I recently attended a community event for my district’s state legislators to explain their priorities for this legislative session. Following these presentations there was a scheduled Q&A and I was eager to ask how these officials felt about the disparities between Oklahoma and Maryland in terms of access, cost and, most importantly for 2020, home-grow.
I was disappointed to not be called on to ask my question in front of the entire room but stood in a handshake line to speak 1 on 1 with my legislators. All claimed support for legalization but when I was not able to get any answers on #mdhomegrow2020. As is good practice I then followed up with some emails.
The following is a correspondence with one of these elected officials. As we are still in dialogue I will not “out” who this person is out of fairness and respect. They may still prove to be a valuable ally:
“Dear Del. xxxxxxxxxxxx:
Thank you for taking a few moments to chat after yesterday’s event.
One thing I failed to really get to in our conversation is my one, I think modest, goal for this legislative session. That is to provide some immediate alternative to the current MMCC regulated oligopoly. The average registered patient is spending $50 per week on MMCC regulated products that many could easily produce for themselves at home for pennies on the dollar. The long promised but still yet to be delivered “Compassionate Use Fund” would only help two narrow categories of patient. I think one can imagine $50 dollars per week as an undo burden, even to those not receiving medicaid or veterans benefits.
As I mentioned in our chat, Oklahoma passed its medical cannabis law in June of 2018 and in days it was legal for patients to grow up to 12 plants. That this bible-belt state could pull off such a feet without the sky falling should be an indication that we can and should do the same in 2020.
Apart from home cultivation I think Oklahoma has set a remarkable precedent for what consumers and taxpayers should expect in terms of an accessible, diverse affordable cannabis market quickly without the lawsuits and allegations of misdoings that have plagued our 6 year journey. I attached a side by side comparison of our two markets. It shows a stark difference and points to what is possible in terms of achieving safe affordable access, while generating tax revenue, ownership and employment.
Please let me know you if you support my goal to permit Maryland patients the same rights as those in most other medical cannabis states. If so, is there any way you can help or any suggestions as to how I might proceed.
Wishing you a happy and healthy week!“
To this Delegate’s credit they were second only to David Moon in getting back to me. Here is their response:
It was good to talk with you at the xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx after the District xx forum. I appreciate your advocacy for better marijuana laws in Maryland.
Your chart comparing Maryland and Oklahoma is interesting. The progress of Maryland’s medical marijuana program has been slow and unsteady. We have passed different versions of the bill in an effort to get good policy. Oklahoma appears to have waited and then instituted a more complete program.
I have seen charts showing that states that have legalized recreational marijuana have allowed a certain number of plants. I was surprised to see that Oklahoma allows medical patients to grow 12 plants because that is often the number allowed in legalized states.
The marijuana issue is being actively discussed and debated in Annapolis. While I don’t foresee significant action soon, I do expect there will be changes in the law that will move policy closer to your views on the issue over the next few years. Stay active with the advocates and your own efforts. I too would like to see us make progress and I am supportive of the efforts in Annapolis to do that.”
My initial impression on seeing this pop up on my phone was “awesome!” But it didn’t take long to realize that this Delegate hadn’t in fact answered my central question. Also I didn’t think he had been well informed about the history of medical cannabis across the country and how Maryland’s approach stacks up. I prepared a small excel spread sheet here:
|State||Medical Homegrow Plant Count||Year of Medical Law Passage|
|Colorado||6 which has not changed with rec||2000|
|Missouri||6 patient 18 Caretaker||2018|
|Oregon||7 in initial law 6 today||1997|
|Washington||5-15 depending on Rx||1998|
And attached it to the following email:
“Dear Del xxxxxxx
Thank you for your thoughtful response and encouraging words!
I understand that it is your analysis that nothing will happen this year but how would you vote? Do you support patients right to home cultivation, or should patients who choose to grow for themselves continue to be subject to felony conviction?
Counter to your perception, medical cannabis actually started as a home-grow affair as patients and loved-ones provided for themselves what was strictly illegal at the time. As state governments began to react to what was already happening on the ground they permitted patients to grow for themselves. Until after the Obama era “Cole Memo” there were no regulated cannabis dispensaries in the country.
I have attached a spreadsheet of states with medical cannabis provisions that allow home-cultivation with plant counts and the year that their laws were enacted. You will find that 12 is a pretty standard plant count number in these programs. Please note ultra conservative Missouri as a recent addition to this list.
I don’t think I agree with your assessment that Oklahoma has waited to institute a program. Certainly they have adjusted regulations as the program has developed, the same is true here in Maryland though, with only 120 licensees paying fees and fines to support it, the MMCC does not have a funding mechanism to properly resource its regulations.
In many ways Oklahoma’s regulations are more fully developed than ours as they have generated $30 million in excess of the cost of managing the program in fees and generated over 50 million dollars in retail taxes, which are split between the state and localities. Despite a 15% retail tax, patients are still paying significantly less money than Marylander’s for the same products.
I believe that the clear reason for these exorbitant prices is lack of competition as the tiny 15 license grower pool, largely controlled by large out of state interests, has been shrinking rather than growing. Last year Arizona based Harvest Health aquired Verano. This year Massachusetts headquarters CuraLeaf is in the process of acquiring Chicago based Grassroots. How is this current state of affairs acceptable, even to non cannabis patients?
Given all of this, please let me know if you would support home cultivation for Maryland registered patients in 2020.”
I sent this message just yesterday and as such have not yet heard back. My intent is to get a firm answer either way, hopefully providing some education in the process. The more people that are reaching out on this issue the better. As per usual, I was the first and only patient to have reached out with these concerns to this individual. We need more voices in the mix!