As a patient becoming more informed and sophisticated in the use of medical cannabis, you may enter into the world of DIY edible production. I have been successfully recommending DIY cannabis tinctures for years in appropriate patients to take advantage of the longer lived effects, convince, discretion and economy they can provide. There is a legal issue with tinctures and medical cannabis in general which should be addressed.
Law Enforcement Trends
I had a conversation with a criminal defense attorney friend who has told me of several cases he recently handled for medical cannabis patients who were arrested and ways to avoid these potential pitfalls.
The cases he mentioned were all for tincture or medical cannabis not being in an approved child safe container that was found during a traffic stop. Arkansas law is clear about this being a requirement so a word on compliance is in order.
The federal government has, of course, specific regulations on child resistant packaging required for most drugs. Cannabis is not on the list as it is federally illegal; however, Arkansas has adopted the statute to apply to medical cannabis sold or possessed in the state. The regulations as to how such containers are constructed and tested are extensive and quite specific. Many patients use a locked container or "lock box" to store their cannabis. Although likely the most effective way to prevent anyone other than the patient from accessing the cannabis medications, a lock box does not meet the requirements under the federal statute and you are in violation of the law.
How to be Compliant
Understanding the law is the responsibility of the medical cannabis patient and such knowledge is necessary to avoid an arrest and possible prosecution for violating the statute. Rather than go into the detailed requirements for a child resistant container, take advantage of those already provided at your favorite dispensary. Any cannabis you walk out the door of the dispensary with is in a federally compliant child proof container. Arkansas law requires it; dispensaries and cultivators have researched their packaging to be certain it complies with the published regulations. If you have produced a tincture, store it in a child proof prescription bottle, ziplock bag or jar you have obtained with other product obtained at a dispensary. There you go- fully compliant with the law. If you use a vape pen, be sure the cartridge containing the concentrate is also in a dispensary container when transporting or storing as this also falls under the requirements. The photos of suggested compliant packaging were provided by a patient to illustrate compliant examples. Left is the prescription bottle that has been used for decades. Any prescription bottle with the familiar cap is compliant with the law. The middle is a child proof ziplock bag which cultivators often use for prepackaged cannabis products. On the right is a large child proof ziplock "exit bag." Anything placed in an such an exit bag, this example from the nice people at Native Green Wellness, meets the requirements as being in a child resistant container. It makes for a very convenient and odor containing way to store all medical cannabis, vape pens, cartridges, edibles, tinctures, pipes, etc. and be compliant with the law.
If You Roll Craps...
The cases represented by this attorney were all won successfully before trial when, after intervention by the lawyer, prosecution elected not to press charges. Other patients have been convicted by accepting a plea bargain. If you find yourself in this position, obtain legal consul. If you can not afford to hire your own lawyer, go the public defender route but know this: most PD's advise their clients to accept a guilty plea bargain. It makes their tremendously heavy schedule a lot easier to deal with and the prosecutor gets a conviction to bolster their conviction rate statistics. Everyone wins except the defendant. Every attorneys' client, even those using a public defender, control their case. Insist on a full jury trial and vigorous defense. Most likely the prosecutor will drop charges as it is time consuming to go to trial for a relatively minor charge as well as a tough case to sell a jury.
Cannabis as a medicine seems quite new. With a majority of states now allowing its use, patients, many of their doctors, society at large and certainly to law enforcement and government are searching for information. The information available online is vast and often confusing. Much of it is incomplete, far too detailed and technical for most people to sort through, clever marketing or just plain wrong.
Medical cannabis patients are certified by a physician as having a qualifying condition. The patient is issued a card and then, too often is left to decide for themselves as to the best treatment. Dispensary employees are usually the cornerstone of giving patients advice on strains and how to use cannabis. Sometimes they are very good at giving recommendations. Sometimes, not so much.
Modern medicine treats disease with the drugs that are effective for the majority of patients, forgetting that we are all very different individuals. What is a good choice for one patient may be ineffective or cause side effects in another. Although most patients see some improvement in using cannabis, getting the best result is a bit more complicated...
I have seen patients without much knowledge or direction experience lukewarm results of medical marijuana. I have also seen those so-so results turn into remarkable improvement under the knowledgeable direction of a doctor that treats the individual patient using the correct combination/forms/amount of cannabis.
It is my hope to sift through all the noise, marketing, agenda driven studies, politics and stigmas encountered when one tries to be an informed medical cannabis patient. I want you to get the best result from medical cannabis you can.
Brian Nichol MD