Pubdate: Wed, 29 Apr 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


Last week, Gov. Inslee signed a bill that will essentially destroy 
Washington's medical-marijuana system.

You might not care, but you should.

When the team behind Initiative 502 wrote their marijuana law, they 
left the already well-established medical dispensaries and collective 
gardens out of the equation, assuming they'd be dealt with at a later 
date. Well, they were dealt with, all right-last week the Governor 
signed a bill to eliminate both entirely.

Lawmakers in Olympia had been looking to overhaul the parallel 
medical- and recreational-marijuana systems, and agreed on a bill 
(from hell) that will close each and every medical-marijuana 
dispensary. I'm not going to get all policy-wonky on this and lose my 
audience in the third sentence. (Still with me?) So lemme just break 
this down with one simple point:

For millions of Americans, marijuana is medicine.

But most of us are not paying attention to this devastating 
legislative boondoggle, because-for most of us-cannabis is not 
stopping our seizures, halting our cancers, or helping to ease our 
chronic pain.

Yes, hundreds of storefronts are currently posing as medicinal 
dispensaries. And those false fronts are mucking up the legal retail 
system ushered in by I-502, which is designed to sell weed and 
collect taxes on said chronic.

Still, that's no excuse to derail a long-established collective that 
heals and soothes the masses.

The problem of rogue green-cross clowns and overgrown gardens can be 
fixed without eliminating the main source of medicine for a community 
that's been the very engine that started the GreenRush in the first place.

BuzzKill Bill 5052 has eliminated every non-I-502 store and suddenly 
tasked an already overwhelmed state Liquor (and now Cannabis) Control 
Board with evaluating and licensing a handful of medical dispensaries 
beginning in July 2016. But while dispensaries linger in the LCB 
Waiting Room, what might individuals with real medical needs do, 
exactly? Go back to Big Pharma and the addictive opiates that many of 
them have kicked by turning to cannabis?

And what about those in rural areas that have banned marijuana entirely?

Will Grandma with glaucoma get in her wagon and drive from Black 
Diamond to obtain her organic medicine?

Those on the outside might think patients can simply obtain their 
meds at a recreational store.

But I-502 shops are not set up for-and do not meet the needs 
of-medical patients.

Rec stores sell high-THC products for folks like me who want to get 
high as a kite for pure fun. As for lower-THC products, low-dose 
edibles, and specially formulated cannabidiol tinctures, not so much. 
Just as you wouldn't send a patient to talk to a bartender about pain 
relief, your average budtender doesn't have the hard-earned knowledge 
of proprietors at medical dispensaries, many of whom have been 
working hand-in-hand with farmers and MMJ companies since passage of 
the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative in 1998.

Different patients use different products to elevate their suffering: 
elixirs, cannabis juices, topicals, CBD oils, suppositories, and 
particular strains that have been fine-tuned, tested, and refined 
over a period of years.

Safe access to thousands of these unique products will no longer be 
available-because rec stores won't stock them. Why would they, when 
Bubba Kush and Sour Diesel are flying off the shelves?

And the common practice of medical dispensaries giving marijuana to 
low-income patients?

Not. Gonna. Happen. In fact, the new law slaps a 30 percent excise 
tax on medical sales.

There's also a not-so-little legal problem.

Bill 5052 mandates that in order for medical patients to receive 
their marijuana allotment (which has been lowered from 24 ounces to 
three), they must "voluntarily" put their names on a registry or database.

The patient registry forces them to admit to a federal felony-not a 
great choice for anyone who is interested in holding public office, 
in a custody dispute, or applying for a job that employs background checks.

And I'm no lawyer, but folks a lot smarter than me have pointed out 
that turning medical-marijuana regulations and oversight over to a 
Liquor Control Board is probably in violation of a whole lotta laws 
on the books at both the Food and Drug Administration and Department 
of Justice, not to mention that the registry is in clear violation of 
federal HIPAA laws.

One thing is for sure: Individuals and families being aided by 
cannabis are not going to go away just because we passed some 
dimwitted bill that eliminates their medical access.

As you or I would, they'll do whatever it takes to remain healthy.

They will operate underground, thrive in the black market, and risk 
prison to produce and distribute medicine to their veteran husbands, 
elderly parents, debilitated wives, and seizing children.

Our Grand Cannabis Experiment does need to be tinkered with, but not 
at the expense of the medical community.

If we're going to do this right, unlike the federal government, we 
must acknowledge and respect that cannabis is used to truly heal our 
loved ones in a myriad of ways for a plethora of ailments.

To herd patients into pot stores, take away their choices, eliminate 
their ability to speak to medical professionals in a safe 
environment, and force them to sign a registry admitting that they are felons?

That's not compassionate care, and it's not what true legalization 
should look like.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom