Medical marijuana has grown in popularity throughout the country, including in Arizona. The medicinal properties of marijuana can provide relief for a variety of symptoms associated with a number of medical conditions, allowing individuals to treat their health problems without chemical medications that often come with negative side effects. As part of ensuring residents have access to safe medical marijuana, Arizona is launching a state-approved testing program. Starting November 1, labs are required to test all marijuana before it goes on the market for sale. However, there are concerns that this testing could lead to a shortage of medical marijuana in the area.
A Learning Curve
While testing medical marijuana before it hits the market is essential to keep individuals safe and ensure they have access to quality products that are less likely to cause harm, this testing is a new process that will require a bit of a learning curve for labs. Many labs have invested in new equipment and hired new staff to ensure they can manage the load, but it’s no surprise there will be some trial and error involved at the start. The testing is bound to slow the flow of medical marijuana products on the market, particularly as the program starts. The benefits far outweigh this issue, but it can cause a struggle, especially for those who already rely on medical marijuana to provide them with relief from the symptoms of their medical conditions.
A Reduction in Stock
When the new testing begins, it can be expected to see fewer medical marijuana products on the shelves in the dispensaries as they wait for products to get through the testing phase. In addition to this reduction in stock, many dispensaries may choose to reduce the number of products they stock. This can lead some individuals to have difficulty finding the precise products or strains they typically use. However, over time the supply issues should resolve as a steady flow of marijuana moves through the testing process.
Price Hikes May Occur
As with any product that goes through supply and demand issues, it should come as no surprise medical marijuana prices could rise as a result. Because of the more limited supply, medical dispensaries will be forced to increase their prices to avoid going out of business. Sales will ultimately decrease and some smaller dispensaries may find it more challenging to stand up to larger dispensaries that have a more significant client base and are able to carry a larger stock of the products individuals need.
Are Labs Equipped to Handle the Flow?
One of the biggest concerns with testing medical marijuana before it releases to the market is the ability of the labs to keep up with the demand. In June, Arizona sold more than 18,000 pounds of marijuana products. Because this type of testing is new to Arizona, labs will need new equipment to handle the process, as well as employees to run the testing. While some labs have prepared ahead of time, others haven’t yet reached the point where they can make a significant contribution to the testing process. Over time, the capacity for testing will increase; the concern is what will happen to the medical marijuana industry up until that point.
Not All Marijuana Will Pass
Another potential issue is handling the medical marijuana that doesn’t pass. Not all marijuana growers will meet the pesticide regulations and other standards set forth by DHS, which means there is the chance a significant amount of marijuana may not pass the test for distribution to the dispensaries. This will further increase the cost of the medical marijuana that is available for sale, as well as the amount available.
DHS Is Working With Labs and Dispensaries
The good news is DHS is working with labs and dispensaries to address their concerns and help make the transition as smooth as possible. Oregon went through this process in 2016, and Arizona is looking to the state for help with handling the new testing. While Oregon was able to push off this legislation for months so they could perfect the process and properly prepare to keep supply issues to a minimum, Arizona has been unable to do the same due to the legislature going on break due to Covid-19.
Disruptions Will Be Limited
DHS assures those who rely on medical marijuana that the disruptions to supply will be as limited as possible and will only be temporary as the transition occurs. New legislation is on the docket to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to complete their own in-house testing, which could alleviate many of the supply and cost issues, but it remains to be seen if this legislation will pass and whether it will be in time to reduce the supply issues at the start of the testing requirement.