Tag: Colorado

What Can Canada Learn from the US When it Comes to Cannabis Legalization?

In less than a year, The Cannabis Act will fulfill Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to make adult-use recreational cannabis legal nationwide. While many Canadians are excited for legal cannabis, plenty more are concerned about just what that legal system will look like, and what its potential pitfalls are.

US legalization has yielded a wealth of data on everything from traffic fatalities to underage use to enforcement costs, addressing many of Canada’s key concerns.

Recreational cannabis might be brand new to Canada, but plenty of US states have blazed this particular trail already. Indeed, many of the concerns being raised by Canadians are the same ones raised in Washington and Colorado in 2014. Since then, nine US states have legalized recreational cannabis.

These early-adopter states have yielded a wealth of data, on everything from traffic fatalities to underage use to enforcement costs, addressing many of Canada’s key concerns about legalization. While legalizing cannabis on a national scale is a challenge unique to Canada, there’s a lot to be learned from the US.

How Much Does Enforcement Cost?

Toronto Mayor John Tory has claimed that legalization will result in drastically increased law-enforcement costs for cities. His theory is that “a big part” of enforcement costs will fall to municipalities, which will face major increases in the cost of business licensing, by-law enforcement, and policing. Tory supports a special levy on cannabis to offset these costs.

US cities haven’t seen the astronomical rise in law-enforcement costs Toronto’s Mayor Tory is predicting.

However, US cities haven’t seen the astronomical rise in enforcement costs Tory is predicting. Washington’s largest city, Seattle, requires only about 3-4 dedicated employees to regulate cannabis. Those employees don’t represent a burden on the budget, as the city’s cost to regulate cannabis is only about $500,000 for 2017. It might make Tory happy to know that Seattle is also slated to get a $700,000 cut of cannabis taxes from the state this year, which he also called for in Toronto. As far as policing goes, legal cannabis doesn’t seem to be changing the budget process much.

“I can’t speak to this without data,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the Seattle Police Department’s communications director, but offered that, “We’ve had some significant cases [since legalization], but those are the same types of cases we’ve always had.”

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He’s previously stressed that his agency is primarily concerned with curbing youth access, busting big illegal grow ops, and enforcing DUI laws. Enforcement involving legal cannabis is not the SPD’s mission, according to Whitcomb.

Furthermore, contrary to Tory’s claims, cannabis legalization actually frees up law enforcement resources. According to a Drug Policy Alliance report from July 2015, written one year after the state’s first recreational cannabis sales, cannabis arrests decreased by 63%, from 6,196 in 2012 to 2,316 in 2014, with each arrest representing a cost of $1,000-2,000 to the government.

In general, legal cannabis more than covers the cost of regulation and enforcement.

In general, legal cannabis more than covers the cost of regulation and enforcement. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB), the agency that regulates cannabis in Washington and handles all legal cannabis enforcement, had an annual operating budget of $34 million in fiscal year 2016, including $13 million for enforcement. Cannabis taxes and fees brought in $189 million, about six times more than the agency’s entire budget. About $90 million of that excess cannabis revenue went to funding the state’s Basic Health program to provide insurance to low-income families.

In Colorado, they’re really rolling in it, it seems. The city of Aurora was famously able to raise so much extra tax from the cannabis industry that it earmarked $4.5 million for homelessness programs. A report by the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation found that Colorado netted $66 million and $96 million in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 fiscal years, respectively, after accounting for enforcement and regulation.

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The prognosis for Canada cashing in is pretty good, too. According to a report by the C.D. Howe institute, Canada could rake in as much as $500 million USD per year from legal cannabis. That report also includes only the existing state and federal taxes, meaning that if cannabis is subject to an additional excise tax, as it is in most U.S. states where it’s legal, Canada could see even more tax revenue.

What’s the Deal with DUI?

Though low-level possession arrests are down in legal states, the question of how to deal with drivers who may be under the influence of cannabis remains a thorny one. According to the aforementioned DPA report, overall traffic fatalities decreased in Washington post-legalization, although no causality was established.

Regardless of whether cannabis causes more accidents, no one wants more people driving under the influence, no matter what substance is influencing them. Though every state has provisions regarding cannabis DUIs on the books, none can claim to have developed an effective enforcement method yet.

Of all the questions facing Canada, how to regulate DUI might be the one for which the US has the fewest answers.

In Washington, the limit is five micrograms (ug) per milliliter of blood. It’s the same in Colorado. These limits, while well-intentioned, have been confusing. For one, it’s nearly impossible to tell if that 5 ug was from five minutes ago or five days ago, as cannabis can linger in the bloodstream well after its effects have worn off.

Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible to tell how profoundly 5 ug might affect someone, because individual tolerances vary so widely with cannabis. Some people can ingest 800mg, take the bus to downtown Seattle, and film a Nazi being punched, while others eat 100mg and think they’ve become one with the wallpaper. As the director of traffic safety and advocacy for AAA, Jake Nelson, told the Washington Post, “There is no reliable number that has any meaningful value in terms of predicting impairment.”

Assessing impairment in Canada has previously fallen to Drug Recognition Experts, officers trained to perform field evaluations of suspects who might be driving on drugs. AAA prefers the DRE system, but Canada’s is woefully inadequate even for their current need.

