In 1998 Washington became the second state to enact a medical marijuana law following California. Washington also passed I 502 and was the first state to have a legalized recreational marijuana law in effect.
Unfortunately,the implementation of the state’s recreational marijuana system may also doom its medical marijuana system.
The WSLCB (Washington State Liquor Control Board) is in charge of implementing this program.
Starting Nov 18 and lasting 30 days, applications for marijuana producers and processors will be taken. The states 334 retail marijuana stores will likely be licensed a bit later, possibly with a lottery system.
It will cost $250 to apply and $1000 for a yearly license.You must be a Washington resident and any financial backers must be as well. You must grow in a commercial space. You need to have your location before you apply an it can not be within 1000 feet of a school, daycare or places kids congregate. You can not grow in your home. Apparently there are laws that limit police and other access in a residence that are not compatible with I 502.
As I am from Washington I would love to apply, but I am on a fixed income. I can’t afford to go out and rent a commercial space and get it set up to grow. I suspect there are many very good small growers who are in the same boat even though the WSLCB claims everyone will have a chance to apply.
Meanwhile there is the state’s medical marijuana system. There are a lot of dispensaries, over 200 in the Seattle area alone, so even if they wanted to participate it is obvious there wont be enough licenses to go around.
WSLCB Wants A Monopoly On Weed
Greed is a motivating force. It reared its ugly head when dispensary owners opposed I 502 and tried to get people to vote it down. And it’s rearing its ugly head now as the WSLCB is trying to get rid of dispensaries. It wants to do this by gutting the states current law. So the real victims here will be the medical marijuana patients.
Parts of Washington’s medical marijuana law are very vague and allows for collective gardens. This is how dispensaries operate but there is nothing in the law that actually allows dispensaries to exist. So the entire system is on shaky ground legally.
There are no real controls in place to prevent diversion which is a big concern to the DOJ and explains why the state’s marijuana dispensaries are a target of frequent DEA raids.
But it gets worse. Dispensaries don’t charge the state’s taxes and probably could undersell the state licensed stores. So they are a huge threat to I 502’s profitability. They are also, as mentioned, a target of the DEA and as such threaten intervention in the states new recreational marijuana program.
There was an attempt in 2011 to clarify the law but then Gov. Gregoire vetoed it because of federal pressure and fears that state could be in the middle of a shooting match between dispensaries and the DEA.
So now we have a three agency committee that will make recommendations in January on how to rectify this mess. They want to gut the law and not just deal with the issue of dispensaries. This state could learn a lot from Colorado. They have a medical marijuana program that has safeguards built in to deal with the diversion of weed and they allow small home grows.
In fact, in Colorado, for the first year of their program, only licensed dispensaries will be able to sell recreational marijuana. This makes a lot of sense. They don’t have to deal with new start ups while they tweak their system, but only dispensaries with a known track record. Plus they know what the production levels will be, something Washington has yet to find out.
The most troubling part is they want to eliminate a patients right to grow. Currently, patients are allowed 15 plants and 24 ounces of marijuana. They want to reduce this to 3 ounces.
They argue medical marijuana patients have no need to grow their own weed because they can buy it at a state licensed store. They propose to exempt patients from the 25% tax in an effort to sweeten the deal.
But they seem to have forgotten that many patients are on fixed incomes and grow their own because they can’t afford dispensary prices. State licensed stores are likely to be even more expensive. Also the needs of recreational users are different from medical users. They will likely prefer more Sativa dominant plants that allow them to be social, but many medical users need stronger Indica strains for pain relief.
If the WSLCB gets its way they will have a monopoly on weed and thousands of medical marijuana patients will have a choice between buying weed they cant afford or becoming outlaws.
I prefer to grow legally but I don’t mind being an outlaw. I can’t afford to buy my weed from a store. I can’t stop growing though. Personally I am at the point where I really don’t give a rats ass about dispensaries, the WSLCB or their battle for power. What I do care about is losing my rights as a medical marijuana patient. Washington took a giant step forward by legalizing recreational marijuana. I just hope they don’t take a giant step backward by destroying their medical marijuana program.