Is All of the Security Surrounding Medical Cannabis Justified?

Local and state dignitaries gathered with business owners in late January 2021 to mark the opening of a brand-new medical cannabis dispensary in Park City. The dispensary marks the second location opened by medical cannabis dispensary Deseret Wellness. According to the Park Record website, Deseret’s newest location is outfitted with an impressive number of security features. But is all of the security justified?

Park Record says the new dispensary utilizes a locked vault to store product in. Furthermore, card-carrying patients will have to pass through several rooms to obtain their medication. Each room is secured by a self-locking door. The dispensary is even monitored by an array of security cameras that record every single transaction.

Meanwhile, the state of Utah tracks every marijuana plant from the moment it is put into the ground until the time of harvest. They keep diligent records regarding growers, how much they are producing, who is processing harvested product, who is dispensing it, and who uses it. It is all in an attempt to keep a lid on medical marijuana.

Learning from the Opioid Crisis

Those in favor of highly restricted medical marijuana point to the opioid crisis as proof that doing so is necessary. As we all know, opioid use and misuse have both skyrocketed over the last 20 years. There is plenty of blame to go around – from manufacturers to physicians and lawmakers. It is possible that heavily restricting medical cannabis is a means of avoiding a repeat scenario.

Perhaps lawmakers have learned from the opioid crisis. Perhaps they believe tight restrictions are the only way to prevent widespread abuse. Unfortunately, they have a couple of things working against them. At the top of the list is a growing chorus calling for the complete decriminalization of marijuana altogether.

Congress Looking at Decriminalization

While state lawmakers have been burning the midnight oil trying to come up with ways to promote medical cannabis without allowing a full-blown crisis, Congress has been looking at decriminalization. The House of Representatives passed a decriminalization bill in December 2020. That bill now goes to the Senate.

It is unlikely the bill will pass in its current form. However, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer is fully on board with decriminalization. It is possible the Senate could achieve decriminalization without having to hold an up or down vote on the issue itself. They could it tuck it away in some other bill and get it passed undercover.

Security a Moot Point

Washington decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would render all of the current security measures a moot point. That is, of course, unless a particular state still wanted to ban recreational use of the drug. Some states would undoubtedly do that if Congress does manage to get a decriminalization bill to the president’s desk.

Other states would fully embrace decriminalization. It is just easier to go that route than trying to continue balancing state regulations with federal law. The added benefit of decriminalization would be increased tax revenue. And make no mistake about it, if cannabis is decriminalized nationwide, one of the first things lawmakers will do is find a way to tax its production and sale.

For the time being, states like Utah are using strict security and control measures to keep a lid on medical cannabis. They will continue to do so as long as marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance. Tight security is the only way to prevent a repeat of the opioid crisis. At least that is the thinking at the state level. Whether or not it’s correct thinking remains a matter of debate.