WA: Medical Marijuana Patients Protest LCB Oversight Proposal

WA: Medical Marijuana Patients Protest LCB Oversight Proposal

OLYMPIA, WA — About 250 medical marijuana supporters rallied at the state capitol in Olympia Wednesday to protest an amendment to pending budget bills that would give the state Liquor Control Board control over the state’s medical marijuana program.

The Liquor Control Board is charged with overseeing the state’s forthcoming recreational marijuana retail market, and medical marijuana patients worry that incorporation of the medical marijuana program into the LCB’s control could lead to taxation of medical marijuana, the regulation of medical use, and age restrictions requiring patients to be 21 or older.

Draft versions of both the House and Senate budgets would require the state Liquor Control Board to develop new recommendations for how to tax and license medical marijuana, and to deliver those policy recommendations to lawmakers by January.

Washington’s voter-approved I-502 levies a new marijuana excise tax of 25 percent on each producer, processor and retailer of recreational marijuana.  Advocates say that if such a tax were imposed on the medical marijuana industry, many patients would be unable to afford their medicine.

“There is no other medication that is regulated and controlled by the Liquor Control Board,” said Steve Sarich, head of the Cannabis Action Coalition, who organized the rally. “They are absolutely unqualified to determine what is, or isn’t, in the best medical interest of medical cannabis patients.”

Sarich said that while regulations would be welcomed by the medical marijuana community, combining medical marijuana and recreational marijuana oversight under the Liquor Control Board is the wrong approach.

“I know that patients and their providers would welcome common sense regulations,” Sarich stated. ” We’re simply asking legislators to work with us in developing these regulations, rather than turning over decisions that impact our medical care to the state’s liquor distributor.  I think this is a reasonable request and we hope the legislature is listening.”

Supporters of combining both the recreational marijuana markets and medical marijuana program under the control of one entity argue that without oversight, the unregulated, untaxed medical marijuana dispensaries will undercut the recreational industry.

Brian Smith, spokesperson for the Liquor Control Board, says that they aren’t considering medical marijuana at this time, and remain focused on establishing the recreational marijuana market.

“We’re focused on recreational marijuana,” Smith said. “If the Legislature wants us to take on medical marijuana the board will take it on then.”

Washington’s medical marijuana industry is largely unregulated. Under Washington’s existing medical marijuana law, patients or caregivers can grow their own medicine, but there is no provision for sales. Since state law does not provide for dispensaries, some prosecutors have gone after them.

A 2011 bill sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) would have created a regulatory system for the medical marijuana industry, but then Governor Chris Gregoire vetoed most of the bill over concerns about federal interference in the state’s attempt to regulate the medical marijuana market.

Sen. Kohl-Welles said in a statement Wednesday that she is planning to introduce legislation next year that would once again address regulating the state’s medical marijuana industry.

“Although we have made steady progress on establishing a safe, reliable system for procuring medical cannabis, several areas need clarification, such as age limits, taxation of medical marijuana, collective gardens and regulation of health care providers,” Kohl-Welles said. “I intend to use the 2014 legislative session to make sure the system serves patients and also works within the context of the emerging landscape under I-502 implementation.”

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  • darkcycle

    was voted on and passed to deal with RECREATIONAL marijuana, not medicalmarijuana. This State has, as was noted,a medical marijuana law. It has been inplace for more than a decade and passed with a larger majority of voters than I-502 enjoyed. The voters of this State were well aware of it’s existencebefore I-502 was passed. The difference between the two initiatives and their purposes is reflected in the differing quantities allowable under the different
    statutes. One ounce for recreational users, 24 ounces for medical users. These differences (as well as the cooperative garden supply model) were intended to address very different needs of two very different groups of people (patients
    using the drug to treat illness, and the recreational user who smokes a jointon Friday to unwind).
    Furthermore, the initiative process in this State requires an initiative to address a single issue. I-502 does not in any way modify any laws except those that criminalize RECREATIONAL use. If it had attempted to modify other laws, or address medical use in any way (remember, medical use is already ALLOWED under
    existing law) it would have been struck down.

  • Deborah Dills

    No one pays taxes on their “big pharm pills” so why should Medical Marijauan patients be taxed on their meds?

    This is WHY both my sons, who are patients-GROW THEIR OWN POT FOR THEIR MEDS. .While most folks don’t know how to grow, it would behoove them to try. This way the government cannot tax them.

  • PastPalmSeattle10

    Sen. Kohl-Wells is one of MMJ’s strongest advocates in Oly. She will be working to protect medical access in 2014. Make SURE that you do more than just whine. Contact Ms. Kohl-Wells, contact Cannabis Action Coalition via Facebook, go to some meetings, make some phone calls, send an email. There’s lots ANYONE can do. The job is to DO IT, not simply bitch about it all…. Have a great green weekend all!