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The Week In Weed, July 21, 2018: NJ Doubles Dispensaries; Okla. Official Overrules Medicinal Restrictions

It’s been another chaotic week for marijuana policy. The governor of New Jersey requested the number of dispensaries be doubled from six to 12. Oklahoma’s attorney general determined that the state Board of Health exceeded its authority. And as the week of Saturday, July 21, 2018, comes to a close, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee announced she supports the legalization of medicinal cannabis.

Doubling down: New Jersey Seeks Twice the Number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced Monday, July 16, 2018, it is seeking to double the number of dispensaries caring medicinal cannabis products, from six to 12 to supply the 25,000 patients and 1,000 caregivers participating in the state’s medical marijuana program. Murphy campaigned on legalizing marijuana for residents of the Garden State.

For Murphy, the dispensary expansion was a matter of supply and demand.

“We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medicinal marijuana can have it,” said Murphy in a press release. “Due to the steps that Commissioner Elnahal and I have taken since January, we have seen the addition of 10,000 new patients. Accordingly, we have to expand the number of businesses who are growing product and serving patients.”

Buzzkill: Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Program Under Scrutiny

Oklahoma voters who cast ballots for accessible medical cannabis have been on a political roller coaster ride over the emergency rules passed by the board of health on Tuesday, July 10, 2018.  Despite nearly 57 percent of the voters casting their ballot in favor the medicinal cannabis measure Question 788, the Board of Health voted to restrict the sale of smokable marijuana and mandate that all dispensaries have a pharmacist on staff 40 hours a week.

Attorney General Mike Hunter noted on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, that the board didn’t have the authority to forbid the sales of smokable, vapable, or edible marijuana products, or mandate that dispensaries employ pharmacists.

The attorney general’s press release outlined some other concerns, including:

  • Restricting dispensaries to limited locations;
  • Prohibiting dispensaries from co-locating with other businesses;
  • Requiring medical marijuana be grown, processed and dispensed in enclosed structures;
  • Requiring a surety bond for licensing;
  • Setting hours of operation;
  • Limiting the amount of THC in flower, leaf or concentrate for sale or distribution.

“The current rules contain provisions that are inconsistent with the plain language of State Question 788 and the State Board of Health acted outside of its authority when it voted to implement them,” said Hunter in the press release.

KTEN-TV reported that a bipartisan group of Oklahoma legislators are to hold a series of public meetings on the topic beginning the week of July 23, 2018.

Tennessee Republican Candidate for Governor Supports Medical Marijuana

Things just got interesting for Republican candidates vying to become the next governor of Tennessee. As Gov. Bill Haslam prepares for life after office, state House Speaker Beth Harwell held an intriguing press conference on Friday, July 20, 2018 in which she supported the legalization of medical marijuana. “Too many Tennesseans are suffering in pain with dangerous opioids as their only option,” Harwell said. “This includes children suffering from seizures, cancer patients, our veterans and the elderly.”

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Harwell’s support for medicinal cannabis provides Republican voters a real choice on the Aug. 2, 2018, primary ballot. The GOP’s gubernatorial primary race includes Knoxville entrepreneur Randy Boyd, businessman Bill Lee and US Rep. Diane Black.

After citing President Donald Trump’s campaign position leaving the decision to legalize medical marijuana up to the states, Harwell continued, “We are not talking about recreational use of cannabis, nor are we talking about smoking marijuana. What I’m advocating are the use of oils and additives that been proven to provide tangible medical benefits.”

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