"I am sad that the State is bringing the Medical into the Recreational side of the business," said Christopher Ricketts of Blue Eyes Collective in Central Park. "The medical side has been running for over 14 years. Why are they just now deciding what to do with it."
If the latest legislation is approved by the House, July 1, 2016 may prove to be a date that many will want to mark on their calendar.
Currently the Washington State Recreational Marijuana industry has 250 producer/processors, as well as 63 retail licenses issued with a projected product canopy of 2.9 million square feet. Bill 5052 suggests that now that the Recreational Marijuana system is in place that there is safe access, consistent product and adequate access to marijuana and the two should be run together. SB-5052 also indicates the formulation of a new governing board, a three-person group running as the "Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board," appointed by the governor.
One of the major focuses of the medical side of the argument has been safe access for their patients, which the bill does provide, but within the walls of a recreational store.
It is suggested in the bill that recreational stores will be allowed to have a Medical Marijuana Endorsement, that will give them the opportunity to serve medical patients as well as the Recreational market.
"It is about time that something is done," notes a Recreational Marijuana Industry professional. "We have been working under very restrictive guidelines and have been taxed, while the Medical side has been running virtually unregulated and untaxed."
The bill passed in the Senate on Feb. 13, by a vote of 36-11 in favor of approving the latest changes to the Medical Marijuana Industry that has been on the books since its original voter approval in 1998 as Initiative Measure 692.
The latest approach to altering the current Revised Code of Washington finally takes a look at the 16-year-old program as Recreational Marijuana has a projection of $190 million over the next four years. Though in Bill 5052, it speaks that the legislature has been looking at the medical marijuana market for some time, little has been done or even realized as it took the Recreational Marijuana industry to push the possible tax revenue windfall into the state coffers.
"I am not sure how I feel about it," said Josh Miller of The 3-M's of Grays Harbor Recreational Marijuana store located in Porter. "I guess I should be happy with the possibility to increase revenue, but I know many people who are medical patients and it is unfair to them."
SB-5052 brings with it many new sections to the RCW that will change the face of how Washington is selling and controlling the marijuana market. Among some of the changes a more specific definition as to what it means to be a "Qualified Patient." Medical conditions of patients with terminal or debilitating medical conditions; listed is Cancer, HIV positive, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Anorexia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and other seizure or spasticity disorders, acute or chronic glaucoma, Crohn's disease and some forms of intractable pain. "Terminal or debilitating medical condition" means a condition severe enough to significantly interfere with the patient's activities of daily living and ability to function.
"I do not think they have studied the medical aspects of marijuana enough; they do not even mention PTSD," said Miller.
The bill also requires tracking of all medical sales into a patient database, as well as information for those under 21, who may need to have a "designated provider" assist them in acquiring their medication and supervising with their doses.
Medical Collective Gardens (10 patients with 45 plants) and Medical Cooperatives (4 patients with 60 plants) with are allowed under 5052, but restrict the usage of qualified patients combining efforts to only those listed in a database to reap the benefits of the garden. No longer will they be allowed to serve a "Drop-in" patient signing in and out of a collective garden making a "donation" for medicine.
New are specific rules for those patients that are under the age of 21 seeking to try marijuana as a medical application as suggested by a qualified health care provider. Those wishing to gain a "Medical Marijuana Prescription" will have to have an authorized photo identification entered into the patient database and will have to renew annually. For minors it will be every six months.
There is also talk about a "Controlled Purchase" program that may be started to run checks on the validity of anyone dealing with the legal sale of marijuana to ensure sales are not being made to minors and that the product has been registered.
There are many changes listed in SB-5052, but it has yet to get past the House. The hope is that the bill will be finished with all changes and alterations by Dec. 1, 2015, so that any additional programs, databases and regulations that will need to be created can make the July 1, 2016 deadline.