Medical marijuana will have clear, statewide regulations for the first time since Washington voters legalized recreational use, under a new state law.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed Senate Bill 5052 requiring licensed marijuana retailers to get special endorsements to sell medical products, changing rules for growers and creating a voluntary patient database.
It’s the only bill signed into law out of nearly 20 introduced this session to reconcile the state’s new, highly-taxed and regulated recreational market and the state’s medical marijuana market, which has existed in a gray area.
Inslee said this bill is a start. “As significant an accomplishment as this bill is for our state – and for patients to be ensured of having a safe place to get medicine they need – I know some remain concerned,” he said. “I recognize the solution is not perfect. However, I do think this is far better than today’s wholly unregulated system.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington for 17 years, produced through collective gardens and sold through donation-based dispensaries. For the more than two years since voters approved Initiative 502, medical marijuana has existed without high regulatory and tax burdens that meant lower prices for patients.
Recreational retailers, meanwhile, have to follow licensing and other rules under the initiative. Now, medical stores will have to follow the same rules, with special requirements including a special endorsement from the state Liquor Control Board. Some patients worry the new law will mean they can’t afford the medicine they need.
Collective gardens, which allow growers to produce and supply as many as 10 patients with medical products, will be replaced in July with so-called cooperatives. As many as four patients will now be able to grow marijuana together, with a maximum of 60 plants.
The measure also creates a voluntary patient database, which supporters say will protect patients and retailers from arrest. Registered patients will be allowed to carry three times as much marijuana as recreational law allows. That’s 3 ounces of dry marijuana, with different amounts for other forms.
Unregistered patients can carry as much as recreational users.
Inslee vetoed parts of the bill he said were still unfinished and could cause confusion. Among the vetoed provisions, a plan to declassify marijuana from Schedule I — the most dangerous — and another that would have made the measure contingent on the passage of another bill.
The bill was signed hours before state lawmakers were scheduled to gavel out of the regular session two days ahead of schedule. Special session starts April 29.