Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jun 2013
Source: Bellingham Herald (WA)
Copyright: 2013 Bellingham Herald
Author: Jay Berneburg
Note: Jay Berneburg is an attorney who has practiced in Pierce County for
more than 15 years and works extensively on marijuana issues.


Currently, access to medical marijuana in Washington is, for the most 
part, unregulated. If the recreational marijuana program in 
Washington is going to be successful, the Legislature must pass 
legislation regulating access to medical marijuana.

However, this legislation must regulate medical marijuana separately 
from recreational marijuana to protect patient access to medical marijuana.

As the Liquor Control Board moves forward in setting up a system to 
serve recreational marijuana users, it has become increasingly 
fearful that the state-licensed stores might not succeed because many 
of their customers are already being served by medical marijuana 
providers. If medical marijuana outcompetes recreational marijuana, 
the state-licensed stores will fail.

The fact of the matter is, medical and recreational should not be 
competing markets. Medical marijuana is supposed to be for people 
with terminal illnesses and debilitating conditions, while 
recreational marijuana is for everybody else who wants to use marijuana.

However, when viewed as competing markets, medical marijuana has an 
unfair advantage over recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been lawful for more than 15 years, and while 
there is disagreement as to what extent, it is an accepted fact that 
medical suppliers already supply many recreational users. Medical 
marijuana is, to an unbelievable extent, unregulated, while 
recreational is, also to an unbelievable extent, overregulated.

Medical marijuana is completely untaxed, while recreational marijuana 
will be overtaxed. Medical marijuana suppliers advertise extensively 
in slick trade magazines and on the Internet, while advertising for 
recreational marijuana suppliers is strictly limited by statute.

Are you starting to get the picture?

An important consideration of many people who voted in favor of 
recreational marijuana was increased revenue to the state by taxing 
marijuana. Our Legislature needs to give effect to the will of the 
voters and do what it can to make the recreational marijuana program a success.

However, the Legislature cannot eliminate medical marijuana or 
regulate to such an extent that it impossible to get. The Legislature 
also needs to give effect to the will of the voters who want medical 
marijuana to be available to people who need it as medicine.

Medical marijuana is not the same marijuana as recreational 
marijuana. Recreational users, who use marijuana to get high, are 
primarily interested with the level of THC, the psychoactive 
component of marijuana. Medical marijuana patients are more 
interested in the level of cannabinoids, the analgesic and curative 
component of marijuana.

Medical marijuana patients have different needs than recreational 
users. State law permits medical patients to possess a 60-day supply 
of marijuana. The Department of Health has determined that a 60-day 
supply is 24 ounces and 15 plants. Recreational users are limited to 
one ounce, and they cannot grow their own.

Medical marijuana is important medicine. Consider a sample of the 
latest scientific research.

* March 2013: Researchers at the University of California Davis 
Medical Center conducted a double blind placebo-controlled study and 
concluded that vaporized marijuana is helpful in treating neuropathic pain.

* April 2013: A United Nations Children's Fund report found a 
correlation between decriminalizing cannabis and a reduction in youth 
usage rates.

* May 2013: The Journal of Leukocyte Biology concluded that THC is 
helpful in combating HIV.

* May 2013: The American Journal of Medicine reports that marijuana 
consumption may combat diabetes.

Space prohibits a more comprehensive list.

Clearly, the Legislature needs to level the playing field. However, 
the Legislature must also pay attention to the will of the voters and 
balance the competing interests of medical and recreational.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom