The medical and recreational marijuana industries in Washington were merged into a single business model on July 1, 2016. The move comes from the approval of a new bill that was passed called the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which combined the industries into one. The bill has been put in place in order to get medical marijuana products to meet the same high industry standard that has been given to recreational products and also to generally tighten regulations around medical marijuana sale and qualifications. The result has forced many medical cannabis shops to shut down, making it significantly more difficult for patients to access their medication.
The Difference of Recreational Cannabis Shops
Concern from patients comes from a number of factors. Recreational cannabis shops may not have the same range of focus on the high CBD, low THC strains that treat pain without the high due to the fact that many recreational users will be focused on the high. Another concern is that recreational stores will have higher prices than the medical dispensaries. While registered medical marijuana patients will receive a 10 percent discount, the base rate will still be higher. The Medical Marijuana Authorization Database, which is an online registry for patients that allows them to receive their discount and other benefits, has been glitching. As a result of this, it’s not usable or reliable for patients until the software issues are fixed.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1998. The regulations on who will have access to medical marijuana cards, also called “green cards”, has changed now that restrictions are tighter. Those with debilitating conditions including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, intractable pain, glaucoma (acute or chronic), Crohn’s disease, and the nausea, vomiting and cachexia associated with anorexia, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C and cancer will still qualify. On the other hand, those with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety will not qualify, although recreational marijuana will be available.
Unique Benefits of Medical Cannabis Patients
Along with the 10 percent discount, which comes from paying 10 percent less tax for medical marijuana than the higher recreational sales tax, patients will also have a couple of other benefits. Consumers will be able to purchase no more than 1 ounce of dry cannabis, 16 ounces of marijuana edibles and 72 ounces of cannabis in liquid form. Medical patients will be allowed to buy 3 times this amount. Regular marijuana users will also be allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants and have in their possession up to 8 ounces of cannabis that has been grown from those plants, for personal use. Medical marijuana patients on the other hand will be allowed to grow up to 15 plants and have up to 16 ounces of marijuana, grown from those plants, for personal medical use.
The medical dispensaries and their patients have been hit hard by the change, with many dispensaries that have been operational for years being forced to close down. Thirteen of these medical cannabis shops have employed attorney Moe Spencer to help them to stay open, stating that the transition to state license medical marijuana sales has not been completed yet and now patients will have to go without medication. After already having their request to stay open denied, they plan to file their appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeals in Tacoma on the 1st of July. The transition has not gone as smoothly as hoped and we anticipate that it may take another year or so before it is all in order and ironed out.