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Judge gives OK to online medical marijuana ordering

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Leafly and similar sites will be able to resume contracting with Florida medical marijuana operators to allow patients to order products online, under a ruling issued Monday by an administrative law judge.

Florida health officials this year stopped medical marijuana operators from using Leafly and other third-party sites to process patient orders, saying the arrangements violated a state law banning operators from contracting for services "directly related to the cultivation, processing and dispensing" of cannabis.

But Seattle-based Leafly Holdings argued that it is not engaging in activity related to the dispensing of cannabis products because the company does not accept payment for or distribute cannabis products to patients. The company filed a petition asking an administrative law judge to find that the Florida Department of Health employed an "unadopted and invalid rule" to conclude that the online services violated the law.

Judge Suzanne Van Wyk didn’t go as far Monday as Leafly requested, but she found that the ban on the use of the third-party sites amounted to an unadopted rule and ordered the state agency to "immediately discontinue reliance on its policy … regarding online ordering of medical marijuana through third-party websites."

Until February, many of the state’s medical marijuana operators relied on Leafly and another well-known e-commerce cannabis company — I Heart Jane — to help provide online shopping services for Florida patients.

But many — if not all — operators canceled contracts with the e-commerce companies after receiving a Feb. 1 memo from the Department of Health threatening to impose $5,000 fines on those who continued to rely on the services.

The memo said the services were prohibited under a 2017 law that set up a structure for the Florida cannabis industry. The law requires medical marijuana operators to control all aspects of the business from seed to sale — including cultivation, processing and dispensing of products — rather than allowing companies to handle individual components of the trade.

"Contracting with, or any other third-party website, for services directly related to dispensing is a violation of this provision," then-Department of Health Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola wrote in the February memo.

Health officials argued that the February memo reflected the agency’s application of the law to a particular set of facts and was not a rule.

"The department has no duty to promulgate what is clear from the statutory language," Department of Health general counsel Louise Wilhite-St. Laurent said during a September hearing in the case. The February memo "is a simple reiteration of the law," she said.

But Van Wyk disagreed.

The memo "does not merely reiterate the statute, but places a construction on the statute that is not readily apparent on its face. The statute does not address third-party websites or online ordering," she wrote in Monday’s 25-page order.

"The letter constitutes the department’s interpretation that online ordering is a service directly related to dispensation of medical marijuana; thus the letter implements the statute and prescribes policy. The letter has the direct and consistent effect of prohibiting the practice of MMTCs contracting with third-party websites for online ordering of medical marijuana," she added, using an acronym for medical marijuana treatment centers, the state’s name for marijuana operators.

Seann Frazier, a lawyer who represents Leafly, asked Van Wyk to determine whether the agency’s policy amounted to an invalid rule, which, under administrative law, is different from an unadopted rule. But Van Wyk said she lacked the authority to determine if the unadopted rule was valid or not.

"Practically speaking, the department may simply discontinue reliance on the agency statement, rather than choosing to adopt the statement as a rule. In that case, a ruling on the validity of the statement, as a rule, would be advisory in nature," she wrote.

Leafly and similar sites allow patients to shop online, compare prices and view product availability at dispensaries. Patients can order products and be notified when their orders are completed, but customers have to pick up and pay for items in person at dispensaries. MMTCs pay the e-commerce companies for marketing, advertising and ordering services on a subscription basis.

Prior to the February memo, Leafly contracted with 277 medical marijuana retail locations throughout the state. After the letter, some of those dispensaries canceled their subscriptions and all have stopped doing online ordering, Leafly COO Ross Moulton said during last month’s hearing. Moulton estimated the loss to Leafly from the canceled contracts was at least $300,000.

In Monday’s ruling, Van Wyk also rejected the state’s arguments that Leafly lacked standing to sue the health department because the company could not show the exact amount of economic harm it incurred after the letter was issued.

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Leafly "has sustained cancelation of real contracts," she wrote.

The administrative law judge also rejected the state’s contention that Leafly lacked standing to challenge the health department’s action because the company is not regulated by the state agency.

Van Wyk acknowledged that the department does not directly regulate Leafly, the petitioner in the case.

But the Feb. 1 letter "had the collateral effect of regulating the activities petitioner can engage in as a third-party operator of an online website and application-based resource for cannabis information," she wrote.

Ordering Cannabis Seeds on The Internet – How Does That Work?

[Canniseur: If you’ve decided to grow your own, you’ll need seeds. Those plants don’t grow out of thin air. Besides the strain you’re buying, there really is a lot to know about where your seeds are sourced and how they were made. Here’s a good place to start.]

