Washington Medical Marijuana After July 1

By Aaron Pelley and Anne van Leynseele

Many clients and potential clients have been asking NWMJLaw about the changes coming to Washington State’s medical marijuana system when the new laws take effect on July 1, 2016. Specifically, we have been asked how the collective garden statute being repealed will affect patients and Farmers’ Markets.

Farmers’ Markets

Across Washington State there are Farmers’ Markets where medical cannabis patients can obtain their medicine without donating to a shop with high overhead, the savings is passed to the patients. These markets have become popular over the last five years because they allow the patients, in most cases, to connect with the grower and gain valuable information about the particular strain they are receiving. The biggest benefit to patients is the price comparison; where a requested donation for 3.5 grams can be as high as $60 dollars at some dispensaries, it is usually $25 dollars directly from the vendor.

Also, patients can choose the grower they like and access a wealth of information. Currently, the defensibility of these markets is under the collective garden model (RCW 69.51a.085). The statute allows up to 10 qualifying patients to participate in one garden. This not only applied to markets, but to access points and “large scale” medical grows. However, the section fell silent on the amount of time the patient must be a member of the garden to be considered a “true member.” So for most markets interested in operating with the least amount of risk, the best method was to rotate members in and out of the garden/vendor. For example, a patient would be sign in at 10:42am conduct their donation, accept their cannabis, and sign out of the garden at 10:45am, leaving space for the next patient to then come “into the garden” as a member.

Under the new system, RCW 65.51a.085 will be repealed and replaced with a medical cooperative model. This marks the end of Farmers’ Markets, Access Points, and “large scale” medical grows. The new medical cooperative garden model changes the system. The biggest change to farmers’ markets specifically by limiting both membership and timelines.

Beginning July 1, 2016, up to four patients who are registered in the DOH database can join together to form a cooperative garden. Patients or designated providers who participate in a cooperative may grow the total number of plants authorized for the participants (6-15) with no more than 60 plants total per tax parcel. The cooperative must be registered with the state and include the names of all participants. If a patient no longer participates in the cooperative, they must notify the LCB within 15 days of the withdrawal from the cooperative. Furthermore, additional patients may not join the cooperative for 60 days starting from the date of notification of the exiting member. This means the basis for the farmers’ markets has been removed. In the eyes of law enforcement anyone participating is just selling pot and can be convicted with little or no defense available.

If you were looking to find a way to serve patients in a market setting as the designated provider, by providing for multiple patients, that was also done away with in 2011. A designated provider may not serve more than one patient within a 15-day period. Simply put, as a market, your options have run out.

Collective Gardens and Scaled Grows.

Over the years, patients, defense attorneys, and even prosecutors got morecreative to address the astonishing number  of patients needing access to an adequate supply of cannabis. Not all patients are able to grow their own cannabis due to medical issues or simply because they lack the skill needed. Standard collective gardens allowed up to 10 patients to come together to grow a maximum of 45 plants. This model allowed large scale grows to operate and ensure every patient could have an adequate supply of RCW 69.51a.085 fell silent on the boundaries of a collective garden. Since a collective garden could only have 45 plants, it became practice that multiple collective gardens could exist on the same property as long as each garden was distinguished from the others.

As of July 1, 2016 this section of the law will be repealed, leaving large scale grows illegal. The collective garden statute is replaced with a new medical cooperative garden model where up to four patients who are entered in the database can join together to form a cooperative garden. Patients and designated providers who participate in a cooperative may grow the total number of plants authorized for the patient (6-15 plants each) and no more than 60 plants total. The cooperative must be registered with the state, include the names of all patients, and located at the home of one of the participating patients. The garden is subject to inspection at any “reasonable” time to ensure compliance with the new limits.

Dispensaries (Access Points)

Since the early 2000s patient access points, commonly know as dispensaries, operated despite repeated bans, raids, polite robberies, and city or county enforced shut downs. The repeal of RCW 69.51a.085 from the Collective Garden Statute will effect the medical marijuana supply chain as it applies to dispensaries. Similar to the Farmers’ Markets model, dispensaries relied on rotating members in-and-out of their collective gardens or some operate as a designated provider. Patients would walk in to the access point/dispensary, have their recommendations verified through an online verification with no need to disclose their qualifying condition, and then signed into the garden to obtain their medical cannabis for their qualifying condition. With the repeal of collective garden statute, the entire medical system is being folded into the recreational market. If they could meet the standard, dispensary owners opted to obtain an LCB license with a medical endorsement or now must close their retail store.

