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Residents speak out against changes to medical marijuana

January 17, 2014

Supporters of the current medical marijuana system in Washington crowded a public hearing this week to speak out against proposed changes.

The Health Care & Wellness Committee held its first hearing on a measure seeking to overhaul the system in order to bring it in line with the recreational market.

Lawmakers have worried that the largely unregulated medical system would undercut the industry.

The state has allowed medical use of marijuana since 1998 and the passage of I-502 last year allowed the sale of the drug to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which are expected to open by this summer.

Several medical marijuana advocates say the changes will unfairly affect their access.

In December, the state’s Liquor Control Board gave its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the medical system can be brought under the umbrella of I-502.

It suggested allowing licensed stores to sell medical cannabis, subject to the same excise taxes as recreational pot. Patients who sign up for a proposed mandatory state registry of medical marijuana users would be exempt from paying sales taxes. The board called for patients to be allowed to grow six plants. Under current regulations, they can grow 15.

The board also suggested eliminating collective gardens, and cutting how much pot patients can have from 24 ounces to 3 ounces — which is still more than the 1 ounce adults are allowed under the recreational law.

Another issue that raises concern in the medical marijuana community is the idea of a patient registry that is available to the police.

Don Pierce, legislative director at the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said that a verified card is important for police to have access to in the changing landscape.

The medical marijuana overhaul bill is House Bill 2149. The sales tax exemption bill is House Bill 2198.


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