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New rules would outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries

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OLYMPIA — The Washington State Liquor Control Board proposed new rules Monday that would effectively outlaw the medical marijuana dispensaries when the new recreational pot stores start opening next year.

Many believe the two systems can’t coexist, given that the new stores will be heavily regulated and taxed while the dispensaries have little, if any, oversight.

“What we’re trying to do is limit abuse of the medical marijuana system,” said Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board.  “The medical marijuana system should exist for people who are truly sick and truly need medicine.  It shouldn’t be for people who are looking for recreational marijuana.”

This is the day many medical marijuana patients and activists had feared was coming ever since the passage of Initiative 502 last year. They have long thought they were going to get squeezed out by the new pot stores.

“What they’re doing is they’re trying to eliminate medical,” said Steve Sarich of the Cannabis Action Coalition.  He argues “greed” is what was behind the rule to get rid of dispensaries.

“What better way to get rid of the competition, you just make them illegal again,” Sarich said.  “We are not going to make 200,000 patients in the state of Washington criminals again.  That is not what the voters voted for.”

Monday’s rules from the Liquor Control Board are a first stab, a draft, at trying to reconcile these two systems, medical and recreational.  The concern is that keeping them separate will be untenable.  That it won’t work.  That if you don’t shut down the dispensaries, new recreational users will just use them to get their pot, since it’s likely to be cheaper, and they are allowed to buy more.

The draft recommendations that were issued Monday would also outlaw any home grows even for medical marijuana patients.

“There will be a safe and consistent supply of tested, you know, labeled marijuana available for people,” said Carpenter.

Sarich argued the problems with the current system can be corrected without getting rid of the dispensaries.

“You don’t have to eliminate medical marijuana because some people are cheating.  There’s people cheating the system in every facet,” he said.  “If they were required by law to prove that they had a qualifying condition, then that problem would go away.”

Sarich also objects to the new rule that would apply I-502’s hefty tax to medical marijuana users.

“We do not tax food in this state, we do not tax medicine in this state,” he said.  “And voters said that cannabis is medicine.”

The leader of last year’s I-502 said having current medical marijuana patients go to the new pot stores instead of the dispensaries will be a better system.

“What Initiative 502 does for patients is offer them something that they haven’t had before, which is quality control over the product that is being sold to them,” said Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington.  “They’re going to know who’s growing it, where it came from.  It’ll be tested. They’ll have information about pesticides.  And it will be available to them whenever they want it in a licensed store that’s legal under the law.  They won’t have to worry about crossing the threshold and getting arrested.”

The Liquor Control Board will be taking public comment on these rules over the next several weeks.  Once members have them finalized, they will be given to the Legislature in January for approval.

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  • Steve Sarich

    So now no one can argue that Alison Holcomb isn't a LIAR. Those of us who opposed I-502 predicted this very outcome for the last three years. We knew that there was no possible way that the 502 model could produce pricing that could compete with medical with their outrageous sin tax structure, and they would use that as an excuse to wipe out medical.

    So who was lying to the public? Alison Holcomb or me?

    Steve Sarich
    Cannabis Action Coalition

    • Harris

      I also voted no on 502 and tried to get everyone I know to do the same, sadly it wasn't enough. I think anyone involved with MMJ knew this was going to happen and that the 502 campaign was full of lies to make voters believe this would be a good thing for our state. My question now is, what about edibles, and waxes, and all the other ways patients take their medication? Are these new pot stores going to have all of the same options dispensaries have? If so, who's making the products? I haven't heard one word about edibles or waxes being available in these new stores. This is a sad day for MMJ patients!

  • Cassandra ayers

    Why dont you regulate the people who take pills all day long?? So many people are addicted to pills its ridiculous…why doesn’t someone contact the Netherlands government and ask them how they run there mmj??I have been to Amsterdam and I talked to everyone I could.. Serously this is not a big deal the only reason people are acting like its such a big deal it’s because they didnt realize that so many people do smoke…I dont care what anybody does in there own house…I say leagalize it regulate it how you want tax it how you want. But WE the people have spoken…give everyone the choice….jobs still drug test so its on that individual’s choice to smoke.if you want that job to support you and your family then its your choice to smoke or not. You still sell cigarettes but yet you dont want to leagalize mmj?? Cigarettes kill how many people??mmj has killed how many?? I thought so..this is 2013 wake up.

  • greenlaker

    The LCB works for us, THE PEOPLE. Time to tell them to back off and relax the rules on recreational if they don't work with the medicinal system.

  • UraBum



  • Eric

    Without homegrow, I wouldn't be able to afford my meds and would be forced back into pharmaceuticals. This is a terrible day for WA patients.

    • Harris

      Exactly the problem!!! It will force patients to become criminals again because they won't be able to afford the ridiculously overpriced marijuana in the recreational stores!!! It is indeed a sad day for patients :(

  • Robbie Smith

    Hopefully someone with a say in government will read this, the solution is simple. In each area that you have deemed a certain # of stores, make 1/2 state run and the other half medical only. Put the LCB in charge of the medical stores also, regulate how they are doing business, if they’ve been doing business on the up and up so far they will continue, IWeam previous owners that were caught up in the 2011 raids and my husband and I would have loved some rules to run by. Look into the stores already operating in each area, choose the ones that are being run professionally and legitimately, those that carry packaged products with labeling. Let those stores cater to the medical patients, charge tax if you need to, the state 8% tax nobody would care about. Make them test their products they can afford it, but don’t limit medical patients to a low THC/CBC count when that won’t help their condition. Then let the state run stores run by the 502 rules. I am in agreement that there are too many dispensaries and no regulation, bad medicine is being sold, other drugs are filtering through some of them, edibles with no labeling is getting people sick, there needs to be some sort of overseer.

  • warrenlevine

    LOL. Fuck them. My joints (shoulder, knees, hips) are deteriorating, and they KILL me with intractable pain. I have rights as a medical user; I can grow my own, just like tomatoes. So the entire Liquor Control Board can toss my salad.

  • freedom 35

    Absolute outrage this is. When will the government realize it is futile to try and regulate something that grows from the ground? I'm getting old and very sick and tired of all this debate for the last 35 years. Remove it from the lists(s) of controlled substances and apply the same regulations that apply to tomatoes. Let it be done already.

  • Rita

    Greed ! we were promised if we voted on 502 that it would Not effect nor change any rules of MMJ. Well here we are ! If this is the case we need a Repeal on 502 and a Re-Vote on 502. It's that simple. both these laws were already voted on and now established get over your political GREED ! Who's the real Drug Cartels ? Wa. Political Figures ? Now Your Pushers as well !

  • Edward

    I think a lot of this problem stems from our regressive tax policy. It's the worst in the country according the the most recent studies. If we could set up an income tax structure like say…. Oregon's and get rid of ALL sales taxes, you would remove the ability for corrupt agencies like the WSLCB to fleece the general public and completely screw over medical users. Problem is the average voter in WA has ZERO confidence in our state legislators and bureaucracies (antics like this don't help much either). We'd end up screwed in the end trying to implement tax reform too.

  • Earl Carruthers

    Exactly what was feared by medical marijuana supporters and activists has come to haunt the society. The simple logic is to make medical marijuana dispensaries illegal in the eyes of law to end the competition they are creating. If the author thinks that the newly crafted rules by the Liquor Control Board will act as the first stab then he thinks rightly. But, the rules are still to find approval from the Legislature in January. It will be interesting to watch the outcome of this never ending debate.

  • Leon

    Their stepping over the line with that bad idea. When I-502 was voted on they made it clear it had no bearing on MMJ, and if they change the terms of I-502 after it's voted on doesn't that make it void? This is all about political greed, and any changes to I-502 should go to the voters. Another point: MMJ was voted on by the people and approved, what right does the state have to make it illegal? We vote on issues because it's what the people want and that should carry more weight than the states financial interests. They work for us, not the other way around.

  • Dave

    Total outrage! What safer way to acquire your medical marijuana than to grow your own? We grow our own because we cannot afford even the untaxed prices. Take that away, and do they really think we will pay 300/ounce for “regular average weed” not a chance. This will only drive a bigger black market as people will not want to pay that. We were told time after time after time that 502 would not interfere with medical. Typical bait and switch. Let’s have a re-vote now with those new draconian rules and see how it goes…this is NOT what the people voted for. This is nothing short of throwing the weakest members of society under the bus, for profit.

  • John

    Call or email your state representatives now… just do it. Let them know you will not stand by while they screw over voters. We can see through this, and they will be held accountable.

    If anything, recreational should be "funneled" into the medical model. There are no recreational users… It's all therapeutic usage. For example, us folk that sit in a cube under fluorescent lights for 8 hours a day aren't taking a few hits when we get home for "fun". We are using it therapeutically to deal with the totally unnatural environment we are forced to live in in order to pay taxes so the WSLCB can make idiotic rules to screw us over.

    Oh, and the F(*&ING regulations…. you'd swear they were regulating anthrax manufacturing or plutonium enrichment. Nice work guys.

  • REGatCPN

    Washington policymakers missed the central point–We all have an Endocannabinoid System–thus, we all have a stake in Medical Cannabis….recreational is going to come and just be what it is–medical is in it's infancy…let's wake up and start merging the science with the patient experience so that all may have access–this restricted access crap, we'll it shows us legal isn't really legal, is it? or follow Cannabis Patient Network on FB

  • icare

    This is what I told everyone would happen and this is what they (,Olympia, and the pro 502 members,) promised us would not happen. Patience can not afford the stupid prices, so to take away home grows for patience or tax that heavy, is just going to put them back in the black market and we will just have even more people in prison for pot, and taking more pain pills again. If you go to a good dispensary they already test and have a higher quality and variety then these 502 stores will have,and there are people that actually know what they have and what the difference is. Again I said the good ones. If they get there way and limit thc and cbd the marajuana will not work for patience anyway.

  • Jordan

    So I am a medical patient but I’m 18, so I’m concerned how am I saposed to get my medicine? The new stores are for 21 plus, so that leaves people like me with no access to safe medicine? Awesome.

  • Debra Thackerson

    We as Medical Cannabis users need to get the "Liquor" control board away from our medicine,They don't have any right to involve themselves in our health! They don't have the intellegence to manage our health problems,so why should they manage our medicine?Let them handle recreational pot and leave our medicine laws alone! We the PEOPLE have spoken already on this issue! We will fight them over this until they don't exist any more!!!! Vote to get rid of the L.C.B.!!

  • Jordan L.

    Some of the dispensaries here use child safety containers, like prescription bottles, and I just wash and re-use them for those that don’t. But for edibles, I don’t know that they make similar safety containers. I have just used Tupperware containers. One of the safety benefits of using prescription bottles is supposed to be that they are opaque, so you could use this same strategy for Tupperware containers.

  • Zach

    Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician. Thanks.

  • Steve R.

    It amazes me how Canada and America have flip-flopped over pot. 10 years ago when I lived in Canada the Liberal government was proposing decriminalization and the US was waging war against marijuana.

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