In a move that will surprise no one (but will disappoint thousands of Washington medical marijuana patients), Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5052 into law earlier today. He vetoed a few sections, but left the bulk of the legislation largely intact.
This law is aimed at reconciling the generally unregulated medical marijuana industry and folding it into the existing, tightly-controlled recreational market. It has been widely criticized by patients for significantly reducing their possession limits from 24 ounces down to three ounces, as well as limiting the number of plants they can grow from 15 down to 6. After much debate, a clause was included that would allow a doctor to recommend a larger amount of cannabis, based on the patient.
Additionally, one of the biggest criticisms of the law is that medical marijuana dispensaries will no longer exist in their current state; instead, they will be forced to close or incorporate themselves into another existing licensed retail cannabis shop.
When a patient receives his or her medical recommendation, s/he will be entered into a new database for record-keeping, but there will no longer be a patient registry (another source of contention among medical patients who were concerned about privacy). With a medical recommendation, patients will be exempt from sales tax but not from excise tax, which will be set around 30-37% for both medical and recreational customers.
Collective gardens were also under fire in this piece of legislation and patients in rural areas with limited sources were concerned that they would lose their access points, but Inslee preserved grow co-ops, allowing up to four patients at a time to form a co-operative.
So what does this mean for the state of Washington?
It means big changes are on the horizon: this law is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2016. Prepare yourselves.