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Washington Recreational Marijuana Stores Lobbying For Medical Marijuana Regulations


marijuana washington state felony drug possessionWhen it comes to marijuana policy, Washington is a contentious place. It seems like ever since the start of the I-502 campaign, there has been tension in Washington between some recreational marijuana supporters and some medical marijuana supporters, especially business owners. That of course doesn’t mean that every one in both camps are at odds with each other. A vast majority of the people that make up both sides support both sides.

However, the ones that don’t are very vocal, and I expect tension levels to rise during the legislative session as it sounds like some recreational store owners have hired lobbyists to try to convince Washington’s Legislature to put solid regulations in place for medical marijuana dispensaries. Per Business Week:

In 2012, Washington passed a ballot measure legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. Finally adults could get high without a medical excuse. The initiative established a tax and licensing regime for pot growers, processors, and retailers overseen by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which mandates extensive product testing and package labeling for marijuana products. That’s made recreational pot about 50 percent more expensive than medical marijuana. “Those are all extra costs that are incurred under the law that medicinal pot doesn’t have,” says Lynsee Swisher, director of Nine Point Growth Industries, a licensed grower of strains such as Opal OG Kush.

Now the new retailers are hiring lobbyists to push state legislators in Olympia to regulate medical cannabis. They want medical marijuana to meet the same safety standards as recreational pot and say customers who aren’t true patients should have to buy the high-tax retail product. Some dispensaries are bringing in their own lobbyists to make sure they don’t get squeezed out. Amber Lewis was hired in November by an alliance of medical and recreational businesses that want to figure a way that’s fair to both sides. “I’ve learned that in the cannabis industry, things are very loose, until they’re not,” says Lewis.

While the state doesn’t have an exact count of medical dispensaries, they far outnumber the 334 recreational marijuana stores licensed to open. In Seattle alone, about 300 dispensaries operate, but only 21 retail licenses were issued, says Rick Garza, director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The licenses for the new retail stores were doled out by lottery last May. It cost just $250 to enter, and more than 1,000 people applied for licenses. That included newcomers to the pot business who hadn’t participated in the political battle to legalize marijuana and had no common bond with medical marijuana sellers.

Taking a step back from the allegations being hurled by both sides on social media, I think that clear, fair regulations are a good thing for Washington’s medical marijuana industry. Like Washington, Oregon didn’t have rules in place for a number of years while medical marijuana dispensaries operated, and it led to all kinds of problems, similar to the ones facing medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington. Oregon’s Legislature passed legislation that created rules and a licensing system, and virtually all of those problems went away. Washington’s dispensaries will always be under attack as long as they are unregulated. I hope to see a day when the wounds of the past heal in Washington for all marijuana supporters, and the attacks on Washington’s dispensaries stop, and they are allowed to operate like any other business.


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Johnny Green


  1. It’s not as simple as just the taxes. The costs of complying with the LCB’s ever changing regulations is also a major impediment to success of the recreational market. Literally hundreds of fines are being levied by the LCB every month. We are not regulating plutonium. This whole system should be turned over to the Department of Agriculture….who will also be handling hemp production.

    How about we NOT “treat it like alcohol” and treat it like what it is….a plant?

  2. 502 is a joke. The blackmarket not only remains but has only gotten stronger. Hmm…$80.00 for an eighth or $40.00? Figure it out people! We need to change the taxing structure altogether. Dennis, you have it right.

  3. When you go to the pharmacy for your meds do you pay a tax? NO. So why should medical weed be any different?

  4. taxation is partly what drove hemp farmers out of biz in the early days of cannabis demonization by big industry in bed together to make sure a few get rich as opposed to everyone being lifted. besides they want us dependent and cannabis would free anyone wanting to live a sustainable life. they hate independence no matter what they say!

  5. Patients will NOT shop at the LCB stores….none of them. But I’ve been talking to several tribes and they will be ready to take care of the patient community.

  6. “Barely feed themselves” ? I have a few Kiowa-Apache friends living in Western Oklahoma who would love to have a few words with you in private.

  7. 502 will not fail just because you say so. Once they close dispensaries and open more stores it will be fine.

  8. I looked through an “Atlas of the American Indian” researching the Native American tribes living in Western Washington. I was surprised by just how many tribes live on land encircling Puget Sound alone.

  9. You? A “disenfranchised segment”? My ass ! Come visit the cancer ward with me on my next trip and I’ll show you who’s truly “disenfranchised” , And Just so you know, (although I sure you could give a shit). Sick people don’t respond well to change. So DEAL with it!

  10. Solution: pony up a donation (not that that will stop any particularly virulent screed) the Weed Blog has operating expenses too.

  11. Grows are best for healthy people. That’s why care-giver’s and collectives are important. The same people who don’t care about medical dispensaries and sick patients now, (I’m not referring to you btw), will certainly wish they had, as they age and eventually become ill too.

  12. OK. You visit a person who has cancer and is going through chemotherapy. I’ll visit a Seattle area I- 502 store and speak with a recreational cannabis store customer. Afterward, we’ll swap post’s to determine which one of us had the more pleasant experience ? Deal?

  13. It was both patients and dispensary owners. While it may not have been every patient, there were a substantial amount no matter how much you try to deny it. And while you point out the wholesale thing, what do you think the growers will do with their stock, Genius? They will sell it on the black market.

    And dude, I have seen reservations first hand. Indian Tribes can barely feed themselves much less grow and sustain a cannabis market. Many of those places are utter shitholes.

