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Medical marijuana

Summary

In 1998, Washington voters approved a law allowing state residents to legally purchase, possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But the law is vague, creating problems for users and law enforcement. At issue is the legal phrase “only one patient at any one time,” regarding the sale of marijuana from a care provider.

Marijuana advocates argue the law allows dispensaries to essentially become the care provider for the limited time when they sell to each licensed marijuana card holder.

Spokane County law enforcement officials have a different interpretation. Prosecutors say the law makes no provision for commercial dispensaries or the sale of marijuana.

Latest updates in this topic

WALeg Day 103: Inslee signs medical marijuana bill

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed the omnibus which brings medical marijuana under some of the same oversight as the state’s recreational pot system. It sets up a voluntary patient registry, requires medical growers to register with the state and allows medical pot sales out of recreational stores that get an additional qualification. Patients will be able to grow their own or join small cooperatives, but the large collective grows will be eliminated. It’s strictly a policy bill, and the revenue bill won’t pass before the Legislature’s regular session adjourns today. Supporters say, however, they’re close to a deal that could allow the other bill to pass in the upcoming special session.

Senate passes medical marijuana changes

OLYMPIA – A major revision to the state's marijuana laws that blends the medical and recreational systems and sets up a voluntary registry for adult patients, overwhelmingly passed the Senate Tuesday and was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Changes to the two systems – the heavily regulated recreational pot and the largely unregulated medical marijuana – drew some of the largest and most vocal crowds as it worked its way through a series of legislative committee hearings over the last three months. Some patients said they were afraid to register as a user of a drug that is still illegal under federal law. Others urged legislators not to disrupt their access to strains of marijuana that were successfully treating pain, epilepsy, cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder when pharmaceuticals have failed them.

New recreational marijuana entrepreneurs that started growing and processing operations or opened stores said they were being put at a disadvantage by medical dispensaries that didn’t pay the same taxes or meet the same strict growing and testing requirements.

The Cannabis Patient Protection Act passed on a 41-8 vote. It changes the tax structure for marijuana, allows recreational shops to obtain licenses to sell medical versions and gives medical patients exemptions from some taxes if they register and show their “recognition card”.

The cards must be obtained after an examination by a health professional for a qualifying medical condition, that must be renewed annually for adults and every six months for minors.

Minors could not be in control of their marijuana, however; it would have to be under the control of a parent or guardian.

The Liquor Control Board – to be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board – given the job of licensing medical marijuana businesses that are currently unregulated. Voters gave the board authority over the recreational marijuana system when they approved Initiative 502 in 2012, and the limits the board placed on the amount of land that can grow the plant and the number of stores that can sell it would be increased to handle the demand from patients.

Medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for licenses and would get preference if they have a record of obtaining required business licenses and paying taxes. Their products would have to be tested to be free of pesticides, mold and other contaminants as recreational pot now is. Medical patients could grow varying amounts of the plant themselves, depending on their condition, and could form small cooperatives. But collective gardens that serve large numbers of patients would be banned.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said the provisions that allow different numbers of plants for different patients were confusing, and she worried that some in rural areas will not immediately have access to medical marijuana.

“It’s going to work out in the long run, but I’m worried about the patients,” said Kohl-Welles, who has been a leader in marijuana legislation for some 20 years. 

WaLeg Day 89: House begins debate on pot bills

OLYMPIA — The House began debating the Cannabis Patient Protection Act about 4:25 p.m.

First up was an amendment to eliminate the proposed registry for medical marijuana patients. It failed.

Next was an amendment that gives preference for medical marijuana licenses to existing license owners who have paid their taxes. It passed.

Next was an amendment that prohibited possession by someone under 21, regardless of THC content. It passed.

An amendment to add traumatic brain injury to the list of conditions eligible for treatment with marijuana passed.

An amendment making it a felony to illegally access the database or reveal information for it passed.

An amendment to remove marijuana from the state's schedule 1 list, which is only for drugs that have no accepted medical use and a high level for abuse, passed.

An effort to "de-link" the bill from a separate bill that revises marijuana taxes failed.

A major rewrite — which includes making the database a voluntary "blind registry" without addresses listed; allows patients as young as 18 to be medical marijuana patient; allows one patient to give or sell marijuana to another patient; expands size and membership in community gardens, and allows broader growing and production of medical marijuana products —failed

The revised bill, which makes changes to the medical marijuana and requires a database for patients, passed on a vote of 60-36. 

WaLeg Day 71: Pot vending machines? Drive-thru sales? Research licenses?

OLYMPIA – Voter approval of recreational marijuana didn’t close off legislative discussions on pot, it merely provided a springboard into new questions, sessions in House committees proved Monday.

Should the state allow customers to pick up their recreational marijuana at a drive-through window? Doesn’t happen anywhere right now, but Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, is afraid it might someday. The Senate unanimously approved a bill that says they couldn't, and the House Commerce and Gaming Committee took a similarly dim view.

Should customers be able to buy at a vending machine?  The same bill would ban the machines, which aren't in use in Washington right now. Bailey is also worried that some day they will be, and minors would get access to marijuana through them.

“This is all about our kids,” Bailey said.

Members of Commerce and Gaming weren’t so convinced, considering the machines would be in state licensed stores, which already bar minors. They suggested the state could OK machines in licensed stores with sophisticated software that reads a driver’s license to check age, matches the photo on the card with the person at the machine through facial recognition and limits the amount any one customer can buy in a 24-hour-period.

But the machines couldn’t stock any edible pot products that the state restricts for fear they could easily be mistaken as something else and eaten by children, committee members said.

Representatives of American Green said that was doable. They've spent about $2 million developing such a device, which they call a verified vending platform, not a vending machine.

Should customers be able to smoke their marijuana in public? The 2012 initiative said no, but didn’t do a very good job of defining “in public.” The Liquor Control Board wants more clarification through a bill that would define it much like alcohol, and also ban it in parks.

Brianna Taylor, a lobbyist for the city of Spokane Valley, said the proposed definition should go farther and outlaw lounges where marijuana users might gather to consume their pot. The Valley has such a place, she said, and if the state won’t ban them outright, it should give cities and counties the authority to do it within their borders, she said.

Bad idea for a legal substance that is giving the state tax revenue, said Arthur West, an Olympia resident and government watchdog. “Where are people going to be smoking this weed? They should do so in the broad light of day in front of God and everybody. That’s what legalization’s about.”

Should researchers be able to study marijuana in Washington? Yes, said Jessica Tonani, of the research firm Verda Bio, because the plant has a genome that is roughly 10 times more diverse than the human genome and can have 85 different cannabinoids in a wide variety of concentrations.

“It’s silly to call marijuana medicine when you don’t really know what’s in it,” Committee Chairman Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said.

But it’s impossible to do research right now because of all the different strains of marijuana now being grown, Tonani said.

The committee is considering a Senate-approved bill that would add a marijuana research license to the current licenses that cover growing, processing and selling the drug, with research applications reviewed by the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund Authority.

Later in the day, the House Appropriations Committee held hearings on a comprehensive bill that looked at many of those questions as well as ways of combining the state’s recreational and medical marijuana systems, rearranging the tax structure and providing some of the money the state collects to cities and counties that allow marijuana businesses.

All of the bills are expected to get committee votes in the coming weeks.

Valley asks for rules against marijuana “lounges”

OLYMPIA – As legislators worked this week to blend the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws, Spokane Valley officials asked them to consider one more wrinkle in the rapidly changing marketplace: pot lounges.

The Members Lounge, which is connected to a medical marijuana dispensary and allows consumption of some vapor and edible marijuana products on its premises, is an example of where the state’s two very different systems don’t mesh well. Using recreational marijuana in public is not legal, but the law is silent on public consumption of medical marijuana and the lounge contends its patrons aren’t in public but become members of a private club by paying a fee.

“I don’t want to insinuate they are doing anything illegal,” Valley City Attorney Eric Lamb said Thursday. “But bars have to get liquor licenses, why not marijuana lounges?”

Wednesday evening, a lobbyist for the Valley asked the House Finance Committee to add restrictions on marijuana lounges to the wide array of changes it is considering for medical and recreational pot. There’s nothing in the current proposals to address them, and there should be, Brianna Taylor said.

It was the first of night and morning hearings on a series of marijuana-related proposals on which the Legislature seems to be focusing after considering a wide array of ideas in the first eight weeks of the session.

“I think we all know that the people of Washington have embarked on a very important experiment that has social and economic and criminal justice implications,” Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said. “We are all doing our best to embrace the will of the people and have a well-regulated and appropriately taxed marijuana market.”

That committee is considering changes to the tax system the voters slapped on recreational marijuana, which currently charges a 25 percent excise tax each time the drug moves from a grower to a separate processor and then to a retailer. If the grower also has a license to process what he or she grows, it’s only taxed twice. Members of the Washington Cannabusiness Association – which represent recreational marijuana operations –said they are struggling under the weight of taxes and regulation. They’d support the proposed change for the state to levy a single 30 percent sales at the retail level. It would lower the expected revenue to the state, but also drop the price of pot in the stores, making it closer to the cost of the illegal market.

Store owners could deduct sales tax paid to the state under federal tax rules, something they can’t do with the excise tax. Medical marijuana patients who are on a registry could be exempted from the sales tax when shopping at a recreational store.

Medical marijuana dispensaries would either have to be licensed by the state or close under that proposal and a separate one that has passed the Senate and received a hearing in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee Thursday morning. Cannabusiness members welcome that change because they contend the unregulated medical sellers are undercutting their prices while inventory of recreational pot piles up.

The medical marijuana businesses and users are split on the efforts to blend them into the more heavily regulated recreational system operated by the state Liquor Control Board.

Rick Rosio, a Spokane resident and member of Veterans for Compassionate Care, which advocates using the drug to treat some cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, told the Health Care Committee it was “important that structure be brought to the medical marijuana community.” Americans for Safe Access, an organization that represents some patients and dispensaries, support the changes the Finance Committee is considering.

But Steve Sarich of Cannabis Action Coalition, a separate group of medical marijuana businesses and patients, denounced the efforts to bring that system under the Liquor Board and require patients to register as an effort to disband the medical market. “This looks like a declaration of war to me,” he told the Finance Committee, which could vote on the bill as early as Friday.

Both proposals would require medical marijuana patients to register in some form with the state to shop at licensed dispensaries or to get a tax break at recreational stores that receive an expanded license to carry medicinal strains. Every other state that has legalized medical marijuana has some sort of database, Vicki Christopherson, of the Washington Cannabusiness Association, said.

It also would provide valuable demographic data on patients and prescribers, Kristy Weeks, of the state Department of Health, said. “When people ask how many patients do you have in the state of Washington, I don’t know.”

There’s also no accurate count of the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, although David Mendoza, of the Seattle mayor’s staff, said a recent check in that city showed 103 within its borders. Half have opened since November 2012, when voters approved recreational marijuana, so it’s doubtful they are all just filling the need of medical marijuana patients, Mendoza said.

Some patients and co-op operators told legislators they are worried about any kind of registry.

“It gives the feds everything they need to come after patients and providers,” said Toni Mills of The Human Solutions International, a pro-marijuana network. She cited the recent case in U.S. District Court in Spokane of the Kettle Falls 5, in which a group of medical marijuana patients were tried on federal drug charges and couldn’t tell the jury they were patients or cite state laws.

But Jeff Gilmore, a licensed recreational marijuana grower, cited the same case as an example of growing public acceptance of the drug. Jurors acquitted the three defendants who eventually came to trial on four of five counts, he said. “The public is not going to tolerate a witch hunt.” 

Senate passes medical marijuana changes

OLYMPIA – Major changes to the state's medical marijuana passed the Senate after sponsors beat back a challenge to requirements for a patient database and a plea to let recreational users grow their own.

