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What You Need to Know About Washington’s New Medical Marijuana System

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What You Need to Know About Washington’s New Medical Marijuana System

After years of operating in an unbridled market, Washington’s medical cannabis program will be reigned in beginning July 1. But will it do more harm than good?

Washington state’s new marijuana laws will combine both medical and recreational sales in stores controlled by state agencies, the Spokesman-Review reports.

While new regulations may sound like good news, the state’s patients relying on medical cannabis will be the group most affected by the change, as several dispensaries without state licenses will be forced to close this weekend.

In addition to the lack of access, state-approved medical marijuana products will likely be limited throughout the first several days due to a new requirement for additional testing of microtoxins and heavy metals. Only one lab in the state can conduct such tests.

“You say ‘What could go wrong?’ Everything,” said Darlene Brice, a medical marijuana patient and certified consultant, to the Spokesman-Review.

In fact, even speaking to a consultant will be a hassle for patients, as the amount of state-licensed stores with medical endorsements outnumber the amount of certified consultants by at least a few dozen.

While recreational stores without consultants can still sell medical products, patients won’t be able to receive recommendations for specific conditions, nor can they be entered into a new optional database for a recognition card that cuts the 8.8 percent sales tax required from recreational buyers.

The card also legally allows patients to grow at home, as well as purchase three times the 1-ounce limit set for recreational customers.

“The state would really like you to think this whole thing will be smooth,” said Joe Rammell, a licensed marijuana grower and operator of New Day Cannabis, to the Spokesman-Review. “I’ll be surprised if many stores are going to be up and running July 1.”

The problems for medical patients don’t end there, as the new regulations limits stores to buying products from only state-licensed businesses that grow and process medical cannabis. Under the old system, dispensaries bought strains with specific levels of THC and/or CBD out of state.

“I don’t like the prices I’m seeing, and I particularly do not like what’s happened to the patients. They’re screwed,” said lawyer and pot advocate Jeff Steinborn to Seattle Weekly. “If you’re a real patient for whom this is a life-changing medicine, you probably can’t afford it unless you hung onto your old connections, which has been my advice all along: ‘Don’t burn your connections, you’re going to need him or her pretty soon.’”

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