Battle Between Rec, MMJ in Washington State

A political fight is brewing between recreational and medical marijuana business interests in Washington State.

With legislators about to begin considering statewide rules for the medical cannabis industry, heavily-regulated recreational vendors are hiring lobbyists to make sure policymakers don’t go easy on MMJ.

Many rec shop owners are worried that if the state isn’t as hard on the medical side as it was in setting up rules for the adult-use industry, their bottom lines will take a hit.

At the same time, MMJ dispensaries are hiring lobbyists of their own to make sure their voices don’t get drowned out, setting up what could turn into a nasty political battle over cannabis regulations.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, medical dispensaries “far outnumber the 334 recreational marijuana stores licensed to open.” The problem is they’re largely illegal, since Washington lacks statewide oversight for MMJ businesses while closely monitoring rec stores. It’s been an ongoing problem, with cities like Seattle trying to crack down on dispensaries while simultaneously making room for rec shops.

But this year could mark a turning point. Several bills addressing both MMJ and rec marijuana have been introduced, and the pressure is growing on officials to address the situation.

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10 comments on “Battle Between Rec, MMJ in Washington State
  1. Jerry Cook on

    The long established medical dispensaries and their knowledge help many people. We should hope that the new bills will allow these very helpful shops to flourish. It would be better to have both med & rec in each shop, with low & level taxes. Also, it would be great to have areas in these full service dispensaries for use on site, as they long have had in Amsterdam, even with coffee & other food services. Why not have full service dispensary businesses, period? Be sensible & useful to everyone!

  2. Black Dog Acres on

    Currently there are only about 75 Wa state rec shops open, and around 275 licensed growers. There are 334 unlicensed SEA dispensaries. This creates an enormous surplus of quality, regulated, tested product with no place to sell. Many mmj patients are turning to the rec shops for their purchases, yet the mmj shops are all profit, they didn’t have to jump the regulatory hoops associated with the adult market. This is unfair competition when licensed growers can choose to keep their product or sell it for a fraction of what a street dealer does. As the system currently is operating it promotes back street deals. By absorbing the mmj dispensaries into the I502 system it would create an instant market for licensed growers and truly discourage street deals. Patients could easily be allowed a different price structure.

  3. Tommy Gerald Hawkins on

    It would also be most kind, and just, if MMJ dispensaries would make sure to include compassionate pricing levels/considerations for those who cannot afford “Gangland Pricing” for Cannabis Medicines because we are Physically Disabled, and have to live on Disability income. Obviously, the “profits” flow from those who can afford more, due to the fact that “they” get far more money than we truly disabled individuals do. Compassion, not profit, is supposed to be the Reason for MMJ accommodations in the First Place.

  4. Jerry Cook on

    Thanks BDA & TGH..there should be lower taxes for all, or all dispensary sales will reduce & the black market dealers will get the biz instead.

    Also, those on little income and disabled should be given a medical card for a compassionate reduction in cost at dispensaries. The established knowledge of the MMJ suppliers should be allowed, not tossed, also for compassionate targeted use.

    Profits are needed to make it all work, but not so greedy compassion & fair pricing are removed, unless you want to develop the black market instead.

  5. Firewater on

    Black Dog, couldn’t have said it better myself. MMJ cannot exist unregulated alongside regulated rec MJ. If you want medicine (and lets be real, most cardholders just like to get stoned – and that’s cool), fine .. just get it from an I502 retailer. Once one of these bills pass, you’ll see prices go to a reasonable level for both growers and retailers. The people who are getting screwed here are the collective grows (they’re axed under either bill) and the existing I502 retailers that now have to compete with an influx of medical dispensaries that will be folded into the WSLCB system. Payback will be a bitch.

  6. Robert Dobbs on

    Jerry Cook I fully agree, I think the reputable MMJ dispenseries should be given a rout to legalization and honestly should pay tax on their profits, I do not think Medical Patients like myself who actually use our mmj to treat medical problems should be paying tax on our meds.

    I am disabled, on ssi, i get $720/mo to live on, making it hard to afford my meds as it is…im actually have had to buy trim black market because it was all i could afford and none of the dispensaries in my area give a crap about your income level really, though the they all pretend to…..

    I dont begrudge them making a profit we all gotta live, but i do have a bit of an issue with them marking up their products 2-4x…and not offering deals to those of us who really cant afford our meds at full of them I get stuff from every few months likes to talk about big sales he makes on a regular basis..yet he coudnt cut me a deal when i was 3 bucks short on a gram of wax….

    anyway, yeah, I think we need it setup so that MMJ dispensaries are REQUIRED to offer compassionate pricing, i would go so far as to have a state form you fill out and give mmj dispensaries to get your discounted price.

    also, i really hope they dont try and outlaw home grows for medical pt’s that would suck horribly since i just got setup to grown my own meds……since it would be a cheaper way to get a consistent supply of meds that work for me, rather then having to get whatever the dispensery is stocking or max profit.

  7. Jerry Cook on

    Well put Robert Dobbs, and I do hope those in power listen to you and others in the same position.

    Govt needs to understand helping everyone is a lot better than hurting anyone.

    Both home growing & dispensary sales with a broad range of services to cover all use, with different taxing for those such as yourself, including on site toking with hot drink & food service as in Amsterdam, would be excellent.

    A tax reduction form or card for you should make it easy to actually help you, so long as its not too invasive & private, and does not interfere with other sales.

    The form or card rules have to be well thought out to avoid problems.

    Perhaps you can help the rules makers to make that work, in the wording. You have it right and they need to listen to you and others in the same position. Right now the politicians/rules makers just don’t get it.

    All the very best to you Robert!

  8. don on

    I don’t understand the problem that rec stores have with mmj competition. Since you can’t buy from a mmj dispensary without a doctors recommendation they seem to be two separate markets. Recreational users can’t buy from a medical dispensary. I don’t see any need to change the mmj laws.

  9. Folly on Stilts on

    No one here even questions the concept of regulation? Seriously? The point of regulation is what? Its certainly not to ensure quality. Its certainly not to ensure adequate supply to the citizens who voted it in. Is it safety?
    WA has has MMJ since what…1998? In that time span of 16 years, the legislation didn’t feel that safety was paramount, enough to regulate the MMJ industry…but somehow its paramount now?
    The real effect of regulation is to protect the ‘privileged’ license holders from real free market competition, and to generate ‘sin tax’ revenue.
    People deserve better than this archaic regulation scheme. People have a right to engage in voluntary trade with each other whenever and wherever they want, so long as the rights of another individual are not offended. Regulation takes this right from people, while assigning privilege a few individuals who can jump through bureaucratic hoops of the WALCB.
    Of course, I don’t expect this message to resonate with producers/retailers, as you have been bestowed with the ‘rights’ taken from the rest of us.
    Thus, those within the special interest groups appeal to Olympia for their special protections under the ‘law’.

  10. Jerry Cook on

    Ironically, The Fed has opened the doors for Native American/Indian Tribes to have a Cannabis Industry and that is changing things. It depends on how much freedom they really get, but the Tribes can set rules & regulations already, and they could set a very low tax for public benefits only.
    It would be excellent if the long established Med shops could do a linkup with the Tribes, adding to the grow sources, and expanding the long term wisdom to the tribes & market, good for all. This is a lot better than casinos for the Tribes AND every sort of Patron, the general public.
    This looks like by-by to the poor quality high priced over taxed I-502 shops. No doubt laws will change out of this, but the Tribes may be immune anyhow.

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