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“The problem is that there are fewer than 600 trained DRE officers in Canada,” an article in the Ottawa Citizen concluded. “An assessment conducted in 2009 estimated that Canada needs between 1,800 and 2,000 and the training system isn’t equipped to pump out trained officers any faster.”

If Canada does decide to ease the demand for DREs with a ug/ml limit, it’ll face the same criticisms of the legal limits used by US states. Of all the questions facing Canada, how to regulate DUI might be the one for which the US has the fewest answers.

How Do You Keep It Away From Kids?

One of the other major objections raised by opponents of cannabis legalization in both the US and Canada has been that legalizing cannabis normalizes it in the eyes of teens, and ultimately leads to an increase in underage use. Legalization proponents argue that putting cannabis in tightly regulated retail outlets actually deters underage access.

Studies seem to support the latter view, with post-legalization surveys of teenagers in both Colorado and Washington showing steady rates of cannabis use or even slight declines.

If Canada’s 18+ age restriction is as vigorously enforced as age limits in the US, an increase in underage use from legalization seems unlikely.

Though Hamilton police chief Eric Girt complained in a town hall this summer that cannabis products in Colorado were “being marketed to kids” and cautioned that the same could happen in Canada, it’s worth noting that the state has had strict advertising rules in place to prevent any marketing efforts that might appeal to minors since 2013. Manufacturers are not allowed to use any packaging that appeals to children, and no cannabis business can advertise in a location frequented by minors: malls, arcades, sports venues—the interpretation is pretty broad. Ads can only be placed in publications or broadcast outlets for which “reliable evidence” exists that less than 30% of the audience consists of minors.

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Nearly the same rules are in place in Washington, and Canada’s bill includes similar language. If Canada’s 18+ age restriction is as vigorously enforced as age limits are in the US, an increase in underage use from legalization seems unlikely.

Indeed, it might even lead to the slight reductions enjoyed by US states who have legalized and regulated cannabis. While minors can always ask an older sibling to sneak them something from the store, it’s still an extra step they didn’t have to take before. Dealers definitely don’t check ID.

Can Legal Cannabis Compete With the Black Market?

Speaking of dealers, many of the concerns around tax rates in Canada are about more than just the cost of enforcement. Regis police chief Evan Bray told the CBC that he was worried tax rates on cannabis would be too high, which he theorized would be a boon for the back market.

Those concerns are not entirely invalid, as legal states have struggled to completely eliminate the black market. In Washington, the relatively high 37% state excise tax on cannabis has been cited as a major factor in the black market’s persistence. However, through increased volume and improved efficiency, legal cannabis has achieved price parity with the black market in many instances.

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However, many states have far lower tax rates. Maine has proposed a 20% tax, Oregon only takes 17%, and Massachusetts is even lower at 3.75%.

That said, one of the other major reasons the black market persists in the US is the piecemeal nature of legalization, which simply shunts drug dealers from one state to another. Even within legal states, certain cities and counties have banned legal cannabis, creating pockets of demand for the black market.

While the black market has persisted in the US, the cannabis-driven violent crime scare Jeff Sessions is constantly crowing about simply isn’t supported by data. Violent crime has decreased overall in both Washington and Colorado since legalization.

Legalization Is Looking Pretty Bright for Canada

Overall, legalization looks pretty good. Rather than exacerbating problems of youth access and violent crime, legalizing cannabis seems poised to alleviate them—and to raise quite a bit of tax revenue while doing it. Though it is still unclear how best to regulate cannabis DUIs, legalizing cannabis has at least pushed forward the study of how cannabis affects driving performance, and created a demand for devices that can reliably measure cannabis intoxication on the side of the road. A pilot program to study the efficacy of roadside saliva tests is already underway in Canada.

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There is still the difficult question of how to handle the international drug enforcement treaties to which Canada is a party, and whether that process might delay legalization. Domestically speaking, however, if things play out like they have in the U.S., legalization looks to be a win.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Colorado Hits Billion Dollar Sales Mark in Nine Months

According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Rocky Mountain state sold over $1 billion dollars in cannabis through the first nine months of 2017.

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It took the state 10 months to reach the billion dollar mark in 2016. Sales totals through the first nine months of this year have reached a total of about $1.1 billion—the highest amount of total sales to date in the country.

When comparing the data to last year, through 9 months of sales Leafly found that Colorado totaled $942 million, with the totals in 2017 so far showing there was over a $100 million dollar increase in sales from the same time period, totaling $1,118,207,832.87 in sales.

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Through the first nine months of 2017, Colorado has seen a fairly steady increase from the year prior, with the state routinely breaking its total sales record in the past 6 months–first in March, and then in July, when the state totaled more than $136 million in total cannabis sales, when combining adult-use sales and medicinal marijuana sales.

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The state initiated a different taxing structure in July 2017, with the special sales tax rate for recreational marijuana sales increasing from 10% to 15%. The new law exempted adult-use cannabis sales from the 2.9% standard state sales tax rate.

Medical marijuana and accessories are still subject to that 2.9% special sales tax rate, however.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Legal Marijuana in Colorado Has Helped Reduce Opioid Related Deaths, Study Finds

Retail cannabis distribution in Colorado is associated with a reduction in opioid-related mortality, according to data published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Public Health.

A team of investigators from the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University compared changed in the prevalence of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado retailers began selling cannabis to adults.

They reported: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

Authors concluded, “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

Their data is consistent with prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reductions in prescription drug spending, opioid-related hospitalizations, and opioid-related fatalities.

An abstract of the study, “Recreational cannabis legalization and opioid-related deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015,” appears online here.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

With Plans to Sell CBD Nationwide, Lucky’s Market Charts Legal Gray Area

With cannabis legalization spreading across the country, it sometimes feels like any day now you could walk into a grocery store and see some sort of pot product on the shelves. Now, at more than two dozen Lucky’s Market locations across the country, that’s true—at least in terms of items containing CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid believed to have numerous medical benefits.

“This is just about the grayest of gray areas as far as federal law and policy. I think the DEA’s even confused about it.”

Vince Sliwoski

The Colorado-based grocer, which is backed by retail giant Kroger, announced this week that it will add a dozen CBD products to its apothecary shelves nationwide, where they’ll be sold alongside herbs and natural cosmetics made from ingredients like echinacea and calendula.

Lucky’s Market isn’t the first large retailer to test the waters of the CBD market, forecast to be worth $3 billion by 2021. Last month, in a short-lived move, Target added four CBD-enriched products to its online inventory. The big box yanked them from its virtual stores in less than a week without explanation, though.

Yet as consumer demand for CBD products grows, authorities at the DEA have reiterated their stance that anything derived from the cannabis plant—including hemp-derived CBD extract—is a Schedule I drug.

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“This is just about the grayest of gray areas as far as federal law and policy,” said Vincent Sliwoski, a cannabis law attorney and professor in Oregon, of CBD products. “I think the DEA’s even confused about it.” (The agency may get some clarification by way of a federal lawsuit filed by hemp farmers challenging the way the agency codifies “marihuana extract”.)

Conversations of legality surrounding cannabis usually focus on the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the agency may well take issue with grocery store-sales of CBD extract. But would-be sellers may have to tussle with the Food and Drug Administration, too. Earlier this month, the FDA made a vague announcement about its intent to crack down on unproven health claims on cannabis products.

“The FDA is the bigger issue around hemp oil and CBD oil. That’s why Target backed out,” says Mark Slaugh, former executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance.

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In a recent statement to the press, the DEA opined that sales of Charlotte’s Web were illegal because the CBD oil has not been FDA approved. (Even if CBD is “beneficial” in treating neurological disorders, as the FDA has declared, products containing it would still need to pass the approval process.)

In the past couple of years, the FDA has sent cease and desist letters to CBD producers for making unfounded health claims or claiming products contained CBD when in fact they contained less than advertised or none at all, said Rod Kight, an attorney in North Carolina who represents numerous companies that deal with hemp.

Lucky’s Market did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under federal law, hemp can only be grown only in states with federal hemp research programs. “If the CBD were imported it could arguably be legal,” Sliwoski noted, adding it would be unlikely that a retailer could track the provenance of CBD in numerous products. “Maybe they could prove all their source material was from China or somewhere else. That would have to be their affirmative defense and it would end up being litigated.”

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Kight isn’t so sure federal law will be the problem (he says the DEA is slowly “retreating” from earlier positions) but state law might be. “The 9th Circuit has ruled that nonpsychoactive imported hemp is legal. If you connect the dots, the DEA says CBD is not a controlled substance,” he said. “But a lot of states haven’t carved out an official position.” Lucky’s Market could force them to, he adds.

“They see a demand for the products and feel comfortable enough with the muddled state of the policy.”

Sliwoski

Food and supplement companies that sell hemp seed or oil get away with it because they don’t claim the products contain CBD, Slaugh said. “Once you start claiming CBD is an active ingredient, are you getting into the realm of a regulated drug? I think that’s the great debate. These folks aren’t held to food, nutraceutical, or drug manufacturing standards.”

While the FDA does regulate nutraceuticals, the industry has developed many self-imposed standards in an effort to put regulators at ease, Slaugh said. CBD producers may want to consider going the same route, he suggested. “The hemp industry has to step up and create those internal, self-policing standards if they want to avoid regulation.”

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That’s already taking place, noted Kight. “Hemp and CBD are moving right in line with that. We’re probably going to see a split between cannabinoid prescription medications and nutraceutical-type producers who will co-exist,” he said.

Whatever potential response Lucky’s Market might see from regulators or law enforcement could be worth the opportunity of getting into the CBD space early. “It says the potential upside of doing this is worth the risk of any law enforcement action,” Sliwoski said. “They see a demand for the products and feel comfortable enough with the muddled state of the policy. They might be thinking the DEA will probably write us a letter rather than hauling us into court and we’re going to differentiate ourselves here.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Study Finds Top 5 Causes of Cannabis-Related Emergency Visits

A new review published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy determined the most common causes of cannabis-related emergency department (ED) visits, giving policy makers and industry leaders a compass for improvement. This analysis specifically looked at data from Colorado.

Cannabis legalization helps solves many problems: it eases the toll of the opioid epidemic; it creates jobs; it generates tax revenue; and it keeps cannabis out of the hands of minors. But for all the good cannabis does, we can’t lose sight of public health concerns that must be solved in order to successfully implant legalization across the U.S. and beyond.

This review provides us with five concerns to prioritize: accidental pediatric ingestion, acute intoxication, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, synthetic cannabinoids, and injuries related to production of butane hash oil (BHO).

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Pediatric Ingestion

As previously stated, legalization has not led to higher rates of underage use, but this review found an increase in accidental pediatric intoxication. “Children are at particular risk of cannabis toxicity because cannabis-containing food products, known as edibles, look extremely similar to regular candy,” the authors wrote. “Also, we have found that the severity of symptoms from marijuana exposure has worsened due to the high THC concentration in edibles.”

States have taken several measures to reduce accidental consumption by children. Some policies mandate that:

  • Packaging is childproof
  • Packaging does not contain cartoons or other imagery attractive to children
  • Edibles do not come in candies or other forms enticing to children

Guidelines like these may help to reduce accidental ingestion by children, but full responsibility falls in the hands of adults and parents. It may seem like an excessive measure, but lock your products away until you intend to take them. Kids can be incredible hack artists.

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Acute Intoxication

Acute intoxication refers to those who simply consumed too much cannabis. “The number of marijuana-related ED visits has nearly doubled since the drug’s use was legalized in Colorado,” authors wrote, “and the rate is higher for non-Colorado residents who are visiting the state.”

They also mention that acute intoxication has historically gone unreported, which helps to account for the notable increase. Naturally, people are more inclined to seek help for intoxication by a legal drug than one that is illicit.

Furthermore, with the uptick in cannabis tourism, this statistic is unsurprising: a tourist inexperienced in cannabis may lack the experience to know how much is too much. The review outlines a particular instance in which one man consumed three edibles before a flight “when he realized he could not take the brownies on the plane.”

Many Colorado dispensaries go above and beyond to educate their customers on the effects of cannabis, especially edibles. Continuing to get that message through, especially to out-of-town visitors, should remain a top priority of businesses in legal markets.

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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a condition that is coming to light in the medical field – though its characterization has been somewhat controversial and divisive among professionals.

It’s primarily characterized by regular vomiting episodes, which is why it’s often assumed to be cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS). The cause of CHS, researchers speculate, has to do with heavy, regular cannabis consumption in some individuals – a speculation that is supported by the fact that symptoms tend to resolve after cannabis cessation.

This review describes an instance of CHS recorded in Denver:

“A 32-year-old man came to the Denver Health Medical Center ED with a 12-hour history of intractable vomiting and epigastric pain. Throughout the interview the patient was retching uncontrollably. The patient reported several similar episodes over the past 2 months requiring medical care. Laboratory tests were conducted but unremarkable other than a THC-positive urine drug screen.”

While more cannabis specialized doctors are coming to acknowledge this condition’s existence, there’s overwhelming agreement that more research needs to be conducted on CHS.

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Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids – also called SCs, Spice, K2, Scooby Snax, etc. – are not cannabis (and by that right shouldn’t even be on this list). They are chemical analogues intended to mimic the effects of natural cannabis, but because of their clandestine production and high affinity for receptor sites, synthetic cannabinoids can cause a laundry list of severe symptoms and, in worst cases, death. This report describes a 24-year-old man (who was of legal age to buy natural cannabis) who was admitted to the ED and suffered a seizure after consuming SCs purchased at a head shop.

The fact that synthetic cannabinoids had to be included this report is disappointing. With legal cannabis widely available to adults over the age of 21, there’s no reason for anyone to turn to an unregulated, dangerous alternative. That being said, it’s clear that there’s much work yet to be done on the education front.

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Home Extraction Injuries

Once again, when there’s a legal, safe alternative, it’s disheartening to read about the injuries sustained by individuals attempting to produce butane extracts themselves. Professional extractors use state-approved equipment and processes to greatly reduce the risks associated with BHO production, but some individuals will take it upon themselves to make their own, “blasting” BHO in their homes often with butane cans and glass extraction tubes. Improper airflow can lead to explosions, injuring the person performing the extraction as well as others in the vicinity.

“In July 2015, a law was passed that explicitly made manufacturing hash oil using flammable solvents illegal,” the authors wrote. “Anecdotally, the effect of this legislation has had minimal effect on the number of burn patients admitted to our institution.”

If you’re interested in extracting cannabis at home, choose a safe method that doesn’t use dangerous solvents. Rosin, for example, is a solventless extract that simply uses heat and pressure to extract cannabinoids. It can be produced safely and affordably with a pair of strong hands and a hair straightener.

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The report ends with a single conclusory sentence: “Marijuana legalization in Colorado has been associated with an increase in marijuana-related ED visits.” In a young industry that attracts inexperienced consumers with novelty and newly gained legality, this report is not shocking.

But it’s important not to conflate this conclusion with “Legalization in Colorado caused an increase in public health issues.” Legalization may correlate with these increasing statistics, but it did not necessarily cause them. Cannabis legalization empowers people to report their emergencies. It’s also impossible to say that legalization is to blame for increases in synthetic cannabinoid use. It’s true that legalization invites more citizens to partake, but it’s up to us to assume responsibility and evolve cannabis – through education and research – in a direction that betters the lives of consumers and non-consumers alike.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Cannabis Legalization Boosts Property Values, Study Says

Cannabis legalization in Colorado has brought the state nearly $2 billion in cannabis sales, several hundred million dollars in tax revenue, and general scholarship funds for college-bound students. It has also apparently increase property values in the city of Denver—at least in the areas near the city’s retail cannabis shops.

Homes near retail cannabis stores in Colorado gained 8.4% more value than homes further away from the stores.

That’s the word from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which earlier today released the results of a study done by Dr. Moussa Diop, an assistant professor of real estate & urban land economics, along with James Conklin of the University of Georgia and Herman Li of California State University. The researchers found that legal cannabis has not impacted housing or property prices negatively, and in fact increased values near retail stores.

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According to the study, single family residences within 0.1 miles of retail cannabis establishments saw an 8.4% increase in value, compared to residences located just a little further away—between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles—from a store.

The relationship between cannabis legalization and housing prices is important to note, said Diop, particularly when looking at the effects of legalizing adult-use cannabis.

“The presence of retail marijuana establishments clearly had a short-term positive impact on nearby properties in Denver,” Diop said. “This suggests that in addition to the sales and business taxes generated from the retail marijuana industry, municipalities may experience an increase in property taxes. It’s an important piece of the puzzle as more and more voters and policy-makers look for evidence about the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana, as the issue is taken up by state legislatures across the country.”

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The study flies in the face of often-raised fears about cannabis stores lowering nearby property values. Just last week, the Sacramento Bee ran a story about California homeowners worried about the negative impact of cannabis on home prices. That story focused on the effect of cannabis growing, though, not selling.

The study did not seek to identify the reasons that property near cannabis retailers gained value faster than comparative samples. The authors did speculate about some potential explanations, though, including a surge in housing demand caused by cannabis-related employment growth.

In Leafly’s latest Cannabis Jobs Count, we found that legalization now supports 26,891 full-time jobs in Colorado, up from 23,407 one year ago.

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A study published last year by Realtor.com found similar price pressure in Colorado:

“Since the first shops opened their doors on Jan. 1, 2014, the median home sale price in the state has shot up from $248,000 in the first half of 2014 to $298,000 in the first half of 2016, according to the realtor.com analysis.”

Realtor.com noted that the price increases were partly due to the state’s population surge. From 2014 to 2015, Colorado was the second fastest-growing state in the nation. “There’s no direct evidence tying the legalization of the drug to the population boom,” wrote Realtor.com, “but real estate agents say more of their clients are relocating to the state because of it.”

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Not all cannabis businesses are equal, though. Realtor.com noted that homes near recreational shops were priced comparable to homes away from those stores, but appreciated in value 4.8% faster than the comps far from retail stores.  Homes near cannabis grow operations, by contrast, are priced 8.4% lower than comparable homes but appreciate in value 3.8% faster than homes far from grow sites.

Source: Realtor.com

Diop and the rest of the research team also mentioned the possibility of lower crime rates and additional amenities locating near those cannabis businesses. The researchers used residential property information from the City of Denver’s Open Data Catalog and a list of retail licenses granted by the Colorado Department of Revenue.

You can find the full report on the University of Wisconsin website here.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Taking Drugged Driving Seriously: What Does the Science Say?

I’ve been reporting on cannabis full-time for more than 15 years, so I like to think I’ve heard it all—pro and con—when it comes to the legalization debate. In all that time spent weighing facts and debunking disinformation, only one con argument has ever given me serious pause: What if a large number of newbie pot smokers suddenly get behind the wheel and all start riding dirty at once? 

There are many other supposed cannabis dangers that would warrant being taken seriously, if a small bit of independent investigation didn’t reveal them to be overblown or baseless.

For instance, science shows definitively that cannabis is not a gateway to harder drugs, is not addictive relative to other drugs (including caffeine), does not cause cancer or harm the lungs, and does not lead to an increase in violent crime.

Not that cannabis is completely harmless, of course. But if smoking herb turned you into a scatterbrained, violent heroin addict with lung cancer, that would be a serious concern. As hard data makes plain, however, it’s just not what happens.

Is “stoned driving” any different?

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Hot Button Issue

With Attorney General Jeff Sessions actively looking for excuses to crack down on legal cannabis, prohibition defenders are touting drugged driving as a reason to shut down the legal states.

Recently, the Denver Post published a major investigation of cannabis and driving. The story relied largely on data coming out of Colorado and Washington in the five years since those two states became the first to legalize the adult use of cannabis.

The series began with this headline: Traffic Fatalities Linked to Marijuana Are Up Sharply in Colorado. Is Legalization To Blame?

Well, Is Legalization To Blame?

Apparently nobody’s sure, because a smaller line directly below the headline stated: “Authorities say the numbers cannot be definitively linked to legalized pot.”

Authorities say the crash data can’t be definitively linked to legalized cannabis.

In my experience, the authorities have never been shy about blaming a myriad of social ills on cannabis. So why the hesitance this time? And what, exactly, does the Denver Post mean when they describe traffic fatalities “linked to” marijuana? That’s an awfully vague term.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Task Force—a federally funded law enforcement organization dedicated to suppressing illegal drugs—stated in a 2015 report that the term “marijuana-related” does not “necessarily prove that marijuana was the cause of the incident,” and applies “any time marijuana shows up in the toxicology report [of drivers]. It could be marijuana only or marijuana with other drugs and/or alcohol.”

Which means that if a drug test shows you smoked half a joint last week and drank a bottle of vodka twenty minutes ago, your car crash goes down in the books as “marijuana related.”

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Deal With Facts, Not Fear

Before we fully delve into the confusing science of stoned driving, let’s start by stating the obvious. Operating a motored vehicle while dangerously impaired on any substance—whether legal or illegal—is rightfully a criminal act.

