WA gov. signs sweeping bill moving MMJ into rec program

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Washington State’s medical marijuana program will officially be rolled into its recreational market after Gov. Jay Inslee late Friday signed into law a sweeping bill putting in place rules for the production and dispensing of MMJ.

Under the law (Senate Bill 5052), dispensaries and collective gardens will have to get licenses from the state – and meet a host of regulations – by July 1, 2016, or close.

The move will effectively eliminate what has become one of the biggest medical marijuana markets in the country with 475-plus dispensaries drawing $80 million to $100 million in sales last year, according to Marijuana Business Daily estimates.

Details have yet to be worked out on how many licenses will be made available, when the permitting process will begin and how the state will respond to businesses that don’t comply.

Still, it’s likely many existing dispensaries will be shut due to a lack of capital or other resources needed to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. Rec shops will now be allowed to apply for a medical endorsement to dispense MMJ.

Dispensary owners who want to continue operating will have to apply for licenses with first priority going to those who owned or worked at a collective garden prior to Jan. 1, 2013, applied for a license under the state’s I502 recreational program prior to July 1, 2014, and have paid taxes and fees on time.

Inslee said in a statement the law would ensure safe access for patients seeking MMJ, while opponents have said it will drive up prices and limit availability.