Today the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) released its official recommendations on regulating medical cannabis in the state.
Tasked with regulating the upcoming recreational cannabis market brought forth by passage of Initiative 502 last year, the WSLCB was directed through a provision in the state’s budget to work with the state’s Department of Revenue and Department of Health to draft recommendations to the state legislature on how to regulate the state’s medical cannabis market now that recreational cannabis is legal. Now, the final recommendations have been sent forth to the legislature for consideration.
Many of the alterations suggested by the WSLCB are considered controversial, particularly by those in the medical cannabis community; prior to their finalization, draft versions of the recommendations were made available for public comment, which drew a hailstorm of responses from angry medical patients and advocates denouncing the proposed regulations – particularly the suggestions of removing patients’ rights to home grow (medical patients and caregivers in Washington are currently allowed to grow up to 15 plants), the reduction of patient possession limits (patients can currently possess up to 24 ounces; the WSLCB suggested a reduction to 3 ounces), and the elimination of collective gardens.
Although the finalized recommendations are generally the same as the draft version, one major aspect was altered: The recommendation to revoke patients’ rights to home grow was changed to suggest patients be allowed to cultivate 6 plants (3 flowering, 3 non-flowering).
The WSLCB released this statement regarding the alteration:
We are recommending that authorized medical marijuana patients be allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use. This decision is based on multiple conversations with the medical community, medical marijuana dispensary owners, medical professionals and others. Opinions are diverse. Ultimately, if a medical professional believes an authorized patient may benefit from the medical use of marijuana, we recommend that that individual may grow a limited number of plants at home for personal use.
The recommendations also indicated that the legislature should:
- Establish a mandatory patient registry, which would be made available to law enforcement.
- Reduce patient possession limits from 24 ounces to 3 ounces.
- Reduce the limit of plants patients are allowed to cultivate from 15 to 6.
- Apply the same recreational tax to medical cannabis (25% at the production level, 25% at the processing level and 25% at the distribution level), but offer exemption for local sales tax (10%).
- Eliminate collective gardens (and dispensaries).
- Restrict health care providers’ practices to ensure they do not consist primarily of authorizing medical marijuana.
- Require all medical cannabis authorizations to expire annually, and require an examination for a renewal.
- Require labeling that includes levels of THC and other cannabinoids on all medical cannabis products.
- Mandate that only recreational marijuana retailers with a special endorsement from the WSLCB can accept medical marijuana authorization cards.
With the legislative session just a few weeks away, many Washington patients and advocacy groups have been intently lobbying lawmakers to protect patients’ rights, despite the opinion of the Liquor Control Board.
If you are a Washington resident and you would like to encourage your legislators to make rational, compassionate decisions when considering the future of medical cannabis in the state, you can click here to look up your district’s lawmakers, or you can call the Washington State Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000.