Medical marijuana stores would be regulated by the Liquor Control Board, which currently licenses recreational pot growers and sellers, under a bill drafted by La Center Republican Ann Rivers and Raymond Democrat Brian Hatfield. The agency would expand the number of licensed stores to meet the medical market, and current recreational marijuana stores could get an endorsement to sell special medical strains, which patients could buy without paying some of the heavy taxes on recreational pot.

The number of plants a patient could grow at home would be cut from 15 to six in most cases, although the number could go up with a doctor’s recommendation. Collective gardens, which some people blame for the explosion in unregulated dispensaries, would be severely restricted.

Reconciling the state's different recreational and medical marijuana laws is one of the major tasks in this year's Legislature, and Friday’s vote was the first on the floor of either chamber.

It passed on a bipartisan count of 36-11. But before that vote took opponents tried unsuccessfully to strip a requirement that all patients must be entered in a database maintained by the state Department of Health, and add a provision that recreational users could grow up to six plants at home, just like medical for their private use.

Current medical marijuana laws allow individuals to grow some plants for themselves, or as part of a co-operative. Recreational marijuana laws, however, do not allow for individuals to grow any plants at home, and instead restrict that use of the drug to tightly regulated production and sales overseen by the Liquor Control Board.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, said other states that have legalized recreational marijuana allow for a few plants to be grown at home, and allowing medical cooperatives to continue banning individual recreational growers “makes no sense.”

“We allow home-brewing for beer,” Kohl-Wells said.

But Rivers, R-La Center, said the initiative that voters approved for recreational marijuana in 2012 banned home grows. Legislators in Colorado, which also legalized recreational use, have told her they believed that state was wrong to allow people to grow marijuana at home, she added: “They said ‘It is a genie you can't get back in the bottle.’” 

She also defended the database for medical marijuana users, saying other states have some system for registering those patients.

Kohl-Wells got support from Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republican in the fight to replace the database with a state-issued authorization card: “I think registries are a bad thing," Dansel said, adding that registries for some over-the-counter drugs are different because those drugs can be more harmful, but they aren't against federal law.

An amendment to replace the database with Department of Health issued authorization cards failed on a 21-26 vote, and several other amendments were defeated on voice votes. 

WALeg Day 22: 18 pot bills rolled into HB 1461

OLYMPIA – A House panel rolled 18 different proposals to change Washington’s marijuana laws into a single wide-ranging bill Monday, hoping to address at least some problems with the state’s medical and recreational pot systems.

As currently written, the bill includes some contradictory provisions. Several sections restrict the ability of cities or counties can to ban recreational marijuana businesses in some sections; another bans all recreational pot and any medical form of the drug that doesn’t come in a pill.

“We will be making major changes to the marijuana laws here in Washington state,” Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Pierce County, said at the start of two days worth of hearings on the omnibus bill. “I am convinced that before the session is over there will be licenses for medical marijuana.”

Hurst, chairman of the House Commerce and Gambling Committee, said the many different proposals were joined into a single bill to avoid 18 separate hearings on the topic. Some ideas will be discarded and others will be changed, he predicted.

Medical marijuana, which currently is unlicensed and untaxed, would come under some form of state scrutiny, either from the Liquor Control Board, which oversees recreational marijuana, or the Department of Health because of its medicinal properties, or Department of Agriculture because it’s a new commodity.

Cities and counties might be able to ban both kinds of marijuana businesses, but only if voters approve. Local governments might be offered a share of the tax revenue the state collects on marijuana as a way to head off bans or moratoria; if they set up a ban, they might not get any pot tax money. They might also be able to adjust the distances those businesses must be located from some child-related facilities.

Some health and beauty products that contain chemicals from cannabis might go unregulated. The state might require patients to have a numbered “verification card” from their doctor, but the state database might not contain the patient’s identity. It might license businesses that deliver marijuana to consumers, which is currently illegal. It might set aside some money to fight illegal marijuana sales, and stiffen penalties for selling otherwise legal pot to minors, or smoking it in public.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, generated some grumbling from a generally pro-marijuana crowd for his suggestion that all recreational marijuana be outlawed and medical patients be limited to pills.