Compared to sober drivers, THC-impaired drivers have a 5% greater risk of crashing. Alcohol-impaired drivers under the legal limit (.08) have a 225% greater risk.

So when the Post asked if “legalization” was to blame for traffic fatalities, that was a skewed way of framing the question. Nobody would argue that alcohol legalization is responsible for a drunk driving accident. We rightly blame the drunk driver, both in the court of law and the court of public opinion.

Clearly, cannabis use can lead to driver impairment, which increases accident risk—but how much cannabis? And how much risk? That depends on a lot of factors.

While it’s literally impossible to fatally overdose on infused chocolates (unless you’re allergic to chocolate), you could fall asleep or space out at the wheel after eating them and cause a fatal accident. That’s a danger that imperils not just the driver, but anyone else in the car or on the road.

When Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012, it also included a per-se limit for drivers. State law specifies that “drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI)… and no matter the level of THC, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment.”

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Look at the Full Data Set

Putting aside for a moment the notorious difficulty of measuring cannabis impairment through blood tests or officer observation, the Post’s analysis raised serious questions about cannabis use and drugged driving.

One of the key findings in the Post report was this startling statistic:

  • From 2013 to 2016, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana use jumped 145 percent — from 47 to 115.

That doesn’t sound good. But it’s a wholly misleading statistic. “Testing positive for marijuana” only means that cannabis metabolites remain in the driver’s blood, even though the driver may be completely sober. The body expunges alcohol within hours, but those non-impairing cannabis metabolites remain for days and even weeks. The test will register as metabolite-positive if the driver consumed cannabis anytime up to three weeks ago.

If Colorado officials conducted a similar test to find drivers who consumed alcohol within the past three weeks—if such a test existed—it would find 55% to 75% of the state adult population (the percentage range of people who consume alcohol at least once a month) register as alcohol-positive. But they’re no more “drunk” than a metabolite-positive driver is “stoned.”

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In fact, the Post data is doubly misleading, because the statistics on cannabis metabolites actually predate 2013. Annual reports by the state’s Interagency Task Force on Drunk Driving published data on metabolite-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes during 2011 and 2012. Those numbers reveal 2013 not as a normal, pre-legalization baseline, but rather as a bit of an outlier–an unusually low year for metabolite-positive drivers in crashes.

What the full data set reveals is that the percentage of Colorado drivers who are involved in fatal crashes, and have consumed cannabis sometime in the past three weeks, pretty much mirrors the percentage of adults who consume cannabis in the population at large. Which is to say, around 12% to 13%. It was a little under 14% prior to legalization, it was a little over 14% after legalization. In between it fluctuated between 8% and 12%.

Colorado: Drivers in Fatal Crashes (click to enlarge)

Consider the Odds

While the Post report included pushback quotes from two representatives of prominent cannabis industry trade groups, they didn’t talk to anybody like Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML. He’s a longtime expert on these matters, with the peer-reviewed papers to prove it.

Armentano argues—I believe convincingly—that “increased prevalence of THC detection in drivers tells us little about accident risk,” as it could simply be evidence of increased use among the general public, increased testing by law enforcement, or both.

For Armentano, there’s only one metric that really matters: Odds ratios.

“To determine what role, if any, a drug plays in motor vehicle accident culpability we need to looks at odds ratios, which estimate the probability of an event occurring (e.g., motor vehicle crash) over the probability that such an event does not occur,” he says. “Odds ratios greater than 1 indicate a positive relationship, with stronger relationships reflected by higher numbers.”

And guess what? Drivers who test positive for active THC—not merely inactive metabolites—do increase their risk of crashing. But that increased risk is small compared to alcohol—or compared to opioids, texting, phone use, or even the distracting company of two other passengers in the car. When Colorado saw an upsurge in traffic fatalities last year, this was the headline in the Denver PostCDOT Director Blames Surge in Colorado Roadway Fatalities on an ‘Epidemic of Distracted Driving.’ 

The largest domestic case-control study to assess drugs and accident risk—published in a 2015 research note by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a federal agency—found that the odds ratios for THC-positive drivers and crashes, when adjusted for drivers’ age and gender, came out to 1.05. That means THC-positive drivers have a 5% greater crash risk than drivers with no drugs or alcohol in their system.

Context and Relative Risk

It’s worth taking a closer look at that 2015 NHTSA study, because federal officials put a lot of stock in it as “the first large-scale [case control crash risk] study in the United States to include drugs other than alcohol.” Data was collected from more than 3,000 crash-involved drivers and 6,000 control drivers (not involved in crashes) over a 20-month period in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The data was fresh and solid: Research teams responded to crashes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Drivers were considered THC-positive if they tested for active THC, not for non-impairing metabolites still in their blood days or weeks after consumption.

While THC-positive drivers were 5% more likely to be involved in a crash, the researchers found that drivers who’d taken an opioid painkiller had a 14% greater risk of crashing. Here’s a chart from that NHTSA study comparing THC (marijuana) with opioids (narcotic analgesics) and other drugs:

Source: “Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk,” Compton and Berning, NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, Feb. 2015

Those levels of increased risk were tiny, however, compared to the risk involved with alcohol. Drivers within the legal range of blood alcohol level as registered by a breathalyzer (BrAC) were found to be 20% to 222% more likely to be involved in a crash. At .08 BrAC, the legal limit, the risk increased to 293%. At 0.15 BrAC, drivers were more than 12 times (+1118%) more likely to be involved in a crash than a sober person. Here’s a chart from that same study, calculating the increased risk of crashing at rising blood alcohol levels:

Source: “Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk,” Compton and Berning, NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, Feb. 2015

By comparison, a driver who has taken penicillin is 25% more likely to be involved in a crash. Drivers carrying two or more passengers are 120% more likely to crash. Drivers using mobile phones to talk or text are 310% more likely to crash.

