WASHINGTON: Now that Washington state’s regulations for recreational marijuana have been finalized, policymakers are turning their attention to medical marijuana. The current system for patients to obtain marijuana with medical authorizations is largely unregulated. Federal authorities say that needs to change. Monday three state agencies plan to issue a roadmap.
The passage of Initiative 502 last year set up a tension between the state’s new system for legalized recreational marijuana and its existing one for medical marijuana. The legislature told three state agencies to help reconcile the two systems. Now those recommendations are due. Philip Dawdy is with the Washington Cannabis Association. He says medical marijuana users need their own distinct system.
Dawdy: “I know there’s people that probably operate under the illusion that, ‘oh all pot is just the same and everybody needs pot for the same reasons so we’ll just throw them into the same system.’ It’s not like that.”
Dawdy says medical users need specific strains of marijuana that might not be as lucrative to sell. And he says they should not be subject to the 25% excise tax that recreational users will pay. But Dawdy says they’re willing to be regulated and most actually want it. They hope it would give them some protection from federal prosecution. In August, federal officials said legalization could proceed in Washington and Colorado. But U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan issued a statement saying unregulated marijuana businesses are “not tenable.” Mikhail Carpenter is with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the lead agency in making recommendations for the state’s medical marijuana system.
Carpenter: “It doesn’t necessarily meet a lot of the requirements of the federal government, so these are very important issues that have to be answered.”
Carpenter says it will be up to state legislators to create a license for medical marijuana businesses, or regulate them some other way. Advocates predict a “shakeout” in Seattle, which is currently home to between 100 and 200 marijuana businesses. In Colorado, state-licensed stores are permitted to sell medical and recreational marijuana side by side.