Washington Struggles to Regulate Cannabis

The success of Washington’s legal marijuana market can be considered iffy at best. Between high prices, low supply and licenses handed out by lottery, Washington is having a hard time getting into the swing of things. This is only compounded by the fact that the state is having an increasingly difficult time trying to regulate its medical marijuana market and craft uniform rules for both recreational and medical markets.

Back in October, the Washington state legislature had ordered the Washington State Liquor Control Board to get together and come up with some solutions to Washington’s regulatory woes. Here are some, but not all, of the recommendations that regulators came up with:

  • A more clear and unambiguous definition of “debilitating�? and “intractable pain.�?
  • Lowering the maximum possession amount for medical marijuana patients from 24 ounces to three ounces.
  • Eliminate medical marijuana home grows and the use of designated providers. All medical cannabis must be purchased from an approved retailer.
  • Fold the recreational and medical marijuana system into one regulatory system.

Click here to see the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s full recommendation.

The most controversial parts of the recommendation were, of course, the proposal to meld the medical and recreational marijuana regulatory systems as well as the provision that bans home grows and designated caregivers.

Many are worried, and rightfully so, that banning home grows and providers will make getting medical marijuana more difficult for the sick. If you have a debilitating disease, the last thing you want is to have to drive all over creation for the hope that the neighborhood dispensary will have the right strain.

It is also understandable that medical marijuana proponents wouldn’t want to get lumped into a recreational system that is plagued with its own problems. Speaking with the Associated Press, Philip Dawdy of the Washington Cannabis Association expressed his disapproval of the recommendation.

“It’s ugly, and I’m frustrated,�? said Dawdy, “But this is a starting point for negotiations.�? As heated as regulating a multi-million dollar industry can be, at least both sides of the argument are willing to work together.

Hoping to bridge the gap between regulators and medical marijuana advocates is state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36th). On November 21, Kohl-Welles proposed legislation that would act as a compromise between the two sides.

Here are some of the key provisions in Kohl-Welles’ proposed legislation:

  • Recreational and medical marijuana would still be combined into one regulatory system.
  • Patients would be allowed to grow up to six plants.
  • The multiple taxes for producers and distributors would be consolidated and paid at retail checkout by the customer.
  • Taxes on high CBD products will be reduced, and special exemptions will be given to qualified patients with regards to high THC cannabis products as well.
  • The rule banning dispensaries from operating within 1000 feet from a schools, parks, etc … would be reduced to 500 feet.

Kohl-Welles plans to have a draft for the proposed legislation ready by the start of the next legislative session in January. It will be important to track this legislative battle over the coming months because the end result will set the tone for Washington’s cannabis industry in 2015. Hopefully Washington’s regulatory issues can be sorted out, because this air of uncertainty cannot be good for those already in the market or those looking to jump into it.

William Sumner is a freelance writer and marijuana journalist located in Panama City, FL. Passionate about writing, William is dedicated to journalistic integrity and providing quality insight on current events. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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