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News about the legal Washington State industry & public concerns.

Medical Marijuana System Overhaul in the Works

marijuana store
Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

The entire medical marijuana system in Washington will be going through some big changes. Governor Inslee has signed legislation that overhauls the way medical marijuana patients will get their prescription in the state.

Republican state senator Ann Rivers was one author of the bill. She says currently they have no idea how many medical marijuana patients there are in the state, estimates range from 100 thousand to 400 thousand. For starters, patients will need to get new authorization from the state to use pot for medical purposes.

Rivers: “Because the registry is also about our bad authorizers. We had authorizations given to fairly young kids by doctors of philosophy and theology, and the metaphysical world. And the reality is that those people are not health care providers.”

Rivers says once a patient has a new authorization, they will have option of joining a medical registry. If the opt to do so, they will get a price break on marijuana, but not having to pay taxes on it, and also be able to grow up to 15 plants at home. If a patient does not opt to join the registry, they will be limited to four plants. Rivers say that registry will also let the state determine how many medical pot retailers will be needed and in what location.

For those who want to sell medical marijuana, the law is different as well. Rivers says there are currently many fly by night medical stores, that have never paid any state taxes. She says a new licensing process will weed out those types of operators, many of which came in to being after the passage of initiative 502 that legalized recreational marijuana.

marijuana store
Credit Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio
Spokane Public Radio
When Washington's first pot shops opened in 2014, people lined up at the doors for the first day of recreational sales.

Rivers: "If I was a medical marijuana shop owner prior to 502 passing, and I had a business license and I was paying my taxes, that is I was trying to be a good actor, then when I got to apply to the liquor control board for the medical store, all of those things would be weighted in my favor to allow me to get a license.”

Rivers says they will also allow recreational stores to become medical marijuana outlets by getting a medical endorsement from the department of health.

The bill also expands the number of strains of cannabis that authorized growers can produce to include more medically oriented pot, which contains the chemical CBD, rather than THC, to ensure there is an adequate supply of the types that can help medical marijuana patients.

The new rules will go into effect in July of 2016.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.
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