On Wednesday, January first, Colorado became the first state to permit the legal sales of marijuana to all adults. Lines stretched around the block at the 34 medical marijuana dispensaries that received their recreational license. Iraq War vet Sean Azzariti was the first American to purchase legal pot. Azzariti featured prominently in the campaign to legalize marijuana, as he is unable to treat his PTSD under Colorado’s medical marijuana law. Some tokers complained of the high prices, an eighth costing $50 to $70 after tax. However, much of the steep price is due to limited inventory until the first harvests of recreational plants in the spring. There is even some concern that pot shops will run out of inventory soon due to incredible demand. Initial reports claim Colorado sold $1 million of cannabis on Day One.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, perhaps realizing that close to 80% of New Yorkers support medical marijuana, has done an about-face on his opposition to legalizing medical use of cannabis. This weekend the governor announced a plan to revive a dormant section of a 1980 law, known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program, named after an assemblyman who used cannabis to treat the nausea and pain from his cancer chemotherapy. Cuomo’s proposal would allow certain patients with life-threatening or sense-threatening ailments to acquire medical marijuana through 20 select hospitals statewide. The program would be the most restrictive in the country, with patients facing a hospital panel for evaluation of medical use on a case-by-case basis. No patients could grow marijuana; in fact, Cuomo’s plan would require marijuana to be sourced from law enforcement seizures or the federal government’s University of Mississippi pot farm.
Brian and Meghan Wilson of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, received the best Christmas gift parents could ask for – the health of their little daughter, Vivian. The Wilson’s have been lobbying the New Jersey legislature and Governor Chris Christie to allow medical marijuana patients to acquire and import medical marijuana products from other legal states into New Jersey. Vivian suffers from Dravet Syndrome, the severe form of epilepsy shown to be very responsive to treatment with a high-CBD oil extract, but Governor Christie has been recalcitrant to allow it, saying that he’s “done expanding the medical marijuana program” because that’s “what the legalizers want.” On Christmas Day, a friend informed the Wilsons that Garyn Angel, CEO of the Magical Butter company, and two other donors had contributed $10,000 for their moving expenses to relocate in Colorado, where Vivian can access her medicine. Magical Butter is a closed-system appliance for converting cannabis to butters and oils.
Tokers in Colorado have found a loophole in the state’s limit on recreational marijuana purchases. Under Amendment 64, residents of the Centennial State can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana and visitors, so-called “smokebirds”, can purchase a quarter ounce. But the new technology in pen-style vaporizers, which work by heating cartridges filled with cannabis concentrate to the evaporation point, is rapidly becoming the consumption method of choice. The cartridges come in 150 milligram and 500 milligram sizes, costing $15 and $45, respectively. At the 150 milligram weight, a resident can purchase 188 cartridges and a smokebird can purchase 47 of them. As the cartridges can last a week or two even for chronic cannabis consumers, the vape pens are becoming enormously popular, especially as their smokeless operation and discreet size help tokers avoid Colorado’s no-public-consumption law. $45 spent on buds would last a few days, but $45 spent on vape pen cartridges could last a few weeks.
The medical marijuana program in Illinois kicked off on January 1st, but patients in the state may have to wait another year before they are able to use any medical marijuana. According to an announcement on the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program website, “The State of Illinois is warning that it will not be legal for anyone to grow, offer to provide, or to possess, medical cannabis until licenses have been issued and the program is up and running.” Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, explained that the department wants to exhaust all due diligence to ensure the safety of such a complex program. A December release from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation predicted final rules in “late 2014”. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking; Illinois’ program sunsets in 2018, no matter when the rules are finally set.