    It is people like yourself that somehow always force me to reconsider supporting legalization for all. Then again, I am sure your comeback will be you don’t care. Ain’t that right, Tonto?

  14. Your pea brain needs to differentiate between patients and dispensary owners. A lot of the dispensary owners actually supported I-502, thinking they were going to get licenses and be rich. The patient overwhelmingly opposed it because we knew it wouldn’t work and it that it would be used to end medical. Were we right? Looks like that’s exactly what happened.

    The $4 a gram is wholesale, by the time it’s sold in the retail stores it’s still $15….three times what the Indians will be selling theirs for….but I don’t suppose a rocket scientist like you actually did the math.

    We really don’t care if you have faith in the Indians….they won’t be losing any sleep over your opinion.

  15. There were a ton of MMJ patients against legalization. Hard to be compassionate towards a group that was happy as hell when they got what they wanted and then helped fight against legalization for others. The state figured they would step in and make the same kind of money the black market was pulling in but obviously were stupid when they thought about attaching such a high tax rate to it.

    Forgive me if I don’t put too much faith in Indian Tribes to do anything successfully. The only thing they have done successfully is to run casinos but even that was done as preferential treatment. And if the tribe are going to run the market selling for $5 grams, then those growers in Washington will run the market since their stock is forcing them to sell to retail at $4 grams currently.

    My point is we all deserve to be treated equally on the issue of legalization. And MMJ patients appear at this time to be treated a bit better than those who are actually paying the larger tax burdens. If all were treated equally then there would be no reason for healing because everyone would be on a level playing field.

  16. The fact that home grows were NOT included was one of the major complaints patients with I-502. So you have no sympathy for the patients? How “compassionate” of you. It’s not the patients that are trying to sabotage “legalization” efforts….we SUPPORT real legalization and we knew that this was NOT real legalization. This was simply the state taking over and appointing new “dealers” and trying to establish a “pot monopoly”. We knew it wouldn’t work….and obviously it’s not working.

    This whole argument is going to be moot soon because the Indian Tribes will now lead us into real legalization by establishing the first true Open Market model for marijuana growing and distribution. How do you plan on stopping THEM?

  17. shocking! Another one of my responses is deleted. Censorship is alive and well here on the Weed Blog.

  18. That is not the point. The point being there were many in the MMJ community that did their best to fight full legalization because they already got what they wanted. Those MMJ businesses did not want the competition. Now that we have full legalization, why should MMJ patients be treated differently than those who are getting gouged with retail? This is exactly why Washington refused to allow homegrows because of fear that if people were allowed to homegrow there would no way to force people to buy government taxed cannabis.

    If we truly care about cannabis reform then it must be where all of us are treated equally when it comes to cannabis and quit giving patients preferred tax status and freedoms not afforded to the consumers who are actually paying the lion’s share of the tax burden. I am sorry those people are sick but why should they get a tax break or be allowed to homegrow but others who aren’t sick cannot? Fair is fair. Treat one segment differently and you lose compassion from the disenfranchised segment.

  19. The State needs to figure out that if it wants the profit the black market is currently receiving, then it needs to get the greed mentality out of the way.
    With the regulatory burden causing the legal price to be twice what the black market is ,obviously, not the way to go about it.
    If the State were to tax (6.5%) and allow the local taxes (1-3%) and to regulate this industry as any other industry, then they would have the chance to compete with the black market and maybe preempt the future competition from the tribes.
    One would think that the average user would want to purchase their product from a legal source and may even feel good about supporting a government that is fair to them and not trying to screw them (anymore than they already are) out of their wages.

  20. Instead of “making them pay the same as the rest of us”, why don’t you fight for the right to homegrow to “equal things out”

  21. There’s no reason to even TALK about “healing” while these greedy I-502 businesses, and the sponsors of I-502, are actively looking to kill off medical cannabis in Washington State right now! That’s just silly to even suggest!

    I-502, as we predicted, is failing. Four-fifths of the marijuana grown by I-502 producers has gone unsold, while more growers are now coming on line. Does this sound like “success” to anyone?

    “It’s an economic nightmare,” says Andrew Seitz, general manager at Dutch Brothers Farms in Seattle.

    “Every grower I know has got surplus inventory and they’re concerned about it,” said Scott Masengill, who has sold half of the 280 pounds he harvested from his pot farm in central Washington. “I don’t know anybody getting rich.”

    “State data show that Washington’s relatively few retail stores have sold less than one-fifth of the 31,000 pounds of marijuana flower that growers have harvested.”

    OH….did I forget to mention that the LCB is broke and claims that they don’t have enough money to regulate the 502 recreational system now and will ask the legislature for millions more in funding for next year? Wasn’t the LCB system supposed to be a “Cash Cow” for the state…..and not a bottomless money pit? We fired these idiots, by voter initiative, because they were losing money running a liquor monopoly? Did someone think they’d do a better job with recreational marijuana? That wasn’t too well thought out, now was it?

    But the end is near. I’ve been approached by several tribes in Washington State, and they will be going “all in” on the growing and distribution of both medical and recreational. And there is NOTHING the LCB, or the State, or these greedy 502 businesses can do about it.

    They’re toast. By summer, the Indians will own the market, and they’ll be selling $5 grams.

  22. This is why Washington should have included homegrows because we all know the consumer will get stuck in the middle and footing the bill one way or another. But frankly, I have lost any sympathy I have for MMJ patients and businesses with their incessant whining and some of them even trying to sabotage legalization efforts. They got theirs, so fuck the rest of us. Well, good. You got yours, we got ours, now pay the same price as the rest of us.

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