Pubdate: Sat, 25 Apr 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Authors: Rachel La Corte and Gene Johnson, The Associated Press


Recreational Shops to Sell Medical Products

Cooperative Grows Limited to No More Than 4 Patients

OLYMPIA (AP) - Nearly two decades after voters passed a 
medical-marijuana law that often left police, prosecutors and even 
patients confused about what was allowed, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a 
bill Friday attempting to clean up that largely unregulated system 
and harmonize it with Washington's new market for recreational pot.

Among the law's many provisions, it creates a voluntary registry of 
patients and, beginning next year, eliminates what have become in 
some cases large, legally dubious "collective gardens" providing 
cannabis to thousands of people.

Instead, those patients will be able to purchase medical-grade 
products at legal recreational marijuana stores that obtain an 
endorsement to sell medical marijuana, or they'll be able to 
participate in much-smaller cooperative grows of up to just four patients.

And those big medical-marijuana gardens will be given what lawmakers 
describe as a path to legitimacy: The state will grant priority in 
licensing to those that have been good actors, such as by paying 
business taxes.

"I am committed to ensuring a system that serves patients well and 
makes medicine available in a safe and accessible manner, just like 
we would do for any medicine," Inslee wrote in his signing message to 
the Legislature.

The proliferation of greencross medical dispensaries has long been a 
concern for police and other officials who decry them as a masquerade 
for black-market sales. Some proprietors of new, state-licensed 
recreational pot businesses - saddled with higher taxes - called them 
unfair competitors.

Washington in 1998 became one of the first states to approve the use 
of marijuana for medical purposes, but the initiative passed by 
voters did not allow commercial sales. Instead, patients had to grow 
the marijuana for themselves or designate someone to grow it for 
them. The measure did not prohibit patients from pooling their 
resources to have large collective gardens on a single property, but 
the size of some made law enforcement queasy, and raids sometimes resulted.

Medical-marijuana growers repeatedly sought legislation that would 
validate their business model, coming closest in 2011, when the 
Legislature approved a bill to create a licensing framework for 
medical dispensaries. But then-Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed much of the measure.

This time, with the state seeking to support its nascent 
recreational-pot industry after the passage of Initiative 502 in 
2012, there was a financial impetus to pull the medical users into 
the recreational system. The recreational businesses pressed for a 
tight rein on the medical industry with newfound lobbying muscle, and 
the medical businesses countered with some of their own.

That left advocates concerned that the people who are actually sick 
were the ones losing out. Under the new system, patients will be 
buying more heavily taxed marijuana, and they'll be allowed to grow 
fewer plants at home.

"This is pejorative to patients while being friendly to those who are 
in the business of patients," said Muraco Kyashna-tocha, who operated 
a Seattle medical dispensary. "There are sincere patients who don't 
have any money. They're cancer patients who are being bankrupted by 
their treatment."

Under the new law, patients who join the voluntary registry will 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. Such a 
patient could also grow up to six plants at home, unless authorized 
to receive more.

Patients who don't join the registry can possess the same as the 
recreational limit of 1 ounce, and grow up to four plants at home - 
which recreational users can't.

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center and the sponsor of the measure, 
said part of the reason the registry is so important is to find out 
if there are enough stores providing medical products to patients.

"We have no idea how many patients we have in this state," she said.

Inslee, who vetoed some minor sections of the bill, was joined during 
the signing by Ryan Day and his epileptic 6-year-old son, Haiden. The 
boy's seizures have been managed with an extracted liquid form of marijuana.

Day said the new law gives his family more certainty.

"We were under the threat every single year that the system was going 
to change in a way that was going to take away my ability to help my 
son," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom