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Medical marijuana advocates protest at state Capitol

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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.

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  • John Fuller

    I absolutely agree with these guys. The Washington State Legislature & Liquor Control Board are totally inept and can't legislate their way into anything except out of control spending that wreaks havoc on the tax payers. They voted to award Christine Gregoire a $160,000 annual pension, right? All they want to do is tax everything and everybody to death to raise money for them to waste with no oversight. Do we have to wonder why Boeing is slowly pulling out of Washington? Tax the working class to maintain a huge budget for DSHS to feed lazy immigrants from Somalia.

  • JustSayin

    >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.

    I-502 is NOT "the new recreational pot law" – it is a law for the State of Washington, enacted by the electorate and therefore applies to everybody – irrespective of the reason as to why people use marijuana.

    Editorials and articles need to remember this fact – instead of buying into the medical vs recreational mythology.

    While medical users in Washington have genuine concerns and grievances about their status in view of I-502, it is inappropriate to create a war of medical vs recreational users. The medical campaign in Washington is about the controversy surrounding two sets of laws – not two sets of marijuana users.

    If medical users can get their terminology right on this point, then they will stand a better chance of success with their concerns.

    • Steve Sarich

      Just a quick couple of questions. Do you agree that the voters were told that I-502 would not affect medical cannabis, which would include not turning it over to the Liquor Control Board?

      We've had a medical cannabis law since 1998. So I guess we do have to sets of laws, don't we? Which law was passed that said the I-502 would preempt the Medical Cannabis Act?

      We have no problem with terminology. The Liquor Control Board has a problem with jurisdiction. When the states' liquor distributor wants control of any medical issue, it's likely to create a war. They have a clear conflict of interest on this issue and this is nothing more than the LCB trying to drive out the people they believe to be their competition. They've already said as much.

      Steve Sarich
      Cannabis Action Coalition

  • BILL K.

    Why are whites so racist? You have to add hatred and racim in to every comment. africans , asians , whites, unless you are native or mexican you are the immagrint. And if you dont like it GO BACC TO EUROPE WHERE YOU BELONG

  • Steve Sarich

    What this story failed to mention is that patients DO support regulation and we would have proposed new medical cannabis regulations this year ourselves, but both Senator Kohl-Welles and the community agreed that this contentious legislative session was not the time to do that.

    We agreed that we'd be better off spending this summer and fall coming up with new regulations that we'd propose as a new bill in the 2014 session. Including the liquor control board was never part of that discussion and won't be on the table in the future. They are completely unqualified to deal with medical issues. What's next, the Department of Fish and Game writing regulations for heart surgery or deciding who qualifies for a liver transplant?

    What we ARE adamant about is that there should be no taxation on our medicine. There is no tax on any other doctor prescribed medicine in Washington State, and we believe it's totally unfair to single us out simply because of our choice of medication. If the state legislature is so broke that they want to pass a tax on ALL prescribed medications in Washington, not just cannabis, we'll accept whatever tax they come up with. We're not asking for special treatment.

    If they do choose to pass a tax on all medications, I think they'll find that patients, regardless of the medications they are taking, would revolt over a tax on the medicine of sick and dying patients. I think they'll find that's going to be an extremely unpopular way to fund the state programs, I believe that people would make that abundantly clear in the 2014 election cycle.

    In short, if affordable access to our medication is somehow going to interfere with the profits of a recreational pot market, that's certainly not our fault. We were promised that I-502 would not interfere with medical cannabis. Now they're trying to change the rules through this sneaky budget amendment. If they can't make the I-502 model work without harming sick patients, perhaps they ought to rethink their plan.

    If they attempt put medical cannabis under the control of the state's liquor distributor, the legislature is going to find that they have a "life or death" fight on their hands, because that's what it will mean to countless patients.

    I just want to know which legislator would trust putting the medical care of a loved one with cancer in the hands of the state liquor control board. I suspect that we all know the answer to that question. Then they shouldn't even consider doing that to the rest of us who depend on cannabis as their only medicine on a daily basis.

    Steve Sarich
    Cannabis Action Coalition

  • Dave not here

    "over exposure to youth"!! Makes me sick to see them use this lame excuse. How about the add for "Skinny Girl" vodka right next to the candy aisle in grocery stores, for example. How does that limit the exposure of alcohol to youth? It doesn't, it glorifies it. Hypocrites!! Stay out of medicine unless you have a medical degree, which the last time I checked, the liquor control board did not!

    • Steve Sarich

      Uhhh…they got kicked out of alcohol by the voters too. Is the legislature betting that they'll do a better job with recreational pot? Not that we've seen so far. They're still missing critical portions of the regulations that they'll need to make this turkey fly. I still haven't heard how they plan on dealing with the banking issue. One liquor control board person actually suggested armored cars to haul all that cash around. Last time I heard, that's the state participating in money laundering. But I'm sure the Feds will explain that sooner or later….after the state wastes millions trying to make the LCB model work.

      The LCB has to be praying for the Feds to close this comedy down before it goes much farther and they actually have to try to make this impossible situation work. It's been fun for them so far, but by July 3rd, some people are going to be asking some really serious questions….that they won't be able to answer.

  • That one person.

    Also they failed to mention that you cannot just walk into a dispensary and buy weed. You HAVE to be a patient, they failed to mention that crucial piece of information in that last bit; however if they had their argument would have fallen apart and it would have made the reporter seem silly or inept……


    Folks, just keep buying weed from your usual underground sellers. Don't buy into this 'legal marijuana' scam. Continue buying from your friendly neighborhood pot grower or dealer. Screw the Liquor Control Board. A bunch of dim-wit bureaucrats looking for something to tax.

  • Bree

    Has it occurred it either of these reporters that a valid authorization will still be required to enter a access point? And any one qualified is already authorized so isn't a loss to the recreational revenue machine.

    • Steve Sarich

      I understand how the LCB would like to squeeze every last dime out of the taxpayers, but we're not supposed to be so greedy as to insist on taxing those who are serious ill or dying. To be fair, shouldn't they just tax ALL cancer patients? Why limit their greed to just the cancer patients taking this particular medication? They'd take in far more tax revenue if they'd just tax ALL the AIDS patients….not just those using cannabis.

      Is it only "politically correct" and "socially acceptable" to tax those who use cannabis as a medicine? These are some serious heartless human beings we have attempting to control our medicine.

      Steve Sarich
      Cannabis Action Coalition

  • 206BenJammin

    Sarich and all his MM buddies continue to warp the issues with lies, half-truths and idiotic assumptions which, as we have always proven in the past, amount to a bunch of bullcrap. The lie they told to get attendance at their event was by telling MM patients (and fake patients) that they would no longer be able to grow. This is not true…as is usually the case with anything Sarich says.

    Leaving our state's MM industry untaxed and unregulated means it will continue to be a sham run by yahoos like Sarich – a guy so freakishly smart he hired 18 year old kids to work at his grow house…who then showed up with their gangbanger friends with guns to rob him…

    Stop listening to people whose sole income is derived from MM…