With medical cannabis exploding across the country, state after state has decided to give its residents access to medicines derived from a plant that has been the subject of much controversy over the last 70 years. Yet overall, the medical cannabis space is fractured and clumsy. It needs to be streamlined.
The biggest challenge to streamlining is state regulation. States regulate cannabis differently, and each has the legal right to do so. But differing regulations make it more difficult to overcome the fractured clumsiness.
Below are three things that would streamline the medical cannabis space if they were implemented. For purposes of illustration, we will use the state of Utah as an example. Utah has one of the strictest medical cannabis regulatory regimes in the nation.
1. Tie Licensing to Demand
Utah currently licenses just fifteen medical cannabis pharmacies throughout the entire state. They have only issued a small number of licenses to growers and processors as well. Unsurprisingly, Utah has a problem with supply and demand. That problem is simple: there isn’t enough supply to keep up with demand.
Utah regulators need to issue more licenses. How many more? Whatever it takes to meet demand. Patients throughout the state need access to pharmacies. Those pharmacies need enough product to keep their shelves fully stocked.
Meanwhile, there are a number of other states that have issued thousands of licenses. Their markets are overwhelmed. They should either eliminate licensing requirements and let free markets run their course or reduce the number of licenses they issue. Licenses should be commensurate with demand.
2. Develop a Strong Delivery Model
Next, a strong delivery model that works uniformly in every state would be a tremendous help. Getting back to Utah, residents in the more rural parts of the state may have to drive an hour or more to get to a pharmacy. That should not be necessary.
The folks behind Beehive Farmacy say that state lawmakers gave the green light to delivery during last year’s legislative session. However, it has been slow to catch on due to the already restrictive nature of Utah’s medical cannabis program.
Lawmakers need to get with the public sector to figure out how to make cannabis delivery as easy as having restaurant food or groceries delivered. Statewide delivery that includes rural areas is an idea whose time has come.
3. Fix the Payment Problem
Some of the problems related to cannabis delivery could be solved if the payment problem were eliminated. What is the payment problem? Right now, most of the nation’s financial institutions are reluctant to offer banking services to cannabis businesses. They do not want to run afoul of federal regulators. As a result, medical cannabis is mostly a cash-and-carry business.
This reality hinders delivery for the simple fact that carrying so much cash is inherently risky. But it also hinders online orders. It creates an inconvenience for people who otherwise do not have to carry cash. The fact that people cannot pay for medical cannabis with credit and debit cards just adds another unnecessary layer of complexity.
Washington lawmakers have been working on a banking solution for quite some time. Unfortunately, they seem to hit a roadblock every time they get close to a mutually agreeable bipartisan bill. They keep promising to get a bill done, but they continue failing on those promises.
Medical cannabis is now fully entrenched in American culture. There is no chance of it going anywhere. That being the case, we now need to look at ways to streamline the industry so that it is less fractured and clumsy.