Pubdate: Sat, 14 Feb 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Seattle Times Company
Authors: Rachel LaCorte and Gene Johnson


Dual Markets

Dispensaries Squeezing Us Out, Recreational Firms Have Complained

OLYMPIA - A measure seeking to reconcile Washington state's 
medical-marijuana industry with its heavily taxed recreational sector 
passed the Washington state Senate on Friday.

Senate Bill 5052 passed on a bipartisan 36-11 vote and now heads to 
the House for consideration. It is one of several measures brought 
forth by lawmakers this year after efforts to address the dual 
markets died in the House last session.

"The Senate sent a strong and clear message to the people of this 
state today that we're taking this issue seriously and we're going to 
keep working on it for the safety of our patients and the safety of 
our children," Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center, Clark County, 
who sponsored the bill, said after the vote. "There's tremendous will 
to get this done. We have got to get rid of the gray and black market."

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana 
to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started 
opening last summer.

Recreational businesses have complained that they're being squeezed 
by medical dispensaries that have proliferated in many parts of the 
state, providing lesser or untaxed alternatives to licensed 
recreational stores.

Among its many provisions, the bill passed Friday would create a 
database of patients, who would be allowed to possess three times as 
much marijuana as is allowed under the recreational law: 3 ounces 
dry, 48 ounces of marijuana-infused solids, 216 ounces liquid, and 21 
grams of concentrates. They could also grow as many as six plants at 
home, unless authorized to receive more by a health professional. It 
would also exempt patients from paying sales tax on medical products.

The measure would crack down on collective gardens, eliminating the 
current collective-garden structure starting July 1, 2016, but 
allowing four-patient "cooperatives." The cooperatives would be 
limited to a maximum of 60 plants, and the location of the collective 
would have to be registered with the state, and couldn't be within 15 
miles of a licensed pot retailer.

But it would also provide an avenue for existing collective gardens 
to stay in business, by requiring the state Liquor Control Board - 
which would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board under the bill - 
to adopt a merit-based system for granting marijuana licenses. Among 
the factors that could be considered are whether the applicant 
previously operated a collective garden, had a business license or 
paid business taxes.

The board would also raise its previously stated limit on marijuana 
retailers - 334 statewide - to accommodate the medical industry.

Several amendments failed, including one by Democratic Sen. Jeanne 
KohlWelles, of Seattle, that would have allowed all adults 21 or 
older to grow as many as six marijuana plants at home. Another 
amendment by Kohl-Welles - who has a separate bill addressing the two 
marijuana markets - that would have removed the registry aspect of 
the bill also failed. She called the registry an infringement of 
patients' privacy.

"What I am most concerned about is that patients have an adequate, a 
safe, a secure supply of the medicine that works for them without 
government intrusion and without a new bureaucracy being developed," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom