Washington Bill Would Preserve MMJ Industry

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Medical marijuana advocates in Washington State have proposed a bill that would allow the state’s MMJ industry to keep functioning after the implementation of I-502, the law that legalized recreational marijuana.

The new measure, called House Bill 2233, would create a mechanism for licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries as well as cultivators, and it would allow patients to grow their own cannabis, both individually and as collectives. It would also allow doctors that specialize in marijuana licensing to keep functioning.

I-502, which voters approved in November 2012, does not directly address the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana industry. But the state’s Liquor Control Board, which oversees the recreational marijuana industry, has proposed a plan that effectively wipes out the medical side of the industry.

Under the Liquor Control Board’s plan, only recreational marijuana retail shops can sell the plant. Medical patients would not pay the same taxes as recreational customers, and patients would still be allowed to grow at home. But clinics that specifically grant medical marijuana prescriptions would be shut down.

Proponents of this plan argue that the medical marijuana program undercuts the recreational marijuana industry because patients do not pay the same taxes as recreational customers.

The new bill was introduced on Tuesday, the opening day of Washington’s legislative session. The bill’s authors were in Olympia on Tuesday meeting with lawmakers to discuss the legislation. According to John Davis, CEO of the Northwest Patient Resource Center, the next step is to introduce the bill into various committees. Davis is hopeful that legislators could vote on the bill by the end of the year.