On medical marijuana in Washington

January 26, 2015 | Kris Hermes

First, a little background surrounding the issue of recreational vs. medical cannabis as the 2015 state legislative session opens for business.

The mix includes special interests and flag-waving extremists on both sides of this important topic ranging from those who want to truncate and abolish medical and patient’s rights entirely in favor of state regulated 502 recreational cannabis only – using the long-standing liquor store model of the recent past; to the medical cannabis patients who don’t want any change in the system they fought so hard to create, and don’t want recreational marijuana.

How we got here:

  1. On November 3, 1998 the Voters of Washington state approved by a margin of 59 percent the now historic Initiative 692 permitting citizens with certain debilitating conditions to use cannabis as their medicine of choice.
  2. Thirteen long years later, in 2011, then Gov. Christine O’Grady Gregoire pulled out her veto pen on a bill that would have finally created a licensed chain of distribution for the safe dispensing, cultivating and manufacturing of this legal medicine, leaving the sick and the poor to continue to fend for themselves. Over time and out of necessity the medical cannabis community at large has created the present day self-regulated system to include quality control and distribution through medical cannabis farmers markets; safe access point dispensaries; and door-to-door delivery services.
  3. In 2012, along with voters in Colorado, our state voted for legalized cannabis with Initiative 502, allowing for the possession of controlled amounts of cannabis and cannabis-related products for adults 21 and over; levying taxes and designating the revenue for healthcare, substance-abuse prevention and education.

It’s been a long haul and the good news is my experience of the political energies surrounding the opening of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Patients Lobby Day in Olympia last Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 was completely opposite of previous years.

There was a large patient turnout and a sense of oneness and unity which I’ve never felt before. I think the medical cannabis community really understands that most legislators around the country see all cannabis use basically the same; that there’s no real difference between recreational and medical cannabis, and we’re all just a bunch of stoners looking to get high.

It seems time for the citizens of this state to put a human face on the statistics; real people with real disabilities tired of fighting mindless bureaucracy while doing our best to be honest and law-abiding.

Some of the concerns we heard from the legislators last Thursday were specifically related to testing, taxes and child safety, so let’s address some of these issues.

The concept of testing cannabis came from the medical cannabis patients themselves who wanted and needed to know what was in their consumable products to include the amount of THC, CBD, CBN and the other 81+ cannabinoids; while also checking for mold, mildew and toxic pesticides.

Testing is currently required by most of the reputable safe access point dispensaries in our state and that will not change.

Taxes: Did you know last October the medical cannabis community voluntarily paid out more than $800,000 in Business and Occupation Taxes to Washington state? Dispensary owners who want to be recognized as legitimate businesses pay taxes in accordance with, and in anticipation of, state regulation.

Child safety is always a political hot button, but before we get caught up in a barrage of charged negative emotion over pot brownies, we should do some research and compare numbers concerning emergency room and hospital visits due to cannabis with those concerning alcohol poisoning; over-the-counter, pharmaceutical and street drug overdose.

Acetaminophen alone is responsible for innumerable injuries; as are household poisons. I’d be curious to see these stats on a spreadsheet for the last 10 years and THEN maybe we can address what constitutes authentic child safety!

Fortunately, we also noticed what seems to be more of a genuine interest and compassion with this group of legislators as compared to previous years. They do seem eager to pass some sort of defining legislation, so let’s hope they make room in the bill for the small Mom and Pop farmers and processors as has been promised.

OR are they going to give in to the MONEY INTERESTS who sponsor state legislation with a tax structure effectively making a plant-based herbal medicine impossible for someone on disability to afford? Which side are our politicians really on, that of the people or corporate teat?

There are a lot of bills floating around Capitol Hill these days concerning anything and everything cannabis. The session has just started and we have a couple of months to nail down a bill that is “Win/Win” for ALL the constituents involved in Cannabis. We can only Hope!

Pro or con, let your voice be heard! Be engaged in the process of real legislation.

Stay tuned in as we move through this legislative Session, as I’ll be keeping you posted on medical cannabis in Washington state.



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