“This is something we need to do for the safety of Washington citizens, especially children,” Klippert said.

On the flip side of the issue, Hurst said the state should consider auctioning to licensed growers and processors the marijuana seized from illegal operations. “It keeps us from destroying a product that has value…that’s a leftover from the war on drugs.”

WALeg Day 9: Bill would blend state’s 2 pot systems

OLYMPIA – Medical marijuana would come under some of the same licensing requirements as the recreational form of the drug but its buyers would pay fewer taxes under a plan to harmonize the state’s two pot systems.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, announced Tuesday the Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Act, one of several medical marijuana bills expected in this session, saying patients need certainty in the quality of the drug they are getting.

Her bill would give the state Liquor Control Board, which now controls recreational marijuana, in charge of licensing and regulating medical marijuana. Recreational stores could receive endorsements to sell the medical products, medical dispensaries with clean records would have an easy time receiving licenses and patients would not have to pay some of the high taxes for their products. Among other proposals in the bill:

Growers of medical marijuana would be subject to the same quality control and testing requirements as the recreational growers, who can’t use most chemicals to control pests and mold.

Adults in Washington would also be able to grow up to six plants in their home for either medical or recreational use.

Cities and counties that want to ban or restrict legal marijuana businesses would have to get voter approval.

Another bill, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, by Sens. Ann Rivers, R-Vancouver, and Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, is scheduled for a hearing later this week in the Senate Health Care Committee. Kohl-Wells said she expects the final proposal to pass the Legislature will have elements of both, but insisted “we’ve got to have a law passed this session.”  

Lawmakers wary of marijuana-derived treatment for seriously ill child

The parents of a terribly ill 9-year-old Idaho girl worked with state lawmakers from both parties this past session, Boise State Public Radio’s Adam Cotterell reports, to get an exception to Idaho’s strict anti-marijuana laws for a treatment that could help reduce the child’s frequent, lengthy seizures – but, while lacking in the ingredients that cause users to become high, is extracted from the marijuana plant. However, Cotterell reports, though lawmakers initially kept telling the Idaho couple there was a chance, no legislation was drafted or introduced.

Senate Health & Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, told Cotterell, “This would not be an easy sell, I don’t think, in Idaho, given the nature of our conservative Legislature.” Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, however, said the issue is separate from medical marijuana, and he’s confident lawmakers can address it next year. “If we can find a way that doesn’t legalize marijuana but helps these kids, I believe Idahoans and Idaho legislators are compassionate and will want to work on this,” he said. Utah already has passed an exception for the specific treatment oil to help patients with the rare condition. Idaho lawmakers last year passed a resolution opposing any future legalization of marijuana in the state for any purpose; it passed the Senate 29-5 and the House 63-7. You can see and hear Cotterell’s full story here.

Marijuana food truck detouring to Black Diamond

A "food truck" that plans to offer marijuana laced offerings as part of a plan to sell a "foodie" kitchen gadget has rerouted.

Instead of attending a public market just outside of Everett this weekend, it will make a stop at a marijuana farmer's market in Black Diamond, the Everett Herald reports.

As Spin Control previously noted, state officials had raised questions this week about the legality of the truck, which is outside the state's recreational marijuana statutes but plans to sell pot-infused sandwich offerings under the medical marijuana provisions to customers who have a valid doctor's recommendation..

 

Marijuana food truck testing the waters in Everett

A food truck with marijuana-infused offerings plans to be open this weekend at an Everett public market, although state officials say it would be operating in a "gray area" of Washington law. (Update: The truck cancelled plans Thursday for Everett and is instead planning to stop at a marijuana market in Black Diamond.) 

The SAMICH truck, a reconfigured school bus decked out with kitchen equipment and operated by the Magical Butter company, will be selling food items that contain as much as 100 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The food is a way of demonstrating a machine that helps infuse marijuana into various food products.

