Should Recreational and Medicinal Marijuana Be Separate?

As California considers multiple proposals for the legalization of recreational marijuana, it will be important to determine how legalization for recreational use will integrate with the existing framework in place for decades allowing medicinal use. In some locations where both recreational and medicinal marijuana are legal, there are entirely separate systems for each different type of cannabis sales. In a recent Oregon Live article, the case was made that keeping recreational and medicinal marijuana separate makes no sense. you-are-ill-1-1246058.jpg

Should Recreational and Medicinal Marijuana Be Kept Separate?

As the push for recreational marijuana legalization moves forward in California, looking towards the systems in other states to learn both what to do- and what not to do- is key to designing an effective framework.

California may not wish to model Oregon in the strict separation of medicinal and recreational marijuana because there are a number of drawbacks to this system. In Oregon, those who obtain a license to sell recreational marijuana will be prohibited from selling medical marijuana. The reverse is also true- anyone with a medical marijuana license would need to surrender that license to sell recreational marijuana. This division will lead to two distinct retail markets, which are regulated by different state agencies and which must reside at separate locations.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will be in charge of overseeing the recreational marijuana market, enforcing rules and regulations related to production, distribution, and cannabis sales. The Medical Marijuana Program, on the other hand, will be in charge of overseeing and managing production, distribution, and sales within the medical marijuana industry.

The Legislature had the opportunity to create a different framework, with medicinal and recreational marijuana markets merged, when it passed laws implementing Measure 91 (the ballot measure which passed to legalize recreational marijuana). However, lawmakers were reluctant to interfere with a functioning medical marijuana market which already has 70,000 medical card holders who are having their needs met by an established network of growers.

Similar problems integrating a new market with an old one are likely to arise in California, especially as the medicinal marijuana market has been operating for so long in the state and especially with the myriad new regulations just passed in the past year to better regulate that market. Changing established protocols again so soon after so much legislation was passed is likely to create confusion and excess costs for growers, distributors, and sellers. While a cannabis lawyer can help those in the business to adopt as regulations change, continuing to alter laws is a hindrance to effective business.

Despite the potential hassle associated with incorporating Oregon’s new recreational market with its existing recreational market, owners of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Oregon have overwhelmingly indicated they wish to enter the recreational cannabis market and are not in favor of laws requiring them to make a choice. Ultimately, by keeping experienced and established marijuana professionals out of the recreational business, Oregon’s laws are not likely to serve consumers of either recreational or medical marijuana very well.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

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