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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Medical marijuana bill would regulate THC, ban smoked form

Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE – A leading Republican lawmaker has a novel proposal for reining in Washington’s uncontrolled medical marijuana industry: medical pot shops that don’t sell what most people think of as pot.

A bill being filed this week by Sen. Ann Rivers would create licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries and require product testing that’s at least as strict as what the state requires in its recreational marijuana stores. But the medical stores could only sell edibles and marijuana concentrates, such as oil – no dried bud. The products would be sales-tax-free.

“Recognizing the health concerns relating to smoking marijuana, the legislature intends to prohibit the sale of products that must be smoked at medical marijuana retail outlets,” says a draft of the measure provided to the Associated Press.

Voters approved the medical use of marijuana – although not its commercial sale – in 1998, and in the last few years, the number of legally questionable medical marijuana dispensaries has skyrocketed. Officials worry they’re undermining sales at the state’s heavily taxed, recreational pot stores.

That’s made reconciling the two systems a priority for lawmakers in the upcoming session in Olympia.

Rivers’ bill is one of at least two major proposals. Another, being drawn up by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, of Seattle, contemplates getting rid of medical dispensaries altogether. Instead, any shop that meets requirements could be licensed to sell pot for either purpose, with tax breaks offered on marijuana products targeted toward medical use.

Kohl-Welles would also eliminate collective gardens, allow home growing of up to six plants, and reduce excise taxes on recreational pot – from a 25 percent tax applied up to three times, to a 25 percent tax applied once – in hopes of making state-sanctioned marijuana more competitive with the black market.

But Rivers, of La Center, is in the majority leadership, which could give her measure, called the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, the inside track.

The bill makes a wide array of changes. Among them: creating a registry of medical marijuana patients and providers, and tightening restrictions on health professionals who authorize medical use. It would have the state Health Department determine what levels of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive compound, and what ratio of THC to other compounds would be OK for products sold in medical outlets.

Under the bill, growers licensed to produce pot for the recreational market would be allowed to expand their operation to add plants for medical use, and if more medical marijuana production is needed, priority in licensing would be given to applicants who haven’t yet been approved for recreational grows.

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