30 June 2022 |

No more doctor’s recs in D.C., the incoming national patient database, and local radio & TV cannabis ads.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Doctor’s recommendations are done in D.C.​

D.C. residents can now self-certify themselves for medical cannabis without seeing a doctor. The Washington D.C. council unanimously approved this emergency legislation on Tuesday.

The Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0886) was passed to work around the “Harris rider”, a rider provision that’s been successfully proposed by Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland every year since 2014. 

This rider prevents D.C. from regulating and taxing recreational cannabis. 

Medical cannabis has been legal in Washington D.C. since 2011 and D.C. voters said yes to cannabis for personal use in 2014, with the rider preventing the regulation or taxing of it. 

B24-0886 is also an effort to work against the illicit market and the gifting trend popping up in D.C. D.C. business owners are gifting cannabis alongside the purchase of another item to circumnavigate the ban on adult-use cannabis sales.

Unlike a failed D.C. bill in April, B24-0886 doesn’t have enforcement provisions cracking down on cannabis gifting, but it does acknowledge the safety and legal concerns that the gray market can bring, including selling to minors. 

“This emergency legislation moves only the portion of that prior legislation regarding self-certification. Specifically, it would allow medical marijuana patients 21 years of age and older to self-certify that they are utilizing marijuana for medical purposes. Patients will still be formally registered in the medical marijuana program, issued a patient identification number, and recorded in ABRA’s private and secure ‘Metrc’ track-and-trace system. While not a panacea to the issues facing our legal marijuana market, this emergency legislation provides a small amount of relief by increasing the ability of medical marijuana patients to access the legal and regulated medical market.”

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

This is a massive win for D.C. y’all. Patients now have greater access to medical cannabis and hopefully, other states begin to follow. 

Medical cannabis is currently not covered under medical insurance because it’s federally illegal, and a doctor’s recommendation to obtain a card can cost hundreds of dollars. This bill eliminates that cost to see a physician. 

D.C. is one of the first U.S. jurisdictions, if not the first, to allow patients to self-certify. In February, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill allowing senior citizens to bypass a physician’s recommendation and self-certify, but this privilege now extends to everyone in D.C. over the age of 21. 

This is an exciting step for patients in D.C. and the United States as a whole, but I do have concerns about dosing and medication interactions if doctors are out of the picture. 

However, there are plenty of resources for patients to access clinical help – like Leaf 411, a free cannabis nurse’s hotline, that can help with medication interactions and proper dosing. 

Federal drug agency wants to track cannabis patients​

The federal government wants a national database to track how patients use medical cannabis.

And they’re willing to pay a hefty sum to do it. The researchers who develop this database will be awarded $1.5 million to execute it. 

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) wants this project to “inform research, policy, and clinical recommendation practices on medicinal cannabis, associated conditions, and outcomes.”

The database would collect: 

  • the patient’s experienced symptoms
  • the format, strain type, and major cannabinoids in the cannabis products used
  • whether or not patients are using product recommendations from their physician
  • the changes in targeted symptoms
  • and more. 

“In order to understand the benefits, harms, and broad outcomes of medicinal cannabis product use in the United States it is critical to gather information on what, how (e.g. route of administration, dose, frequency, etc.), why patients are using medicinal cannabis products, and how they are responding to these products,” NIDA said. 

One area NIDA intends on studying is the link between medical cannabis and the reduction of prescription drugs. There are several studies supporting this idea, but critics aren’t too convinced. NIDA’s data will paint a clearer picture. 

Researchers found a 78% reduction in mean opioid usage in the Tilray Observational Study last year, examining a total of 1,145 patients at 21 medical cannabis clinics across Canada. 

Several states have their own medical cannabis patient databases, but NIDA explains those “small pockets of collected information…may not be comparable, standardized, or useful in understanding broader cannabis use related health outcomes.”

Researchers who want to create the database can start submitting their applications on October 15th and the deadline ends on November 16th. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

At first, I was angry reading this. 

Medical cannabis businesses and patients are suffering without any federal policy or help – now they want to dig into our private lives and study us?

But, NIDA supports federal cannabis research and has for awhile. This registry is the easiest way to get it. 

Clinical trials are the ideal way to collect data, but federal grants can’t be applied to cannabis research because it’s a Schedule I substance. 

Lawmakers have long cited the “lack of research” associated with medical cannabis, preventing them from legalizing it at the federal level or even removing it from the list of scheduled substances. 

In actuality, there is plenty of cannabis research. And the people screaming “more research” are the same people blocking every piece of federal cannabis legislation that would allow for more research. 

I hope NIDA’s database is part of the final push towards federal legalization in the United States – and not a weapon against how patients use medical cannabis in the U.S. 

Local broadcasters are one step closer to accepting cannabis ads

The House Appropriations Committee approved the 2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill last week

This bill prevents the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from taking action against local broadcasters who accepts cannabis ads in legal states. Until now, local TV and radio stations haven’t been able to run these ads. 

The bill still needs to be passed by the full House and Senate before becoming law and if it is passed, it will need to be renewed every single year. 

“None of the funds made available in this Act3 to the Federal Communications Commission may be used, with respect to an authorization for radio or television stations, to deny, fail to renew for a full term or condition the authorization, decline to approve an application for authority to assign the authorization or transfer direct or indirect control of the licensee, require an early renewal application, or impose a forfeiture penalty because the station broadcast or otherwise transmitted advertisements (a) of a business selling cannabis or cannabis-derived products, the sale or distribution of which is authorized in the State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian country in which the community of license of a station is located, or (b) of a business selling hemp, hemp-derived CBD products or other hemp-derived cannabinoid products,” part of the bill reads. 

Just because broadcasters are allowed to accept radio and TV ads, doesn’t mean they will. It just means that they won’t be prosecuted for it. 

This is similar to the SAFE Banking Act preventing the federal government from prosecuting banks. Banks don’t have to take on cannabis clients, but if they do, they won’t face federal repercussions.

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

Cannabis advertising was worth $18.5 billion in 2021. This bill would be very profitable for local broadcasters who want to accept cannabis ads. 

It also opens marketing channels for cannabis businesses. It’s notoriously difficult to market cannabis businesses on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, as the terms of service prevent promoting controlled substances. 

Businesses can use social media, but the ambiguous and ever-changing language means most people spend more time fighting with Meta’s AI censorship than posting content. 

Radio and TV ads are just another way cannabis businesses can support the local economy.