Regulating MMJ a Tricky Topic for Illinois
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Regulating MMJ a Tricky Topic for Illinois
Posted by CN Staff on September 02, 2013 at 15:38:34 PT
By Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune Reporter
Source: Chicago Tribune
Illinois -- His family and friends were doubtful when Skyler Ellis, a young man from Elgin, left for California at the beginning of summer to attend cannabis college.The 23-year-old with a baby boy quit his factory job  paying $13 an hour with insurance  and headed straight to Oaksterdam University in Oakland, which has been teaching people how to grow marijuana since 2007. He even slept in his car when classes first started, before he found a place to stay.
The day after he landed back in Illinois, certificate in hand, Gov. Pat Quinn signed Illinois' medical marijuana bill into law."I realized, man, this is happening.  I might as well get in it right now," Ellis said. "I really do feel like I have a big leg up."While Ellis may be ready to hop on board Illinois' green rush, the state Department of Agriculture has barely left the station. The state's regulations for the cultivation of the plant have not yet been written, a task the department will take on in the coming months. For guidance it will likely look to other states that have already cultivated a green market.Regulating a drug that is illegal in federal eyes may complicate matters. Just last week the Department of Justice released a memo saying it would not go after people who work in the industry in states that have legalized the drug. Still, its illegal classification  marijuana is a schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD  means the Food and Drug Administration cannot regulate it.This creates an inherent risk for consumers, some health experts say, who won't know if the medical marijuana they get is safe. But others say the medicinal plant doesn't need that degree of oversight to ensure a safe, predictable and quality medicine.The abundance of unknowns in Illinois' pot future hasn't stopped potential growers like Ellis from joining in. Zeta Ceti, chief executive of Green Rush Consulting, said he's been swamped with calls from hundreds of prospective entrepreneurs who want to know how they might apply and be selected to join the medical marijuana industry in Illinois. The state will limit cultivation centers to 22, and 60 dispensaries."The interest (in Illinois) is just unbelievable," Ceti said. "This is what happens in every single state, just because it hasn't been there before."How It's GrownCeti said growers don't need the FDA to regulate cultivation because marijuana has been proven safe over years and years of use. But that doesn't mean raising medical marijuana is easy, he said.First, the cultivation site has to be big, Ceti said, at least 40,000 square feet, with an ideal space as large as 150,000 square feet. States that have small cultivation centers are unable to accommodate all of their patients, Ceti said."When these cultivation centers open up, you don't want them to tap out," Ceti said.Most states with regulations grow the plant indoors because of security concerns, but it also allows them to fiercely regulate temperatures. Prone to mold and mildew, the finicky plant needs constant humidity levels less than 50 percent and temperatures between 76 and 80 degrees. The plant also needs certain levels of carbon dioxide, specific nutrients and controlled pH levels."It takes a lot more care than tomatoes," Ceti said.Growing marijuana also carries a legal risk  handling it is a still a federal crime."When you go into this business you have to know that you're going to wake up every day and commit a federal crime," said Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.Regulating ChallengesWithout the FDA's involvement, patients who are prescribed medical marijuana may not know what they are getting, said Dr. Eric Voth, a Topeka, Kan., internist and pain specialist and chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy."You've got absolutely nothing looking at purity," Voth said. "It's a crapshoot that way."Even if the state comes up with strict regulations for things like THC levels  the psychoactive chemical in marijuana  Voth questions whether they would be consistently tested."You have this whole cascade of what-ifs," Voth said. "Say you require 5 percent (THC) ... who's going to monitor it?"Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said the FDA would be in a better position to regulate the chemical compounds within the plant. Something like aspirin would be subject to regulation, he said, but willow bark  what it's derived from  would not. He said medical marijuana is closer to the latter."If you start pulling chemicals out of the plants, that is something that the FDA could regulate," Riffle said. "But the whole plant is the most effective treatment for most diseases."Ceti said THC levels can vary with shifts in the environment, highlighting the importance of a controlled climate. People with backgrounds in agriculture or who have training growing medical marijuana  like Ellis  would be the best-suited to work in the industry, he said.How It's Regulated ElsewhereJeff Squibb, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said the department will likely look to other states for guidance on how to regulate the plant. Nineteen others and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. One state similar to Illinois in the strictness of its law is Connecticut.Unlike Illinois, Connecticut's Department of Consumer Protection, which also licenses pharmacies and pharmacists, regulates the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. Commissioner Bill Rubenstein said his department treats medical marijuana like any other controlled pharmaceutical substance."Because it is a plant, what we wanted ... was to make sure patients knew what the active ingredient profile was," Rubenstein said.To achieve a reliable, consistent product, Connecticut requires that each batch of marijuana is homogenized and tested by an independent lab. Brand names are assigned to the batches based on ranges of THC levels and other active ingredient levels. That way, Rubenstein said, doctors know what they're prescribing, and patients know what they're consuming.Even with strict regulations, Voth said doctors unfamiliar with medical marijuana might not know the right amount to prescribe. He also said that the correct dosage has not been clearly worked out for most disorders. The law allows patients up to 2.5 ounces of pot every 14 days.Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the amount prescribed is of lesser concern, because marijuana is impossible to overdose on like other prescription drugs."The primary reason (for concern) would be many prescribed drugs in the opiates in particular have very low thresholds for overdoses," Armentano said. "Marijuana conveniently has a very low risk of toxicity and it has no lethal overdose potential."Armentano compared medical marijuana to steroids prescribed to people with asthma. Generally, asthmatics administer the prescription drug by inhaling it when they feel an attack coming on.Some States Slow To EnactAs acceptance of the merits of medical marijuana grows, some states that were once frightened to act on medical marijuana laws that they had passed are beginning to move forward.States such as Delaware and New Jersey passed medical marijuana laws several years ago, but they didn't take action when a 2011 memo from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole indicated that the Department of Justice might prosecute people involved in the distribution of medical marijuana, even if they were in compliance with state laws.An updated Cole memo released last week reversed that sentiment, with a few exceptions. The federal government would still act, for example, if they had reason to suspect marijuana was being distributed to minors or to gangs or cartel operations.Although Delaware has issued identification cards to patients who qualify for the drug, it hasn't licensed a dispensary since passing its law two years ago. In August though, Gov. Jack Markell announced that the state will license one dispensary in 2014, after seeing that states like New Jersey and Rhode Island didn't experience backlash from the federal government.New Jersey similarly has just one licensed dispensary after 3 years into its medical marijuana program, and about 1,000 people registered to participate. In comparison, California has hundreds of thousands of people eligible to get medical marijuana, and Colorado has more than 100,000.Armentano said with so many examples to turn to, he's hopeful that Illinois' process will be swift. Although based on other states' experiences, the four-year pilot program signed into law Aug. 2 could be halfway done before anyone has medical pot in hand."Hopefully now with a number of states that have dipped their toe in this issue," Armentano said, "states like Illinois can find some middle ground." Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)Author:   Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune ReporterPublished: September 2, 2013Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLCWebsite:  Medical Marijuana Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help 

Comment #7 posted by ekim on September 04, 2013 at 07:25:18 PT
history of the campaign
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Comment #6 posted by ekim on September 03, 2013 at 18:32:52 PT
kinda gives a new meaning to just say no
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Comment #5 posted by ekim on September 03, 2013 at 16:17:01 PT
Ya and Amy had a great show ending with Sir David
man todays show was one for the record books. Keep on Runnin
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Comment #4 posted by runruff on September 03, 2013 at 12:29:16 PT
As "KarmaKamdeian" on Huffpo I posted...
The guy who created the DEA drank a quart of Glenlivet Scotch everyday.He was forced to deny he was a crook before the whole nation. Turns out he was a crook and a liar.He left office in disgrace. His going away gift was a para-military state enforced by a para-military Federal Police Army we euphemistically call the Drug Enforcement Agency.America has been harboring this brood of vipers to it's breast ever since.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on September 03, 2013 at 09:13:36 PT
I think the medical marijuana industry is going by the wayside. We won't need dispensaries once states have legal marijuana. The profit would slowly disappear as the legal industry grows. 
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Comment #2 posted by HempWorld on September 03, 2013 at 09:03:11 PT
Speaking Of Ill Will!
I just read this article and I am furious!This is what is going on in America! Attorneys making careers over dying people in wheelchairs, it reminds me of the persecution of the Jews during Nazi-Germany! Let's go get 'em. How low!Read it! all of this while we hear from Holder "All Is Ok."
This Is How The Feds/Rocky Will Handle It
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on September 03, 2013 at 08:36:43 PT
It Seems To Me...
That every state has the most incredible know-nothings about cannabis/marijuana, that being the state officials. Because, ya know, that looks good! Because you know, this stuff is scary and illegal and if you seem like an expert at it you are suspect... (and these same officials also apparently refuse to study the stuff, as they are supposed to for their constituents but that is too much work, I guess) So here we are (I, for one) medical or medicinal marijuana programs are implemented by (not even so well-meaning) idiots and every state is trying to reinvent the wheel, time and again. It is the most in-efficient implementation of anything I've see in my lifetime! I am not even talking about officials stalling programs for years and years, see the article above. But hey if you are a state official and you bungle this one, that looks good on your resume and you might even get a job working for the feds. How's that? Rocky money. Ok, I think I'm done for now, but it is so painful and agonizing to watch with millions of people (American citizens, I might add) suffering and dying as they wait and get the run-around!
Cannabis Farm
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