Guest: Eliminate The Differences Between I-502 And Medical Marijuana Law

WASHINGTON:  As medical marijuana heads back to Olympia, legislators are bracing for a rerun of last session’s drama of makeshift dispensary operators and self-appointed patient advocates decrying any effort to rein in abuses of the law.

Lawmakers face many competing priorities, but it’s important they clean up Washington’s medical-marijuana mess. Before licensed marijuana retail stores began opening last summer, legitimate reasons existed to tolerate some of the commercial activity that’s been squeezing itself into gaps in the medical-marijuana law. Now, however, it’s time to stop winking and nodding. Everyone who wants to make money selling marijuana ought to play by the same rules, and we finally have a set of rules under Initiative 502.

I-502 did not legalize “recreational” marijuana. I-502 created a system for regulating commercial marijuana activity, regardless of the intended use of the product. Products for patients with terminal and debilitating medical conditions arguably should be held to higher standards, which could be added to I-502’s baseline. But it’s time for businesses not willing to comply with at least the same requirements as I-502 producers and retailers to close up shop, and the Legislature needs to make that explicit under the medical-marijuana law.

To be fair, the current medical-marijuana mess grew out of real and desperate necessity. Before drafting Initiative 502 and working with legislators on multiple medical marijuana, decriminalization and legalization bills, I represented medical-marijuana patients, providers, casual users, growers and international smugglers in city, state and federal courts across Washington for more than a decade.