But there's a catch. Not everyone can place an order for their sandwiches that offer nut butter and jelly, Vietnamese pork or turkey and stuffing. . . 

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Initiatives on medical marijuana, minimum wage fall far short of mark, won’t be on ballot

Yesterday was the deadline to turn in signatures to qualify initiatives for the November ballot, and Boise State Public Radio reports that neither measure that was being circulated made the mark, or even came close. The backers of the initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in only 559 signatures after a year of trying, BSPR reports, while those pushing for an increased minimum wage in Idaho had 8,301 qualified signatures at the deadline. Each needed 53,751 to qualify for the November ballot; you can read BSPR’s full report here.

State to dispensaries: Pay your taxes

OLYMPIA – The state Revenue Department is stepping up efforts to make medical marijuana dispensaries pay their taxes.

After more than two years of “educational outreach” designed teach medical marijuana businesses that they must register with the state and pay taxes, the department says in a memo this week it will go after dispensaries that continue to ignore the law.

Dispensaries owe business and occupation taxes on their gross receipts. They must also collect sales tax on marijuana and “medibles” – the edible products containing the drug – and send it in. . .

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Smile when you call it “weed”

OLYMPIA – “Weed” is not an official weed, at least not in Washington, not now.

So says the state Noxious Weed Control Board, which recently discussed whether various forms of cannabis, from recreational marijuana to industrial hemp, should be considered for its list of plants that need to be controlled. . . 

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WA Lege 2014: The done and the undone

OLYMPIA – The Legislature closed up shop with seven minutes before its constitutionally mandated midnight stopping time Thursday, ending a short session that was short on expectations, and many would argue, short on accomplishments.

After passing an updated operating budget that even supporters said contained plenty of things to dislike, a couple of bills on many legislators’ priority lists were saved from oblivion and moved back and forth between chambers with admirable speed.

Military veterans were granted in-state tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities, regardless of how long they’ve been in the state. A $40 fee home buyers pay to file their documents, which pays for programs to fight homelessness but due to expire this year, was extended until 2019.

Meanwhile, the subject getting the most attention seemed to be deciding what medical procedures can be performed by plebotomists, medical assistants who draw blood. A phlebotomist bill ping-ponged back and forth across the Rotunda and showed up on one floor or the other eight times in the last eight days as the chambers tweaked the bill with amendments. It eventually had to be untweaked because the wrong amendment was added – and approved – before people noticed, so that amendment had to be subtracted and replaced, prompting three roll-call votes on the last day.

“I didn’t know what a phlebotomist was until today,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, deadpanned. . . 

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Sunday Spin: Shouldn’t all fields be level by now?

OLYMPIA – There is so much talk in legislative debates of the need to level the playing field that one wonders if an army of bulldozers should be dispatched to sporting facilities around the state.

Such leveling is almost always a major part of any call for tax breaks, whether it's for server farms or border-community retail stores. But the playing fields for alcohol sales are apparently the most cattywampus, judging from efforts to “tweak” Initiative 1183.

You remember I-1183, the initiative that was going to lower the price of hooch and make everyone happy by getting government out of the liquor business and letting the marketplace take control?. . . 

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Medical pot bill moves to House

OLYMPIA — A proposal to restrict medical marijuana and put it under the state Liquor Control Board was sent to the full House this morning.

After adding more flexibility on the amount of the drug or number of plants a patient might have, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed HB 2149 on a 12-5 vote.

Medical marijuana is largely unregulated in the state right now, while a tightly regulated recreational marijuana system is being set up by the state Liquor Control Board. The bill would put medical marijuana sales under the liquor board and cut back the amount a patient could possess.

Under the 1998 initiative, patients are allowed to have as much as 24 ounces of the drug. The bill would cut that to three ounces, but allow a doctor to recommend a higher amount, particularly for patients who use oils derived from the plant.

It would ban medical marijuana dispensaries which have sprung up around the state to service the medical marijuana market under the state's collective grow statutes. That was never the intent of the law, Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said.

