Big Changes to WA Medical Marijuana Program That Dispensaries Need to Know

Published on August 3, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Are you the owner or employee of a Washington medical marijuana dispensary? Have you been watching the new changes to Washington’s medical marijuana laws and wondering how they’ll affect the future of your business?

If you’re unaware, Senate Bill 5052 was signed in April 2015 and will make major changes to the Washington medical market, the most profound modification being the absorption of medical marijuana dispensaries into the state’s highly regulated recreational cannabis market. This bill could affect many cannabis businesses that are currently operating.

While it’s crucial to know all of the rules behind 5052, we’ve highlighted important points from the bill that you need to be aware of so you can remain in compliance with Washington state’s new laws. Our goal is to keep you in business, but in the event that you do have to shut down, hopefully it’s only a temporary closure so you can re-open with a fresh new perspective under the proper compliance of Washington’s new cannabis market.

New Patient Possession Limits

Previously: Patients could possess up to 24 ounces of usable cannabis, or a 60-day supply

Now: Patients may possess:

  • 3 ounces of cannabis
  • 48 ounces of infused product in solid form
  • 216 ounces of infused product in liquid form
  • 21 grams of cannabis concentrates

New Patient Grow Limits

Previously: Patients could grow up to 15 plants

Now: Patients may grow 4-6 plants depending on their physician’s authorization

New Sales Tax Requirements

Previously: Patients paid sales tax

Now: Patients are exempt from sales tax, but are still subject to the state’s 37% excise tax (which you’ll have to start charging, too)

New Collective Garden Rules

Previously: Up to 10 people could participate in a community garden with a cap of 45 plants

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Now: Only 4 patients may participate, but the maximum number of plants has been increased to 60

New Licensing Guidelines

Medical dispensaries must apply for a license to operate legally and certain dispensaries will get priority:

  • If your business has been operating since January 2013
  • If you or your establishment previously applied to the Liquor Control Board for an I-502 license
  • If you have been paying your local and federal taxes as a legitimate, bona fide business

Although the newly dubbed Liquor and Cannabis Control Board has not yet announced how many licenses will be available, they have estimated that they expect upwards of 800 dispensaries to apply and that they will be approving approximately half on a merit-based system.

Even if you don’t meet all of the criteria, second preference will be given to those who meet partial requirements. If you and your business can comply with the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board’s new guidelines before the new program is implemented on July 1, 2016, you may have a shot at staying in business. Good luck!

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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