Study Maps Medical Pot Laws and Regulations

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Anyone trying to make a living in the legal marijuana industry has faced the absurd and frustrating obstacles resulting from cannabis being legal in a certain states, but not legal on a federal level, which still maintains a Schedule 1 classification for weed, therefore allowing the feds to ruin one’s business or life at any given moment.

Temple University laid out the facts regarding how state laws disparately regulate patient registration and civil rights, product safety labeling and packaging, and dispensaries, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction.

The study, done earlier this year, found that state laws mimic some aspects of federal prescription drug and controlled substances laws, as well as regulatory strategies used for alcohol, tobacco and traditional medicines.

Scott Burris and a team of researchers from the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research and the RAND Drug Policy Research Center analyzed characteristics of each of the legal, medical or recreational, state’s laws using data from the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System.

The laws, according to the authors, are an attempt by state governments to protect patients and the public, as MMJ is increasingly used to treat illnesses ranging from epilepsy to AIDS.

These laws, they say, attempt to fill in gaps created by the nearly 50-year-old federal Controlled Substances Act that has maddeningly maintained marijuana in the Schedule 1 drug class, along with heroin and other hard drugs.

The infuriating part is the DEA’s insistence that cannabis has no acceptable medical uses.

“In the absence of the usual federal regulations to protect patients, ensure product safety and prevent diversion and abuse, states have been left to their own devices,” said author Scott Burris, director of the Center for Public Health Law Research.

Other findings included:

Only 14 states protect patients from discrimination.

While the majority of states with medical marijuana laws have packaging and labeling requirements for medical marijuana products, the laws vary widely in what they require. For example, only 18 states have made product safety testing mandatory.

Dispensaries are regulated in 25 states, but only 21 restrict where a dispensary may be located.

“In this area of health policy, as in others, states are serving as ‘laboratories of democracy,’ but the exercise is only productive if researchers step up to rigorously evaluate the impact of state innovation,” Burris said.

“We largely have no idea about how well these laws protect patients and the public,” he added.

Still the problem remains. Despite the studies and research, how are medical and recreational cannabis users protected in a country that maintains so many inconsistent laws and regulations?

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