will change on Friday.  Beginning tomorrow we’ll be declining new “requests to cultivate” among new cardholders in most of the metro area…  because self-grow (12 plants) is only allowed when the patient lives more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary.  The vast majority of the Valley is within 25 miles of this new dispensary.   

We’re also adding a new feature to our website to help people figure out if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary.  Because of the changes to the system, we’ just took the it offline.  We’ll work on it over the weekend and most of the application process should be up and running on Monday.

Breastfeeding & Cannabis

September 4th, 2012

Some AZ health care providers and parents have asked questions about whether medical marijuana is safe for use while breastfeeding.  The short answer is no, because the active chemical in marijuana is passed to the baby through breast milk. For this reason, most experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC advise moms not to use marijuana (medical or not) while breastfeeding.   

Tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis) stays in the body for four to six weeks.  It’s found in the urine of breastfeeding babies whose mothers use marijuana. It’s also fat soluble, which means it builds up with chronic use and can be stored in fat tissue for months. We also know that babies are much more vulnerable than adults to illness, infection, chemicals, and so on. That alone is a good reason to avoid marijuana and anything else potentially harmful that can enter your baby’s body through your milk.  

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine has a protocol that you can use to make breastfeeding decisions.  For more information about the effects of marijuana and other medications, go to the National Libraries of Medicine’s LactMed database. For answers to this and other breastfeeding questions, call the ADHS 24-hour breastfeeding hotline at 1-800-833-4642. 

Of course- all sorts of prescription and over-the-counter medicines are also transferred to infants in breast milk- but pediatricians are more familiar with which medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding because they’re tested by the FDA- and most medicine labels discuss breastfeeding.