Observers point out that new state rules proposed for medical marijuana sales would govern just about every aspect of retailing, including possibly tracking weed patients' purchases.
The rules would require that “patient identification numbers” be entered into a state “track and trace” database and state that: “Upon request from the bureau, a licensed dispensary shall provide the name of the medical cannabis patient associated with the patient identification number listed on the delivery request receipt.”
Some fear that the state will track patient purchases in order to ensure they don't buy too much medical weed. “Your shopping habits will be uploaded,” says attorney Aaron Herzberg, a partner at medical marijuana real estate form CalCann Holdings.
But Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML, says that keeping track of every medical pot patient in the state “would be untenable.” He doesn't fear a Big Brother weed-tracking system.
The 114 pages of draft rules released last week don't cover the production and sales of recreational marijuana, which state law will allow starting Jan. 1. And a separate proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown seeks to unify and simplify the rules governing both medical and recreational weed, and make it easier for new businesses to enter the game. So it's possible these proposed medical regulations, drafted by agencies under Brown's control, will be revamped in favor of less bureaucracy.
“We would like to see things consolidated so that adult and medical use rules are basically the same,” Gieringer says.
As they stand, though, the state's proposed medical marijuana rules take the weed business “totally out of the homegrown, informal hippie model and into a regimented industrial model,” Gieringer says. “It's a bit overwhelming for anything less than a well-organized or business type.”
The proposed regulations will be subject to a 45-day public hearing period, which is expected to begin June 1.
Here are some of the more interesting of the proposed rules for dispensaries:
- Edibles couldn't have more than 10 milligrams of THC per serving or 100 milligrams per package. “That's never going to fly,” says CalCann Holdings' Herzberg. “Patients often need more.” He says some single servings today have 100 milligrams each of THC.
- Multiple marijuana businesses could be allowed to exist under one roof, so long as they're in distinct and separate areas, Herzberg says. “This is huge,” he says. “A lot of building owners want to put several tenants in. In some cases there could be campuses.”
- Medical and recreational businesses, however, could not co-exist.
- Free samples would be outlawed. Giveaways have been a staple of big marijuana festivals. Gieringer says this rule could make it difficult for these events to exist in California. “I don't know how that's going to work out,” he says.
- Packaging would have to be child-resistant. “And you have to leave the dispensary with exit packaging — with a sealed bag that's non-translucent,” Herzberg says.
- Customers' purchases would be tracked by the state, and only 8 ounces per day total could be sold to each individual.
All this could increase the cost of medical weed, according to Gieringer. The proposed rules, he says, are “exactly what I expected and feared.”