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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Medical pot growers have unfair advantages, say counterparts

OLYMPIA – Medical marijuana growers and sellers have a series of unfair business advantages, their recreational pot counterparts told legislators Thursday.

Medical marijuana is unregulated in Washington state. It’s unlicensed. It’s not tested for harmful substances like pesticides and fungicides. It’s not labeled for its potency.

“I know of no other medication in the world that enjoys that freedom,” said Vicki Christopherson, executive director of the Washington Cannabusiness Association, whose members are involved in recreational marijuana businesses made possible by Initiative 502.

The Legislature is looking at ways to blend or at least rationalize the state’s two very different marijuana systems. On Thursday, the Senate Health Care Committee had a room full of people supporting or opposing one such measure, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-Vancouver.

It would essentially do away with medical marijuana dispensaries and give the state Liquor Control Board, which regulates recreational marijuana businesses, the power to license medical growers and sellers. They’d have to have their product tested for contaminants and potency, like the recreational products, and be labeled. Recreational stores could receive a special addition to their licenses to carry medical marijuana, which wouldn’t be taxed like recreational pot.

Some medical marijuana patients, however, said they were comfortable with their suppliers or dispensaries and didn’t want to go to recreational stores where the staff might not know what particular strain of cannabis would help their conditions. Other patients said the law had too many restrictions on what they could use, essentially banning them from drying and smoking marijuana flowers, and others didn’t want the state to require them to register.

Rivers said after the hearing the bill is still a work in progress and could be merged with other proposals. She expects to amend it so the Liquor Control Board would have three licenses for stores: one strictly for recreational marijuana, one for medical marijuana and one hybrid license that would handle both. Those handling medical marijuana would need special training for staff, she said.

She also expects to revise the bill to remove restrictions for smoking dried marijuana. It was put in the first draft because she was concerned about the health problems of inhaling any smoke.

But she was firm about having some sort of registry for marijuana patients that would protect them from arrest. Washington is the only state in which medical marijuana is legal but has no form of registry, Rivers said.