Why are There States with Legal Cannabis and no Smokable Flower?

Is this helping or hurting patients?

As legalization spreads nationwide, state-by-state, each state’s particular approach to new policies can produce very specific situations that may become problematic for the medical and recreational communities. 

Although some of these state-specific situations can bring good opportunities for business owners, they can also directly affect some patients’ treatments and overall quality of life, which is why they’re becoming pressing issues.

A particularly controversial case, is one where a state allows some form of medical marijuana, but forbids the selling or smoking of dried flower buds.

What’s the Matter with Flowers?

Louisiana’s Department of Health released an official communicationexplaining the current situation of the state’s slowly growing medical cannabis program. The statement includes a definition for medical marijuana that reads: different acceptable forms are oils, extracts, tinctures, sprays, capsules, pills, solutions, suspension, gelatin-based chewables, lotions, transdermal patches and suppositories” but excludes “the inhalation or vaping of cannabis.

It then adds, “According to the law it (cannabis) cannot be in raw form or smoked.

Arguments against the legalization of flower buds were made visible when Florida passed the 2016 amendment, which allowed the prescription of medical marijuana in the form of edibles, vaping oils, sprays and tinctures, but left dried flower and pre-rolled joints illegal. Although this ban was made null last month by Governor Ron DeSantis, and medical patients in the Sunshine State can now buy and smoke flowers, the case serves as good example to understand why legislators can choose such a measure.

Supporters of the ban claimed that since Florida’s medical cannabis program was aimed at resolving issues for ailing patients, allowing them to take their medicine through smoke would pave the way for the habit of smoking becoming recreational. It was also argued that any type of smoke inhalation can cause adverse health effects, and that it’s in the patients’ best interest to avoid the social stigma associated with marijuana smokers or “stoners”.

Since the stigma remains present in some conservative sectors of society, there is a continuing belief that marijuana can only be viewed as medicine when it is introduced in the body in similar ways to the most commonly-known forms of medication, leaving smokable cannabis as a recreational and illegal product, that should not be considered a pharmaceutical-grade medication.

Why These Measures Are an Issue

Pennsylvania is yet another state where this type of distinction once existed. On a recent controversy regarding the use of flower buds for medical marijuana patients, state senator Daylin Leach stated that “(flower buds) are the most affordable kind of medical marijuana and the most effective in treating certain medical conditions and symptoms”. And, though the Keystone State changed this legislationlast year, the dried leaf sold at dispensaries is legally meant to be used for vaping, since smoking remains punishable by law. However, the state’s law enforcement has little to no possibility of making sure this distinction is made by the user, once consumption is done behind closed doors.

Cannabis in the form of dried flowers is the cheapest form of marijuana since it requires less processing than other products. This also helps availability, since the lapse between harvest and retail also becomes shorter.

However, the most common argument in favor of full flower consumption is usually backed by the the renowned ‘Entourage Effect’. This proposed principle suggests that the medicinal effect of ‘full spectrum cannabis’ is far better than that of isolated cannabis compounds (like CBD or THC) taken separately, since whole-plant-medicine includes every cannabinoid and terpene in the plant.

Scientists have already been able to identify and isolate more than 113 cannabinoids in cannabis, all of which interact with each other in different ways, to boost and modify the main cannabinoids’ effects and produce a more targeted impact on a patient’s health.

Although the Entourage Effect is still under scientific scrutiny, clinical studies have provided substantial evidence to back the truth of its hypothesis.

Adding up to Louisiana, Minnesota and New York are the other two states where medical marijuana programs are active, but flower buds are still missing from dispensary shelves. Although residents of this states may feel discouraged when comparing their situation to that of California or Colorado, past experiences in states like Pennsylvania show that this is usually a temporary condition in a transition towards a more ample style of legalization, rather than a fixed, unalterable state of affairs.

Ponieman, ByNatan. “Why Are There States with Legal Cannabis and No Smokable Flower?” Green Rush Daily, 4 Apr. 2019, greenrushdaily.com/politics/states-with-legal-cannabis-and-no-smokable-flower/.

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