The Senate passed rules on medical marijuana over the weekend, and the bill is headed to the House.
Medical marijuana has been legal but largely unregulated since voters approved it in 1998. Medical marijuana has come under scrutiny by the federal government as the state prepares for legal recreational marijuana to go on sale in licensed stores, expected to start later this year.
Senators Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, both sponsored bills this year that would combine the largely unregulated medical marijuana system with the more regulated recreational marijuana system, under the Liquor Control Board.
“This bill is the very best attempt to protect our patients and their rights and their access to their product while making sure that we meet the Initiative 502 guidelines that we voted on as an electorate,” Rivers said.
The Liquor Control Board also would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board under the bill.
The Senate passed Rivers’ bill, SB 5887, on Saturday, with a number of amendments from Kohl-Welles, on a vote of 34-15.
The rules would include:
- Medical marijuana would be exempt from sales and use tax, but still subject to a 25 percent excise tax.
- Patients could have three ounces of marijuana, which is more than the one ounce allowed under recreational rules.
- Cooperative grows could include up to four participants.
- Individuals could grow up to six marijuana plants, or up to 15 if prescribed by a doctor.
- Medical products could be purchased from retail marijuana stores with a special endorsement.
- Starts a patient and provider registry and restricts access to the registry.
Kohl-Welles described the rules as a start. Kohl-Welles’ SB 6542, which passed 40-8 on Saturday, would establish a committee that explores the cannabis industry, including a subcommittee on medical marijuana.
“With the regulated, licensed non-medical market opening this year, we are in uncharted territory with regard to legislating on this issue. I voted in favor of this bill because we need regulations regarding medical marijuana. But for the sake of patients, there is still work that needs to be done,” Kohl-Welles said in a prepared statement.
Rivers also said she expects the laws will be adjusted in coming years.
“The use of medical marijuana became legal in 1998, so I realize this bill would create a big change for people who are used to it being unregulated. But by not taking action to standardize quality and access, we are endangering patients who truly need a safe, legal, and consistent source of medical marijuana,” Rivers said in a prepared statement.
Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, objected to the bill, saying the bill was not what voters intended when they passed Initiative 502. Dansel also questioned whether local jurisdictions would have enough funding to deal with the impacts of the proposed regulations on the health and judicial system.
Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, shared the latter concern, and voted against the bill.
“I was under the impression we were going to have the revenue share with cities and counties who are stuck with the enforcement of this issue,” he said.