The bill is still "a work in progress", Ranking Republican Joe Schmick of Colfax said, and likely to change. The Senate also has two bills trying to blend the two marijuana statutes, but with different provisions. 

Medical pot bills generating rifts among patient groups

OLYMPIA – Efforts to bring the state’s two laws on marijuana together is generating several proposals in the Legislature and rifts among the medical marijuana community.

Some patients on Tuesday described a pair of bills on medical marijuana as unconstitutional intrusions, others said they were needed to provide at least some supply of the plant that’s legal under state law but illegal under federal law.

Both proposals before the Senate Health Care Committee would give the state Liquor Control Board, which currently oversees the new recreational marijuana law, some control over medical marijuana… . 

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Medical pot proposal slammed in morning hearing

OLYMPIA — Medical marijuana patients bashed a proposal by state agencies to change current state laws on the drug as everything from unworkable to unconstitutional at a morning legislative hearing. Legislators also sharply questioned staff from the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health on proposals to reduce the amount of marijuana patients could grow or possess, and shift them to the upcoming recreational marijuana stores to be licensed later this year.

Local officials and lobbyists for law enforcement and the medical community, however, urged the House Health Care and Wellness Committee to pass the bill and give them clear guidelines for dealing with patients who use the drug.

HB 2149 is supported the liquor board which regulates recreational marijuana and would require medical marijuana patients to register with the state after getting a recommendation from a health care provider. That's a violation to a person's constitutional right against self-incrimination and federal laws that make medical information private, Jerry Dierker, a patient, said.

"We are self-regulating. We have created a system that does work for us," Stephanie Viskovich of the Cannabis Action Coalition said.

Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, questioned the rationale for reducing the amount of marijuana patients currently can have from 24 ounces to three ounces. Kristi Weeks of the Health Department said the current limits were developed when patients would have no other access to the drug than produce it themselves or in a cooperative garden, and needed to have enough "to get you through to your next harvest."

"It's no longer the need with the new recreational market," Weeks said.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg,questioned a provision that would ban home grows after 2020, essentially creating a monopoly for stores licensed by the liquor board after that time. Weeks said, however, that a study would be done in 2019 to recommend whether the ban should be lifted.

"It is ridiculous to ask patients to wait for a five-year study," said Ryan Agnew of C Squared Public Affairs, who added that a registry amounts to "mission creep" for state agencies..

Medical marijuana patients who filled two committee rooms told the panel they doubted the recreational market would succeed and those products will be heavily taxed. But Washington doesn't tax medicine and marijuana is a recognized botanical medicine, Kari Boiter of Health Before Happy Hour, a medical marijuana group, said.

Recreational marijuana is different from medical marijuana, patients also said. The former is rich in a chemical that produces the euphoric "high", the latter is rich in different chemicals that reduce pain or nausea, and the recreational stores might not stock it.

Don Pierce, a lobbyist who represents sheriffs and police chiefs, said the state's separate laws on recreational and medical marijuana have to be reconciled for law enforcement. "We need to know whose rules apply to whom," he said.

 

Liquor Board would limit medical marijuana

Washington should severely cut the amount of marijuana that medical patients can possess, require them to register with the state, have annual medical checkups, and pay most of the same taxes as recreational users, a state agency recommended today.

In a move sure to draw fire from the medical marijuana community, the state Liquor Control Board released recommendations it will send to next year's Legislature as the state tries to blend two sets of laws on the drug.

The board is authorized by Initiative 502 to regulate recreational marijuana use, and is currently accepting applications for businesses that want to grow, process or sell the drug to adults for private use. The board has no authority over medical marijuana, which was approved by voters in 1998, and is largely unregulated.

As part of the 2013-15 general operating budget earlier this year, the Legislature directed the board to work with the state departments of Health and Revenue to study the two systems and come up with recommendations to integrate them. Legislators will still have to draft bills that would include some or all of the recommendations, and get them through the two chambers and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

For more information on the board's recommendations, or to comment, continue inside the blog.