Kimmel says states like California and Oregon set up wide-open medical marijuana programs with so little real regulation that "they're described by many of us as the 'Wild West.'"
Architects of this year's Connecticut legislation think they have the answer to that little difficulty.
The system they'd create would involve a very few, limited grow operations that would be licensed, inspected and tightly regulated by the state. The medical pot would be distributed through special state-licensed areas of pharmacies and only if a patient with a debilitating illness or condition had a doctor's recommendation.
Lawlor says the legislation would allow patients to legally possess up to a month's supply of their medical pot, and to grow a limited number of plants themselves. "As a practical matter, most of the people who would use this couldn't be bothered to grow it themselves," Lawlor says.
In Rhode Island, where medical marijuana is legal, there are about 3,580 patients allowed to possess pot for their treatment and another 2,263 "caregivers" licensed by the state to grow marijuana for patients. All those folks are allowed to have a limited number of plants and a limited amount of harvested marijuana.
An additional Rhode Island program for three, big, centralized grow operations has been put on hold because of fears about the federal policy that has recently cracked down on large-scale pot growing even when licensed by a state.
But the homegrown medical cannabis industry in Rhode Island has clearly been a boon to businesses selling hydroponic equipment, garden supplies and grow lighting. A quick glance at new magazines dedicated to the medical pot industry reveals a wealth of ads for such products in Rhode Island, Colorado, California and elsewhere.
John Watkins is president of GroundClouds, a two-person business based in Naugatuck that makes "aroma therapy vaporizers." Watkins is eager to have his product transformed by the legalization of medical pot from "a novelty device into medical equipment." He says a vaporizer would allow a pot patient to get the beneficial effects of inhaling the drug without the bad smoke.
Kimmel says another indicator of just how potentially lucrative the medical marijuana industry could be is what's happening with Big Pharma. "Many large pharmaceutical companies outside the U.S. are working very diligently on medical marijuana research and development," he says.
A British company, GW Pharma, is now conducting advanced clinical trials for a spray made from raw marijuana that it hopes to market in the United States for cancer pain treatments. And Israel has become a leader in government-sponsored medical marijuana research and treatments, according to an article published by Israel's Consulate General in Boston.
As for his two-year-old company, Kimmel says it has financial backing for a business plan that is entirely focused on "development of medical cannabis" in food form. He argues that an "oral delivery system" is far healthier for patients with serious illnesses than smoking pot.
"For me, it's not about the money," says Kimmel. "But I'm a business person and I clearly recognize the money surrounding this."
It's the same scenario that's created a hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry, according to Kimmel. If you have lots of people with medical problems that could benefit from a product, you have a situation that generates "a lot of money," he says.
"This medical marijuana will probably have a similar path…. It parallels pharmaceuticals in that regard," Kimmel adds.
Lawlor acknowledges that medical marijuana in Connecticut will generate some limited amount of economic growth, some new jobs, and some new state tax revenue. He doesn't believe that should be or will be the purpose of the program.
"Some people see a pretty significant business opportunity here," he adds, "but that's not the way it's going to be run in Connecticut."
The reality, says Lawlor, is that plenty of people are making lots of pot profits right now in this state, although they happen to be underground and illegal.
"Marijuana is already a pretty big business in Connecticut," he points out. "It's just completely unregulated."
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