When doing research on how to order cannabis seeds, there are a number of ways to go about this. Most people prefer to order the seeds online since it is relatively easy and convenient. There are countries where growing cannabis is legal and seeds can often be purchased from growshops and dispensaries. This, however, isn’t the case everywhere. One can still buy cannabis seeds online or from seed banks and have them shipped from overseas safely.

Benefits of ordering online

If you haven’t ordered cannabis seeds before, you may have some reservations about ordering online, especially if you live in a country where many cannabis-related products are frowned upon. You may wonder, is ordering online really the safest option?

We are here to reassure you that buying online is discreet and safe, even in instances where cannabis seeds may not be allowed. We have a few pointers for you to ensure you get your cannabis seeds safely.

It is important to use the following guide to safely order cannabis seeds;

  1. Discretion starts with you – when it comes to ordering cannabis seeds, it’s important to remember that keeping this information private starts with you. Be sure to keep this information to yourself and avoid sharing this with anyone, both online and offline. Secrecy starts with you and the less people know about it, the better.
  2. Find out the cannabis laws where you live – each country has different laws surrounding the importation or use of cannabis, so it is important to find out what the law says regarding cannabis. For instance, in the Netherlands, one is allowed to have small quantities of cannabis seeds for sale. So, it’s important to find out whether individuals are allowed to possess cannabis seeds and whether germination of the seeds is allowed. It’s important to find out all you can about the regulations in place when it comes to importing cannabis seeds in your country before taking the next steps.
  3. Do your research and find a reputable seed company to make your purchase from – choosing the ideal source to buy seeds from isn’t as difficult as one might presume. Some of the best companies hail from the Netherlands, Canada and the UK. Amsterdam is one of the top sources for quality seeds, and there is a wide range of information available on all cannabis-related matters. Be sure to look out for a reputable seed bank with a long-standing service record.
  4. Start small – when making your first order, don’t go crazy spending thousands of euros on seeds. Start small, and then you can increase your order and the amount you spend over time. This way, you’ll find out whether the company has the quality of seeds you’re looking for, and you will have an idea of how much time it takes to deliver the seeds. And you can be sure the company you’re ordering from is legit.
  5. Payments are safe and discreet – when it comes to making online payments, these days it is quite safe and there are measures in place to ensure your information is secure and discrete. You can make payments via credit card or you can choose a third-party processor, which also has its advantages. It’s important to note that most seed banks receive payment without your credit card details for your discretion and customer data is destroyed after payment by the payment processor, which makes it even more discrete. Most reputable seed banks will leave out cannabis-related descriptions in your bank statement. However, if you are still worried about using your personal credit card, you have a number of options, such as use of bitcoin, bank transfers and cash where possible.
  6. Use business details instead – If you’re not comfortable sharing your personal information, you can get a business credit card and have a business address for all your online deliveries and purchases. This lets you get your package delivered with minimum risk.
  7. Order in batches – with multiple orders or when ordering different seeds, be sure to divide your order by placing small orders, ordering at different times and also using different suppliers to avoid placing all your eggs in one basket and incurring a heavy loss by making a big order with one supplier.
  8. Use abbreviations, a nickname or initials when making your purchase – for further security measures, most people prefer to not use their full name when making an order to avoid being associated with marijuana. You can use an abbreviation or just your initials when sharing your name. Keep in mind some postmen know who lives at a certain address so it would be a good idea to use your initials on the address if you are using your home address. Alternatively, don’t ship to an address where you don’t want the address tied to you or your activities.
  9. Make use of a post office address and use an alternate email address – a high number of seed banks can deliver to a PO box address so that you can pick it up at your own discretion to prevent you from having to sign for it at your doorstep. It’s also a good idea to create an alternative email address that does not have your name for added privacy. Never use a business email address.
  10. Use a shipping option that doesn’t require a signature – there are options that allow you to not share a signature upon arrival of your package. Most Track and Trace parcels require a signature once your parcel arrives. While there are some disadvantages of this, it might offer more discretion. But, it will be much harder to track your parcel or even trace it in the event it gets misplaced or lost.
  11. Give it time – since most seeds are shipped from abroad, it’s important to give it time to arrive. It could take from 7 to 12 days depending on where it comes from. In other cases, it might even take 15 days or more to arrive so it’s important to be patient and not panic if it takes slightly longer than expected. Your package will arrive in due time.
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Ordering cannabis seeds online these days can be done safely and discreetly. Be sure to follow the steps above to protect yourself and ensure the highest level of discretion.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for information and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to reflect the specific views of the publication.

What you need to know about legally ordering marijuana online

Answers from the RCMP, Canada Post and Health Canada about getting your cannabis through the mail

As of Oct. 17, each person of legal age in their province can legally purchase and possess 30 grams of marijuana.

But in many communities, retail cannabis stores won't be open right away. That could push people to online sales.

Canada Post, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Health Canada all declined interviews on the topic, but did provide statements to CBC News about online shopping for cannabis.

How will online cannabis orders and delivery be policed?

From the RCMP: Canada Post has standard operating procedures in place related to the inspection of mail while in transit.

From Canada Post: Canada Post has been delivering medical cannabis safely since 2013. Canada Post will follow the law, regulations and any guidelines from the federal government and also from the provincial and territorial governments, which will oversee the sale and distribution in their respective provinces and territories.

Once recreational cannabis is legalized, it will be the responsibility of licensed distributors to ensure their shipments, including packaging and labelling, follow the laws and regulations of the federal and provincial governments.

Is there a concern from police that this will lead to an increase of other drugs moving through the mail?

From the RCMP: The RCMP's federal policing program investigates the most severe threats to the safety and security of Canada. The majority of ongoing organized crime investigations are related to drug trafficking and are linked directly or indirectly to transnational criminal organizations.

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The RCMP will continue to monitor, track and assess the evolution of criminal organizations' methods and tactics, including the use of the mail system to delivery illicit materials.

We cannot predict what will happen with the illicit cannabis market when cannabis becomes legal. Fentanyl has been an issue, though.

In response, the RCMP has implemented a national investigative strategy to be completed in partnership with [the Canada Border Services Agency], Canada Post, Health Canada and law enforcement partners (municipal, provincial and international).

Key activities include:

  • Gathering information and data to identify shipping and manufacturing trends, international exporters, domestic distributors, clandestine labs and criminal networks.
  • Raising awareness among law enforcement agencies and the public.
  • Collaborating with international partners to combat illegal drug trafficking networks and disrupt the flow of fentanyl into Canada.
  • Co-ordinate information sharing between partners.

In addition, the RCMP-led Joint Operations Centre (JOC), a partnership with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Canada Post Corporation, leverages each agency's investigative tools to supply intelligence on both domestic and international fentanyl shipments.

In particular, the JOC focuses on synthetic opioid seizures from mail sorting facilities in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Will the RCMP and Canada Post be monitoring drug activity via mail?

From the RCMP: Canada Post has standard operating procedures in place related to the inspection of mail while in transit. The RCMP will continue to provide assistance to Canada Post, when required.

For instance, Canada Post may request the assistance of the RCMP when recovering and identifying suspected illegal contraband found in packaged mail.

Also, the RCMP may seek a judicial authorization to search mail as part of a criminal investigation.

From Canada Post: We will work with licensed distributors to ensure they are fully aware of the expectations and requirements.

Most of our procedures are in place for medicinal marijuana and we continue to enhance our approach.… As is the case today, if a parcel in our delivery network is emitting a strong odour due to improper packaging, the item will be removed from our delivery network to reduce safety concerns.

If we intercept an item or deem it to be suspicious, our postal inspectors will work with local law enforcement as we do today.

Some online sites sell edibles, even though they can't be legally sold (for now). Can I order them anyway?

Health Canada: Edibles will remain illegal until regulations are developed and brought forward as noted here.

According to the Cannabis Act … you are allowed to make your own, "legal cannabis-containing products at home, such as food and drinks, provided that dangerous organic solvents are not used in making them."

If you've ordered a significant amount of cannabis and it has been stolen, should you report it?

From the RCMP: If you feel you have been the victim of a crime, you can report it to your police of jurisdiction.

How will people know they will be buying from a safe, licensed source?

From Health Canada: The only safe sources are from the licensed producers listed on our site and the provincial and territorial sources that have been communicated by those jurisdictions.

Any problems with products should be reported to the licensed producer or provincial/territorial authority they were purchased from.

How is marijuana ordered online delivered to ensure it is going to someone of legal age?

From Canada Post: For all shipments of recreational cannabis from a licensed seller that we deliver or [are] picked up at a postal outlet, proof of age will be mandatory, as it is for other regulated products. The required minimum age to receive recreational cannabis is defined by each province and territory.

If the receiver appears to be younger than 25 years old, our trained delivery agent will require an acceptable photo ID … before handing the parcel to the individual. The proof of age requirement means we must also record the name and signature of the receiver.

All cannabis shipments will continue to require the use of a trackable service. Therefore, the sender, the receiver and Canada Post can track the package as it works its way through our processing and delivery network.

Detailed commercial and packaging guidelines based on federal and provincial requirements will be made available to licensed distributors, ensuring the parcel can be safely processed through the delivery network once inducted to a Canada Post facility.