Marijuana Policy Project on how to improve the medical cannabis program for everyone

Earlier this month, high-ranking folks from the health department staffers gave an all-day presentation about pot. They urged the public to take a look at the first draft of rules governing the program, as well as the application for growers, and be honest.

In response, the DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, whose lobbyists played a key role in getting legislation passed here, submitted a six-page critique. The goal, writes Robert Capecchi, a deputy director, should be to avoid regulating the growers out of business while offering protections for patients and the facilities that produce the medicine.

See also:
MN Health Department is asking cannabis growers to help shape new program

Below we've highlighted some of the group's major points of contention -- for your own comments, of course.

The rules are too broad and in some cases, excessive

Growers are expected to provide details about day-to-day operations that they can't possibly know in advance, because patients won't be registered until next summer. Things like the "types and quantities of medical cannabis products" and the "quantity of waste material to be generated."

What's more, the growers are expected to keep records for seven years, which is more than twice as long as Minnesota labor laws require of other businesses. MPP suggests that, if the hope is ensuring no cannabis get diverted, one year would be a sufficient window for hanging on to paperwork.

As for inspections, having the commissioner of public health poke his head around is one thing, but the cops are quite another: "Patients may understandably be uncomfortable with law enforcement looking over their shoulders, especially in light of law enforcement's opposition" to the program from the start.


The sick and debilitated will pay more

Minnesota expects the growers to do their own "stability testing," which is the easier way of saying, "How does the chemical composition of this pharmaceutical change when it interacts with things like light and various packages?" Problem is, there's very little information out there about cannabis products in liquid forms (the only form allowed in Minnesota). Plus it's an expensive process -- $100,000, according to one lab n the state.

Who gets hit with the bill? Patients.

Same goes for the requirements around surveillance. Minnesota wants the growers to buy video printers that are accessible to the commissioner and law enforcement agencies. It'd be cheaper, without compromising safety, MPP says, if the grower's equipment was simply compatible with the equipment the state already owns.

Couriers use bathrooms, too

The employees who drive cannabis between facilities are allowed to stop only in cases of emergency -- followed by a phone call to police -- and refueling. Which, MPP says, "may run afoul of labor laws." Cannabis will be grown and processed at only two locations, and the driving times in some parts of the state could be more than six hours. Trucking laws, however, allow drivers to take a 30-minute break every eight hours.

The solution? Allow drivers to make reasonable stops for things like, you know, using the bathroom, but make them keep a travel log accounting for their whereabouts. And give them a little credit and discretion. Calling 911 every time you take a piss seems like a waste of everyone's time. Just saying.

Two is better than one

The state is looking for two growers, but reserves the right to award the certification to only one company if only one can meet the qualifications. MPP suggests that the state resubmit the request for applications until two growers can be identified.

It would slow down the program, but ensure some competition. A duopoly is better than a monopoly.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse

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