Pubdate: Wed, 17 Apr 2013
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2013 The Olympian
Author: Jimmy Lovaas


Medical marijuana advocates are divided on a bill that would give the 
state Liquor Control Board regulatory control over medical marijuana 
similar to that it has over recreational pot.

State senators met Tuesday to consider a bill that would task the 
liquor board with licensing and regulating medical cannabis 
dispensaries, processors and growers.

The bill also authorizes a 20 percent excise tax on the wholesale 
sale of medical marijuana or a 10 percent tax on the retail sale of 
medical marijuana if the grower is also the processor or dispenser.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, who sponsored Senate Bill 5887, said 
the bill would close a loophole that would allow people to "sidestep" 
Initiative 502's framework for legal recreational pot sales and buy 
cheaper marijuana at medical dispensaries.

Under I-502, the state will issue licenses to marijuana growers, 
processors and retail stores, with the marijuana taxed 25 percent at 
each stage.

The initiative, approved by voters last year, also established strict 
buffers between pot shops and places where children tend to go, and 
charged the liquor board with adopting rules on security and other 
safety measures.

Ezra Eickmeyer, a lobbyist with The Washington Cannabis Association, 
said stricter regulation of medical marijuana is necessary in order 
to legitimize the cannabis industry and help it avoid legal troubles.

Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police 
Chiefs agreed. His group opposes the proposal's enhanced arrest 
protection for patients, but he said he generally supports efforts to 
regulate medical marijuana.

"I believe that the closer we can bring the medicinal market to 502, 
we stand the best chance at avoiding federal intervention," Pierce said.

Federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, and the U.S. 
Justice Department has not said how it intends to respond to 
legalization of recreational pot in Washington and Colorado.

Rivers' bill would also change the amount of medical marijuana 
providers can sell. The law currently allows providers to use 
collective gardens to supply marijuana for up to 10 patients at a 
time. If SB 5887 is approved, that number would increase to 10 
patients per day.

Most collective gardens are currently getting around the 10-patient 
limit by calling each customer a patient for only as long as the 
transaction takes.

Critics alleged the proposal is an attempt by bigger, more powerful 
growers to drive out the little guys.

Phil Wayt, a marijuana industry lobbyist with the Northwest Producers 
and Processors Association, which supports the bill, called the 
proposal a starting point.

"This begins the discussion of how to combine and regulate the two 
platforms in the cannabis industry that appear to be on a collision 
course," Wayt said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom