New Rules Proposed for Washington State’s Medical Marijuana System

With retail sales of marijuana set to begin in a matter of weeks, Washington State’s Medical Marijuana Work Group, which is comprised of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Revenue, released new recommendations relating to the sale and distribution of medicinal marijuana within the state.

The recommendations arise from state lawmakers’ concerns that Washington’s current medicinal marijuana regulations (or lack thereof) will make the taxation and regulation of the recreational marijuana market much more difficult, something that may negatively affect the rollout of the recreational retail market.

The new recommendations are broken into eight parts:

Age limits: the recommendations would allow adults between 18 and 20 to have access to medicinal marijuana with authorization. It would also allow minors to have access to medicinal marijuana with the consent of a parent or guardian. Recreational users must be 21 years of age to possess and use marijuana under I-502.

Authorization for medicinal use: the recommendations call for a mandatory registry for both patients and designated providers. It would allow tax exempt purchases from retail stores, in lieu of a dispensary.

Regulations for health care professionals: these regulations would prohibit practices from primarily authorizing the use of medicinal marijuana. It would also make demonstrating a medical necessity far more difficult.

Collective gardens: the recommendations call for the elimination of collective gardens.

Possession amounts: the amount of medicinal marijuana that a patient or designated provider could possess would be reduced and home growing would be eliminated. The new recommendations would allow for patients or providers to possess three ounces, down from twenty-four ounces. I-502 allows recreational users to possess one ounce of marijuana.

Location requirements: location requirements wouldn’t change as they would be in line with the requirements currently in place for retail locations as laid out by I-502.

Producing, processing and retail licensing requirements: the recommendations would establish a single system for licensing both medicinal and recreational processors, which is in contrast to I-502’s three tier system.

Taxation: the recommendation is that medicinal marijuana would be taxed the same as recreational marijuana; however, patients on the recommended registry would be exempt from taxes when purchasing from a retail seller.

While supporters of recreational and medicinal marijuana share a desire to see both systems succeed, there are some concerns amongst the medicinal community. Are there too many new recommendations and in what fashion will they be applied? Will the increased regulation and lowering of the medicinal possession limit make it more difficult for medical patients to get access? And, finally, could a mandatory registry for medicinal patients make medicinal patients easy targets for law enforcement?

A deadline for comments on the recommendations has passed and the final recommendations are due before state legislature by the end of the year. Once the recommendations have been accepted, the changes are set to go into effect January 1st, 2015.

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