Pubdate: Wed, 11 Feb 2015
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Herald Co.


Despite a year to research and ponder how to make legal cannabis - 
medical, recreational and industrial (hemp) - workable in this state, 
the Legislature is already in the middle of another mess. Some 
separate 18 cannabis-related bills were introduced in the House early 
on. Legislators decided that in order to get a better handle on them, 
they should all be rolled into one big bill, never mind the 
contradictions, duplications, etc., contained therein.

Reconciling the laws, the proposed bills, and orchestrating a new 
industry into a viable enterprise is definitely a complicated 
undertaking, and definitely should not be left to the Liquor Control 
Board to randomly decide. So much more must go into the 
decision-making besides visions of pots o' gold tax receipts. With 
the systems set up correctly, the taxes will come. But the needs of 
patients and customers must come first, like any business.

In January, Gov. Jay Inslee put it quite simply and correctly: "The 
most important thing is to come up with a legally sanctioned, safe 
system for medical marijuana users." The good news is, we already 
have a legally sanctioned, safe system for medical cannabis users. 
(And to repeat for those who don't seem to understand: The passage of 
Initiative 502 to legalize recreational marijuana did not supercede 
Initiative 962, which legalized medical cannabis, or provide the 
authority to dismantle its intent.)

The only thing missing from the medical cannabis system is mandatory 
testing of cannabis, which is required of recreational marijuana, and 
some sort of taxation. Rather than parroting over and over that the 
medical system is "largely unregulated," lawmakers need to examine 
the existing system, and they will find that many, many medical 
access points already do test their products, (and would welcome 
mandatory testing) and More than 300 dispensaries already pay taxes 
to the state, all but no one ever mentions that.

The other "unregulated" aspect of the medical system is the 
proliferation of "medical dispensaries" in Seattle and Tacoma that 
are really recreational marijuana shops; some don't even require 
people to show their medical marijuana cards. (Which are not as easy 
to obtain by reputable naturopaths and doctors, despite that one 
Hempfest article by the Seattle Times in which disreputable 
naturopaths were pretty much giving cards away.) The real 
dispensaries are a godsend for patients, who should never have to go 
to a recreational store for their medicine.

Last month, Congress approved an omnibus spending bill that bars the 
Justice Department from spending money to "prevent" states from 
"implementing" medical marijuana laws, and just a few days ago the 
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said not only is medical 
marijuana effective for some medical conditions, but its 
effectiveness means that a switch in federal drug policy may be on the horizon.

To make it all work, to eradicate the "black market," the Legislature 
needs to let cities share in the tax revenue from recreational shops 
and medical dispensaries. Big cities need to close down the 
non-medical "medical" dispensaries. (But don't go overboard, like 
Tacoma, which wants to close dispensaries because they don't meet 
I-502 guidelines. Again, medical cannabis was never intended to fall 
under I-502's rules.)

Lawmakers need to require testing and some taxation of medical 
cannabis. It needs to fold the collective gardens that supply the 
medical dispensaries into the system, which would regulate them. 
Allow everyone, not just patients, to grow some plants at home. (It's 
not easy.) And the Legislature must resist playing doctor: Reject the 
proposal to prevent other medical conditions from being added to the 
"approved" list of those that can benefit from cannabis. Veterans 
have been trying for years to get post-traumatic stress disorder 
listed, for example.

Put patients first, work with the system that already exists, and see 
if it isn't a little easier to reconcile the medical and recreational 
laws than the Legislature imagines.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom