Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jan 2014
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press



Bill Would Reduce Amount of Marijuana, Number of Plants a Patient May

OLYMPIA (AP) - Supporters of the medical-marijuana system in
Washington crowded a public hearing Wednesday to decry a proposal to
change it.

The Health Care & Wellness Committee held its first hearing on a
measure seeking to overhaul the state's medical-marijuana system in
order to reconcile it with the new, legal recreational market.

The changes under the bill sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West
Seattle, include reducing the amount of marijuana and number of plants
that patients can possess; doing away with collective gardens; and
establishing a patient registry.

Lawmakers have worried that the largely unregulated medical system
would undercut the taxed, recreational industry. Meanwhile, U.S.
Justice Department officials have warned that the state's medical-pot
status quo is untenable.

"Neither one can move forward if we don't get regulated," said Cody,
the committee chairwoman, after the hearing.

She said she was confident the measure had enough support to advance
and that House and Senate members are working together on the issue.
"I think something will move," she said of the bill's chances for approval.

The state has allowed medical use of marijuana since 1998, and the
passage of Initiative 502 last year allowed the sale of the drug to
adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which are expected to
open by this summer.

But several medical-marijuana advocates say the changes will affect
their access unfairly.

Ryan Day, of Thurston County, told lawmakers his 5-year-old son has
intractable epilepsy and was having more than 100 seizures a day until
he started taking an extracted liquid form of medical marijuana.

Day said he wants to grow the plants his son needs at home but that
the bill is too limiting and wouldn't allow him to do so. "Under the
current proposal, we wouldn't be able to provide the medicine my son
needs," he said.

Day said extracts require more plants than the proposed law allows.
And to purchase the medicine from an authorized store would cost him
more than $15,000 a year.

"If this bill goes through, you're going to put me and my family in
the impossible situation of treating our son and becoming criminals,"
he said. "We are good taxpaying, law-abiding citizens who just want to
help our son."

In December, the state's Liquor Control Board gave its final
recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the medical
system can be brought under the umbrella of Initiative 502.

It suggested allowing licensed I-502 stores to sell medical cannabis,
which would be subject to the same high excise taxes as recreational
pot. However, patients who sign up for a proposed mandatory state
registry of medical-marijuana users would be exempt from sales taxes.
The board called for patients to be allowed to grow six plants. Under
current regulations, they can grow 15.

The board also suggested eliminating collective gardens and reducing
how much pot patients can have from 24 ounces to 3 ounces - which is
still more than the 1 ounce adults are allowed under the recreational

A separate bill being heard by the House Finance Committee would
create a sales-and-use tax exemption for qualified patients who
purchase marijuana or marijuana-infused products for medical use from
authorized retail outlets licensed by the Liquor Control Board.

Cody's bill doesn't address the taxing structure but does integrate
the suggestions on reduced number of plants and the number of ounces
possessed by a patient, as well as the elimination of collective
gardens. However, her bill also eliminates the ability for patients to
grow their own cannabis after July 1, 2020, which one Republican
lawmaker on the panel questioned.

"At this point you would be establishing a Liquor Control Board
monopoly after 2020," said Rep. Matt Manweller, of Ellensburg, a
response met with applause by medical-marijuana backers in the crowd. 
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