OLYMPIA, WA — On Monday, the Washington House has passed a measure that would overhaul the state’s current medical marijuana system in an effort to bring it into line with the still-developing legal recreational market.
Medical marijuana supporters are weary of the proposal, saying that it would essentially gut the state’s 15 year old medical marijuana program and hurt patients.
House Bill 2149 passed on a 67-29 vote and now heads to the Senate, which has its own measures addressing reconciling the two systems.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), and is modeled afterrecommendations 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.
Washington lawmakers have worried that the largely unregulated medical system would undercut the taxed, recreational industry, and U.S. Justice Department officials have warned that the state’s medical pot status quo is untenable.
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.
“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,” Steph Sherer, Exeuctive Director of Americans for Safe Access, said last year when the Liquor Control Board first proposed the recommendations. “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.”