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

August 3, 2015

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

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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  • Tim Hitt

    This is bullshit,cannabis should be just like tomatoes without ANY regulations!

    • Jarek Draven

      There’s an argument to be made that there should be SOME type of regulation. After all, we’re not talking about tomatoes — Tomatoes don’t get you high, and they’re not a potentially massive black market product.

      On the other hand, I don’t think people should have limits on how much of a legal substance they can possess. How much people are allowed to grow is a slightly more complex issue. It could be argued that if you don’t limit growing, it will only encourage people to grow clandestinely for black market sales. And a lot of people (many? most?) don’t want black market sales because that potentially leads to crime, and we lose the benefit of being able to tax it — which is one of the main attractions of legalization for those who don’t smoke, or those who may be on the fence about the issue. So as far as I can see, the only way around that issue, is if the law was written so that anyone could legally sell cannabis as long as they pay tax on it. Which, generally speaking, I would not be opposed to — but there may be other pitfalls with that. For example, how do you enforce the tax issue on small growers who want to sell a little in their spare time? Might not some of these people try to sell without paying tax, or pay less tax than that actually should?

      Anyway, the system is not perfect, and some of the regulations annoy me…. but any progress is better than no progress. 20 years ago i wouldn’t have guessed that legalization would make as much progress as it already has. One step at a time…