Five out of five stars. That’s the user rating for Red Congo on stickyguide.com, a website dedicated to “medical cannabis ratings and reviews.” The sativa strain is listed on the menu of Bay Area dispensary the Apothecarium, where it sells for $55 for an eighth of an ounce and is described as treating muscle and joint pain and depression—“excellent for medicating when one still needs to be task-oriented, highly functional and busy, busy, busy.”
Sounds like helpful stuff, but even as Clark County takes steps toward licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations, getting Red Congo into the hands of folks who need it doesn’t always seem like the top priority.
Last week county commissioners voted to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Clark County, as well as facilities for growing and testing product that will be distributed locally. But not everyone considers those approvals a victory for patients. Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted against the ordinance, citing elements they felt were overly restrictive, specifically the requirement that (barring extreme circumstances) local dispensaries only sell marijuana grown in Clark County and that cultivation facilities be limited to industrial zones and at least 660 feet from the nearest home.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, an organization dedicated to the legalization of marijuana, points out that “we have many different templates from around the country showing the different viable alternatives that states and regulators have taken to license the dispensing of medical marijuana.” In San Francisco, for example, Apothecarium Executive Director Ryan Hudson says neither local regulations nor state law require that medicine be produced in the county, or even that members live in the county. In Santa Cruz, California, nonprofit collective Santa Cruz Mountain Naturals also isn’t subject to restrictions about where its medicine comes from. “We can pick up stuff from anywhere from LA to Humboldt [County],” says general manager Adrian Bauman, “but part of our focus was to only accept flower donations from local operations.” Bauman adds that it’s important to have a balance of sativa-dominant strains (which have more of a cerebral affect) and indica-dominant strains (which offer overall pain relief and affect the whole body), as well as strains high in CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can be used to treat depression and epilepsy. “Every patient’s needs are different,” says Hudson.
With dispensaries and cultivation facilities being licensed simultaneously in Clark County, Armentano sees a lag between supply meeting demand as inevitable. “If the goal is to provide the most ready access to the largest number of qualifying patients, one has to question those regulatory hurdles,” he says. “If you look at it as a living program that’s going to expand and grow, you have to take into account whether the regulations are feasible to keep up with demand.”