After July 1, 2016, access points will be placed back into the category of outlaws. The legal defense that was artfully crafted over the years is now set to expire and the arguments and tactics that have kept countless people out of jail will expire with them.

Actions that Can Cause Legal and Business Problems

In sum, there is a concise list of activities that should end by midnight June 30, 2016.

• Selling cannabis at farmers’ markets on a “rotating-member model”

• Collective or large scale medical grows

• Any 502 licensee or 502 applicant or license holder should understand the risk to their license should they continue to grow illegally

This memo is made available by NWMJ Law for educational purposes only as well as to provide a general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By providing this letter there is no attorney client relationship between you and NWMJ Law. This letter should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.

How the Justice Department Seems To Have Misled Congress On Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Last year, the Justice Department warned Congress that a medical marijuana provision in an appropriations bill could  “limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.” The “informal talking points,” according to a Justice Department memoobtained by Tom Angell, a legalization advocate and writer for marijuana.com, were “intended to discourage passage” of the provision, which was in fact passed and signed into law.

It turns out that the guidance was wrong. In the memo, written by the chief of the Department’s appellate section and dated Feb. 27 of this year, the Justice Department says the provision does not place “any limitations on our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana.”

Medical Marijuana Program On Track For Summer Launch, Officials Say

MINNESOTA:  Minnesota will have at least one state-approved medical marijuana manufacturer by Dec. 1, the leader of the state’s Office of Medical Cannabis said Thursday.

The prediction comes five months after Gov. Mark Dayton signed the state’s new medical marijuana law, and as officials say they remain on track to launch the program next summer.

The Minnesota Department of Health said it received 12 applications from would-be medical marijuana manufacturers about a month ago. Each plunked down a $20,000 non-refundable fee just to file paperwork in hopes of being among the two the state will eventually approve.

Michelle Larson, who directs the new medical cannabis office, said she’s not allowed to divulge any details about the selection process, but did say the process is on track, with officials reviewing applications and visiting potential growing sites.

 

Cuomo Wants Health Department To Speed Up Medical Marijuana Availability For Children With Epilepsy

NEW YORK:  Gov. Cuomo wants to make medical marijuana available soon to children with epilepsy — but he’s not acting quickly enough for the anguished mom of a 9-year-old girl who died this month.

Cuomo, in a letter Wednesday, asked the state Health Department to study making the drug available to epileptic children sooner than the 18-month time frame set by New York’s new medical marijuana law.

He cited the deaths of Anna Conte, 9, and Olivia Marie Newton, 3, both from the Buffalo area, who suffered from epilepsy.

At Issue: Wisconsin Medical Marijuana

WISCONSIN: In a nutshell: Current Wisconsin law prohibits a person from possessing, manufacturing or distributing marijuana.

This bill (AB480, SB363) creates a medical use defense to marijuana-related prosecutions and fines, and prohibits the arrest or prosecution of people who are registered with the Department of Health Services (DHS) and have certain debilitating medical conditions or treatments.

People who are registered could possess 12 marijuana plants and 3 ounces of marijuana leaves or flowers. They would be prohibited from [Read more…]

Labor: Medical Marijuana Law Comes to Illinois

ILLINOIS: Gov. Patrick Quinn signed into effect Illinois’ version of state laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Entitled the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act,” Illinois now joins almost two dozen other states who allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. [Read more…]

Labor: Medical Marijuana Law Comes to Illinois

ILLINOIS: Gov. Patrick Quinn signed into effect Illinois’ version of state laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Entitled the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act,” Illinois now joins almost two dozen other states who allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. [Read more…]

Medical marijuana dispensaries a signature away from approval

OREGON:

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Medical marijuana dispensaries are a signature away from being legal in Oregon. The state House of Representatives approved a bill Saturday to establish a licensing system for medical marijuana outlets. The bill, which passed 32-27, now goes to Gov. John Kitzhaber to sign. [Read more…]