OLYMPIA, WA — A bill was filed in Washington State on Monday that, if passed, would gut the state’s 15 year old medical marijuana program and realign it with the state’s forthcoming recreational marijuana industry.
The bill, House Bill 2149, was introduced by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), and is modeled after recommendations made by the Washington State Liquor Control Board last October.
In addition to creating a state-wide medical marijuana patient registry, the bill would also reduce the amount of medical marijuana patients are allowed to possess from the current limit of 24 ounces to a proposed 3 ounce limit.
The bill would reduce the number of plants patients are allowed to grow from 15 plants to 6. Under the proposed cultivation limits, only three of the six plants would be allowed to be flowering.
Under the proposal, home cultivation by patients could completely disappear within five years, as the bill also establishes a committee made up of the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health to determine if home cultivation remains necessary after recreational pot shops are open.
The bill also proposes eliminating collective marijuana grows, which advocates fear would shut down the state’s medical marijuana dispensary system.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board has come under fire from the state’s medical marijuana community since the passage of I-502, which authorized recreational marijuana sales to adults under a heavily taxed retail system.
The Board has endorsed imposing recreational pot sales tax to the medical marijuana industry, citing concerns that if the medical marijuana system remains untaxed, the recreational marijuana industry would be subverted.
Advocates say the Liquor Control Board should not have any oversight or input to the medical marijuana program, which is currently overseen by the state’s Department of Health.
“Patients in Washington will not sit idly by to see the state dismantle its 15-year old medical marijuana program and attempt to roll them into a nascent recreational market,” Steph Sherer, Exeuctive Director of Americans for Safe Access, said last year when the Liquor Control Board first proposed the recommendations.
“The very real needs of medical marijuana patients cannot be adequately met by the recreational marijuana program and must be addressed by preserving and strengthening the law that currently exists,” continued Sherer. “We’re urging Governor Inslee and the state legislature not to abandon the tens of thousands of patients in Washington and continue to treat medical marijuana as a public health issue.”
Medical marijuana has been authorized under Washington State law since 1998.