OLYMPIA — Dozens of medical marijuana advocates rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest efforts by the state to regulate their industry as Washington moves to implement the new recreational pot law.
State legislators are considering bills that would allow the Liquor Control Board to study how integration of the two industries would work. Supporters of combining the two argue that if they aren’t treated the same, then the unregulated, untaxed medical marijuana dispensaries will just undercut the new legal industry.
“They have said that we’re an external threat to them,” said Steve Sarich, leader of the Cannabis Action Coalition, which organized the rally. “What do you do with an external threat if you are allowed to control them? You get rid of them.”
Sarich and others are fighting to keep the medical marijuana industry outside any new regulation and taxation that comes from the implementation of Initiative 502.
“They can barely afford their medication now,” Sarich said of medical marijuana patients. “Why in the world would we want to tax it on top of that?”
Many protesters objected to the idea of giving the Liquor Control Board power over regulating their medicine.
“I’m a patient, I want to work with doctors,” said patient Stephanie Viskovich. “I don’t want the Liquor Control Board telling me, you know, what’s best for my physical well-being. They’re just simply not qualified to do that.”
Across town from the rally, the Liquor Control Board was meeting to put the final touches on rules about how the recreational pot industry is going to function when stores start opening early next year. Commissioners spent the last month getting comments from the public.
“We heard concerns about advertising, making sure there wasn’t an overexposure to youth, that type of thing,” said board spokesman Brian Smith. “And consumer issues, you know, ensuring that there’s good labeling so that the consumer knows what they are getting when they purchase packages.”
Final rules will be out July 3, which will include hours of operation for stores, where and how pot will be grown, who will be able to transport it, etc.