Cannabis dispensary closed for lacking proper permit
SAN JUAN – The Municipality of Bayamón ordered Friday the immediate closure of the The Family Dispensary Inc. because the permit city hall granted it was for the sale of “basic necessities” not for the dispensing cannabis and its derivatives for medicinal use.
The irregularity was found during a visual inspection carried out for the House Judicial Committee and House Resolution 65 to evaluate the legality of the processes followed by the Department of Health in its implementation of Regulation 8686, also known as Regulation 155 for the use, possession, cultivation, manufacture, production, dispensing, distribution and research of medical cannabis.
Rep. María Milagros Charbonier, the House Judicial Committee president, explained to Caribbean Business that when arriving to the dispensary, its employees did not want the legislators and Health Department representatives entering the business even though they are authorized by law to carry out an inspection.
“Upon entering, I was surprised to see that the first thing you find is a cannabis shop, including jars with cannabis buds. There is no place to receive the patients who arrive. It was the most informal thing in the world,” said Charbonier, who was “highly concerned” about the possibility of a lack of controls in the nascent medical cannabis industry. The industry is regulated by the Health Department after an executive order.
When the closed business’ permits were inspected, it is was found that its authorization was to sell basic necessities.
“That is an obvious violation of the use-permits regulation of the Municipality of Bayamón … Someone lied to the municipality about the operation,” said the legislator, adding that there is a space on municipal permits to define the business operation to be set up. An employee of the dispensary said there was not.
Immediately after, a municipal representative went to the site and ordered its closure, with Health officials remaining onsite to seize the cannabis.
Due to the delay with Bayamón location, the House Committee was not able to visit dispensaries belonging to five other companies authorized to sell medical cannabis in six municipalities: Toa Baja, Carolina, Caguas, Humacao, Ponce and Barceloneta.
Charbonier said that the advisers to the committee and Health Department must file separate reports of Friday’s visit and the business’ intervention.
“I did not like what I saw there. It’s as if cannabis in Puerto Rico was decriminalized and could be sold just like anything else … I do not intend to be closing businesses… Nor is it my intention that there not exist a measure for medical cannabis research and therapeutic purposes, which we will have. If I want this industry to be properly regulated, patients should be protected during dispensation,” said the representative, who will also head the public hearings for the medical cannabis bill presented by the executive branch.
The legislator was also concerned that doctors prescribe the use of medical cannabis but not the exact amount to be consumed; therefore it is at the dispensary that the patient determines how much he or she will purchase, with recommendations from dispensary employees. She also raised flags about the possibility that the cannabis is smoked, as the regulations does not include this method of consumption.
She added that she does not want a “black market” to develop due to lacking regulation, which could even lead to a “public health problem.” Pricing is another issue that will be discussed by the committee, she said.
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