A separate NHSTA study (“Marijuana And Actual Driving Performance”) further conceded it’s “difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects … Drivers with high concentrations showed substantial [impairment], but also no impairment, or even some improvement.” In other words, cannabis affects different drivers in different ways, depending on a number of factors.

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Favoring One Set of Data Over Another

Strangely, the Denver Post’s analysis relies heavily on data compiled by the NHSTA, yet they never mention these striking findings from the very same federal agency.

My own theory on that wide range of responses (from “substantial impairment” to “some improvement”): Cannabis affects inexperienced users very differently than seasoned consumers. A 2010 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology concluded that “heavy cannabis users develop tolerance to the impairing effects of THC on neurocognitive task performance.” And a 2012 study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology confirmed finding “minimal impairment in driving-related psychomotor tasks in chronic daily cannabis users.”

So while the correlation between blood alcohol concentration and impairment is relatively consistent for most people, it may be impossible to establish a THC test that can truly gauge impairment the way a breathalyzer can for booze. Though not for a lack of trying, which creates the danger of severely punishing drivers simply for being cannabis consumers, not for driving while impaired.

A New Form of Prohibition

Because if it becomes essentially illegal to drive to work the morning after smoking a joint, then it becomes essentially illegal to smoke a joint—at least for the vast majority of us who are far more addicted to our cars than we ever could be to cannabis.

Speaking of automobile addiction: What’s with those car-junkies over at AAA (a.k.a. “Triple A”) lobbying against legalization and pushing “grossly distorted” data . According to a Leafly report, “the organization’s newly embraced anti-legalization stance is a hard turn from AAA’s previous position—which is to say, no position at all.”

Maybe it’s time for all AAA members who care about this issue to contact them and demand they start telling the truth.

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The (Positive) Substitution Effect

For instance, what about the idea—hidden in all the data we’ve examined so far—that increased cannabis use could actually be making our roads safer by serving as a substitute for more dangerous behavior.

Increased cannabis use could be making our roads safer by decreasing alcohol intake.

Meaning that while cannabis use in and of itself does increase crash risk, in a zero sum game where someone’s either drinking beer, popping pills or smoking weed, then cannabis is most certainly the safest of those risk factors. A dynamic that, writ large, can have a sizable positive effect.

For example, one 2011 study found that widespread use of legally accessible medical marijuana actually produces a major improvement in public safety because of a correlated reduction in drinking and driving, and an overall reduction in opioid use.

“Specifically, we find that traffic fatalities fall by nearly 9 percent after the legalization of medical marijuana,” concluded University of Colorado Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson.

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No, You Don’t Drive Better Stoned

So, to sum up—no, you definitely don’t drive better stoned, especially in high doses. And double-especially if you’re not used to being stoned, or to driving, or to both. Infrequent users of cannabis incur a higher risk of crashing based on the increased motor impairment that comes along with having less experience with THC and its effects.

Most experts recommend waiting at least three hours after your last inhale of cannabis before driving, and waiting far longer if you’ve eaten edibles, since they can sometimes take two hours before the onset of effects, which can then last six hours or longer. Also, please be aware that mixing alcohol and cannabis is more dangerous than using either alone. And don’t ever smoke in a moving vehicle, as it’s irresponsible and also the easiest way to get busted.

Oh, and if you happen to be a passenger in a car heading out for a long road trip, then I highly recommend getting really, really blazed before getting into the car, and then bumping some killer driving music once you hit the highway.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Colorado County’s Marijuana Tax Program Will Provide $420,000 in College Scholarships This Fall

More than 200 graduating high school students in Colorado’s Pueblo County will head off to college in a few weeks thanks to legal marijuana. The 210 students will receive scholarships worth $2,000 each for a total of $420,000 — a very appropriate aggregate figure, given that the scholarships are being funded by excise taxes on state-legal marijuana grown in the county.

Happy local officials described the pot-fueled Pueblo County Scholarship Fund as “the country’s first cannabis-funded college scholarship.” It was created after voters in the sun-filled county, which is building a reputation as a center of the outdoor and greenhouse-grown pot trade,approved an excise tax on commercial cannabis cultivation in 2015.

Colorado pot taxes have already provided funding for the state’s public school system and homeless population, and the Pueblo County scholarships are demonstrating once again the economic and fiscal benefits accruing to states that have legalized marijuana.

And for Pueblo County high school students, there’s more to come. The pot cultivation excise tax was 2% last year, but will increase by 1% annually until it tops out at 5%. With rising commercial cultivation and a rising tax rate, the scholarship fund appears set to expand, allowing even more students in the county, where nearly 20% live below the poverty line and where more than 40% of residents are Hispanic, to take advantage of educational opportunities.

