Potential changes to Washington's pot laws and how other states laws are working

January 07, 2015 | Kris Hermes

Jake Thomas, The Inlander

In Washington state, the big news this week was proposed changes to the state’s medical marijuana system, which has been kept separate from the recreational system in order to ensure that patients have access to the drug. Lawmakers are set to gather in Olympia next week, and changes could be on the horizon for how pot is regulated in the state.

One bill proposed by Sen. Ann Rivers, R- La Center, would create new licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries who would be required to test the strength of their product in much the same way recreational pot is, reports The Associated Press. The bill would also only allow these stores to sell edibles and no smokable dried pot, pointing out that smoking is considered unhealthy. It would also place new restrictions on collective gardens used to grow medical pot.

A competing bill from state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, would effectively merge the state’s medical and recreational systems together, an idea that was recently endorsed by Seattle’s city attorney and opposed by Seattle’s mayor.

However, medical marijuana advocates are reluctant to put both the two systems under one regulatory umbrella. Recreational marijuana is heavily taxed and patient advocates worry if the two systems are combined sick people who rely on the drug will have a harder time getting it. There are also concerns that patients won’t be able to get advice on the therapeutic effects of various strains at a recreational dispensary.

"Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by forcing medical marijuana into the adult-use program, policymakers should be adopting a regulatory framework that fully implements the state's 16-year-old medical use law, thereby better protecting and preserving the needs of patients," said Kari Boiter, Washington state coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, an organization that advocates on behalf of medical marijuana patients, in a prepared statement.



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