“The Mid-Atlantic region is driving cannabis policy in the U.S. right now. There’s a lot of political will in the region to make this happen,” said Hunter Holliman, Regional Project Lead of 4Front Ventures in a recent conversation with MJINews.
Holliman, like Kris Krane, President of 4Front Ventures, sees exciting potential for a regionalized market that could ultimately stretch from Washington, D.C., to Maine. Three developments—the move toward medical marijuana reciprocity, the likelihood that several New England states will legalize full adult use in 2016 and the increasing speed of recent state legislation—buoy this optimism.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized some medical use of marijuana. This includes D.C. and all of the states to the north, other than Pennsylvania. Of these jurisdictions, only Maine and New Hampshire accept registry ID cards from out of state, however.
It limits patients’ ability to travel, and it is frustrating for consumers, both medical and recreational, who might see benefits in price, supply and quality in competitive interstate commerce. It also limits the potential market for medical marijuana businesses, particularly in less populous states.
Under proposed Maryland regulations, however, patients seeking medical marijuana treatment need not be Maryland residents. This creates an intriguing possibility that Maryland may be positioning to become a medical marijuana hub.
Further, according to Holliman, who testified in favor of full reciprocity in the Maryland House of Delegates, the current state of affairs is only a stepping stone. “I definitely see the writing on the wall. Reciprocity is coming. D.C. is also looking at full reciprocity this summer. There’s a bill before the Council to allow for full reciprocity, which I expect to pass. I definitely see the potential for a regional market.”
The creation of a regional base of patients opens up business opportunities that are hard to ignore. “In the short term, though,” Krane told MJINews, “this may have the greatest impact in the D.C. suburbs, where people come in from all over the world.”
Full Legalization in New England
Full adult-use legalization would, of course, dwarf the benefits that reciprocity for out-of-state patients would provide.
“It will be interesting to see what the Mid-Atlantic states do, considering what’s coming in New England,” said Krane. “Between now and the end of 2016 most likely a good chunk of New England will legalize for all adult use. Rhode Island almost certainly, and Vermont probably as well, will pass full legalization in the legislature. Maine and the big one, Massachusetts, will very likely do so in the 2016 election. That leaves a big corner of the eastern part of the country, where you have full legal marijuana including one of the heavier tourist states in the U.S., Massachusetts.”
The Rate of Acceleration
Finally, as Holliman noted, the rate of change seems to be increasing. “The way things have changed in the last three years has been amazing. We’ve seen D.C. go from no medical program to full legalization and a semi-functional medical program. Virginia passed a law, which no one would have anticipated. In Maryland we’ve been able to pass a medical program and a decriminalization bill and then come back to fix them in consecutive sessions, which is also rare. Typically a legislature might not reassess a bill for two years.”
While the West Coast, particularly California, which once looked like the center of marijuana reform, has remained fairly stagnant, in Holliman’s view, states in the Mid-Atlantic region have had the benefit of observing early efforts at legalization and may have seized the momentum.