But they’ll have to stay near home. The scholarships only pay for tuition and fees at Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo. That latter school is also benefiting from marijuana in other ways: Thanks to $900,000 from the state’s marijuana tax fund and $270,000 in county pot excise taxes to be used for “community enhancement,” CSU-Pueblo last year opened the Institute of Cannabis Research to study topics such as the impact of legalization on local economies, industrial hemp cultivation, and the efficacy of cannabidiol.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace gave the credit to weed. He told the Cannabist in June the county’s abundant sunshine was its greatest natural resource, and taxes on sun-grown weed made both the institute and the scholarships possible.

“There are vast opportunities in cannabis — from growing to research — and we want to make sure all Coloradans benefit, not just a select few,” he said. “For years, our community has discussed creating local scholarships that could provide opportunity and help break cycles of poverty. The Pueblo County Scholarship Fund will change lives, families and benefit generations to come.”

Smoking weed may not help your academic career, but the taxes on growing it are helping some Colorado kids have an academic career. That’s one economic impact of legalization you don’t need an institute to figure out for you.


This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Colorado Cannabis Sales Funnel $9.2M Into School Health Programs

Colorado schools will receive $9.2 million in funds to pay for school health programs, including those designed to prevent underage cannabis use. It’s a windfall that will effectively ease the state’s shortage of school nurses.

Each of Colorado’s 630 school nurses is responsible for up to 6,000 students, the Denver Post reports. Federal guidelines recommend that one school nurse serve no more than 750 students. The so-called School Health Professional Grant will bolster the number of health care professionals in schools around the state, including school nurses and counselors.

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The $9.2 million grant is being distributed among 42 school districts and charter schools by the Colorado Department of Education. A department spokesman told the Post that money is being directed to districts and schools that are near legal cannabis shops and that have created evidence-based programs to discourage underage consumption.

The grant comes as prohibitionists seek to downplay the tax benefits from legal cannabis. In July, for example, Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, published an opinion piece on CNBC that claimed cannabis revenue was insignificant because “marijuana taxes have failed to shore up state budget shortfalls.”

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“Even viewed solely in the context of Colorado’s educational needs, pot revenue is not newsworthy. The Colorado Department of Education indicates their schools require about $18 billion in capital construction funds alone. Marijuana taxes do not even make a dent in this gap,” Sabet wrote.

In addition to funding additional school nurses and counselors, Colorado cannabis revenue has also paid for hundreds of college scholarships in Pueblo County—one for each graduating senior who chooses to attend a college in the county.

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As Leafly reported in July, Colorado has already brought in more than $500 million in tax dollars from the cannabis industry so far. Of that, $117.9 was used to fund school construction, while an additional $5.7 million was put into a separate public school fund.

Outside education, more than $16 million has been spent on substance-abuse prevention and treatment, with another $10.4 million being used to fund mental and behavioral health services.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

How to Get a “Social Marijuana Use” License in Denver

On November 8, 2016, Denver voters passed Initiative 300, which directed city officials to create a four-year pilot study for what would be the United States’ first social marijuana consumption program. Such a program would allow Denver businesses and event planners to apply for licenses to allow public consumption of cannabis at everything from yoga studios to coffee shops to street fairs.

Since then, city officials have worked to bring the pilot study into existence while citizens have fretted over specifics. “Will the newly adopted regulations for the first-in-the-nation ‘social use’ program provide measured protection for patrons and neighbors of businesses that take part, as city officials say?” asked the Denver Post on June 30. “Or are the rules for consumption areas so restrictive that few businesses and event organizers will want to bother?”

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This week Denver officially opened the application process for “Designated Consumption Area” licenses. To answer the Post’s question about whether the rules will protect communities or repel applicants, it appears to be a little from column A and a fair amount from column B.

For those interested in applying for a Designated Consumption Area (DCA) license, here’s your non-exhaustive to-do list.

Complete Your Application

This may seem like a no-brainer until you realize that a “complete application” includes:

  • A criminal-history records check conducted by the FBI for the applicant AND anyone who owns 5% or more of the entity being proposed to host the DCA
  • A red-lined floor plan showing the location of the designated consumption area within the business
  • Proof that the DCA complies with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act
  • A valid zone-use permit and recent certificate of occupancy for the host venue
  • “Evidence of community support”—specifically, a letter of support (or at least non-opposition) from an eligible neighborhood association, which is defined as “a registered neighborhood organization as defined in the Revised Municipal Code that has been in existence for more than two years”
  • A “responsible operations plan” including a detailed explanation of how employees will monitor and prevent over-intoxication, DUI, underage access, and illegal distribution of cannabis
  • A documented employee-training program addressing all components of the aforementioned responsible operations plan
  • A “community engagement plan” as defined in the Denver Revised Municipal Code
  • An “odor control plan” as provided in the Denver Revised Municipal Code

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Honor the Proximity Restrictions

“No Permit shall be issued within 1,000 feet of any school, child-care establishment, any alcohol or drug treatment facility, or any city-owned recreation center or city-owned outdoor pools,” read the rules, so confirm and document your proximity distances along with your application. Also off-limits for DCA licenses: Any location with a liquor license, and any licensed marijuana establishment. (Which means bars and dispensaries must stay out of the social-smoking game for now.)

Narrow Your Social Dabbing Dreams

The guidelines specifically forbid the use of propane torches at any Designated Consumption Areas, so if you’re going to allow dabbing, it will have to be done with an e-nail.

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Have Money

Every application must be accompanied by a $1,000 application fee.

Good luck, Denver applicants! We’re rooting for you!


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.