A law that has the potential to severely limit access to medical cannabis for patients in Washington state was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee last week. The bill, Senate Bill 5052, limits possession of medical cannabis from 24 ounces down to 3 ounces while also limiting the number of plants patients can grow from 15 down to four (or six for those who join a voluntary registry).
While calling the bill a “significant accomplishment” to ensure patients still have the medicine they need, the Governor acknowledged that some medical cannabis advocates remain concerned.
“I recognize the solution is not perfect. However, I do think this is far better than today’s wholly unregulated system,” Inslee wrote in a document that also highlights sections of the bill that he vetoed. “We will have options for patients and a system of strong enforcement to ensure public safety, especially for children.”
Designed as a way to reform and align the state’s medical cannabis program with its adult-use cannabis program, the new law — effective in July 2016 — essentially requires medical dispensaries to shutter or be co-opted into the adult-use dispensaries that the state started licensing last year after the approval of Initiative 502. Those retail outlets that choose to participate in the medical program will need to obtain an endorsement from the state in order to sell medical marijuana alongside the retail offerings.
While Washington approved medical cannabis in 1998, it didn’t allow for commercial sales. Medical dispensaries have been operating in Washington under a collective-grow model. With the changes to the law patients will now only be able to participate in collective grows of up to four patients. In addition, medical cannabis patients will be exempt from sales tax, but not excise tax, which runs between 30 and 37 percent.
Are you a medical cannabis patient? How would a bill like this affect you? Tell us in the comments.