Washington State’s Liquor Control Board gave its final recommendations this week on how the state should proceed with its medical marijuana program.
There’s not much to like here if you operate a medical marijuana dispensary. As feared, the recommendations would essentially wipe out the existing MMJ industry and force many existing dispensaries to close.
Aside from suggesting that residents should be allowed to grow cannabis at home, the board recommended that medical marijuana be sold at recreational shops licensed under the state’s I-502 law – not at separate dispensaries. Medical patients, however, would not pay the same sales tax that recreational customers pay.
The board also recommended lowering the allowable limit on marijuana purchases from 24 ounces to just three ounces for medical patients, though there would be additional limits for infused products.
Finally, the board recommended changes to the licensing process for medical marijuana patients.
Patients under 17 would be required to have the consent of a parent. The bar would be raised for which patients would receive marijuana prescriptions. Only patients with pain that interferes with one’s daily life would be given prescriptions, although a special addition would be given for cancer.
And medical professionals who operate practices that specifically grant medical marijuana prescriptions would be shut down.
Supporters of this plan argue that if the existing system is allowed to stay, it would undercut the recreational industry, and the state would lose valuable tax dollars. Effectively, the medical marijuana shops would become the new black market. And the U.S. Justice Department has also indicated that the state’s medical marijuana industry, which as of now is unregulated, is not acceptable.
This fear is valid; however, there has to be a compromise that would enable at least some of the medical dispensaries are allowed to stay open under tighter government restrictions.
These recommendations show that lawmakers in Washington State either do not believe in the medicinal value of marijuana or do not understand the difference between medical dispensaries and recreational retail centers. Patients who want the one-on-one consultation and discreet service offered by a medical shop will probably not find that at recreational shops, where getting high is the primary service, not treating pain.