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Washington Medical Marijuana Recommendations Draw Opposition


medical marijuana washington medicineBy Phillip Smith

The three state agencies and the governor’s office that constitute the state’s medical marijuana working group on Monday released their draft recommendations for dealing with medical marijuana in the era of legal marijuana possession and state-licensed marijuana stores under the I-502 initiative. Their recommendations would essentially gut the existing medical marijuana system, and patients and advocates are crying foul.

The recommendations from the State Liquor Control Board (which is in charge of implementing the I-502 regime), the Department of Health, and the Department of Revenue would allow state-registered patients to purchase tax-exempt marijuana from the 334 stores envisioned under I-502, but would also reduce the amount patients could possess from 24 ounces to three ounces, require doctors to register patients with the state, remove the affirmative defense for medical marijuana patients, and end the right to petition for new medical conditions to be added.

The recommendations also call for eliminating the right of patients to grow their own, either individually or collectively, require existing dispensaries to comply with I-502 regulations, and force out of business those that can’t. That would bring the state’s medical marijuana system in line with I-502’s no home grow provision.

While I-502 only envisions legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and over, the recommendations would allow 18-to-20-year-olds to use medical marijuana, but patients under the age of 18 would only be allowed to use it with parental consent and could only possess one dose at a time.

The state agencies will make their final recommendations by January 1, when they must send a final report to the state legislature, but in the meantime, they are taking for public comment between now and November 8. They can expect to get an earful from an angry medical marijuana community.

“Washington was one of the first states in the nation to recognize that patients under a physician’s care have the right to use medical marijuana,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “The needs of this vulnerable population are distinctly different from the wants of recreational users and it’s vital that elected officials understand the difference.”

ASA, which worked with local activists to create the Health Before Happy Hour campaign to try to ensure that medical marijuana patients don’t get run over by the legalization bus, is also holding a series of stakeholder meeting to mobilize the community and protect what it views as its hard-won rights. Those meetings will be held between October 27 and 30 in Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, and Yakima.

ASA created that campaign in part because of ominous portents coming from state officials and other key players. In May, Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith warned that competition from the medical marijuana market will pose “a challenge” to the viability of the state’s new recreational program, while state Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw), chairman of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, more recently called the medical marijuana industry “a sham,” and urged the task force to recommend that all of the state’s dispensaries be shut down.

Then, Mitch Barker of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs chimed in to claim that “the two (laws) are not going to be able to exist side by side for very long.” As if that weren’t enough, the DEA continues to raid dispensaries, and US Attorneys continue to menace patients and providers. US Attorney Jenny Durkan qualified the state’s medical marijuana system as “untenable,” and vowed to shut down the dispensaries.

“We are living with HIV/AIDS, end-stage cancers, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other serious, often painful and debilitating diseases,” said Paul Feldman, who experiences relief with the help of medical marijuana. “It is wholly inappropriate to force us to get our medicine from anything resembling a liquor store and equally unacceptable to make patients pay an excise tax,” continued Feldman. “No other medication is taxed this way and cannabis shouldn’t be either.”

Instead of gutting the medical marijuana program, the Health Before Happy Hour campaign is calling for a system of state-licensed and regulated dispensaries outside the scope of I-502. The campaign is supporting legislation similar to Senate Bill 5073, the proposal previously sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) which was partially vetoed in 2011 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire (D).

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Johnny Green


  1. Paul Krugman says: “That’s why we have medical ethics. That’s why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional.”

    I’m not sure which decade Mr. Krugman is living in, but he does not describe the medical profession that exists now or has existed for quite some time. I am not the one who WANTED to be a consumer, I am viewing myself as “they” see and treat me, not as how I see myself. But unless I understand the consumerization (real word?) of healthcare, then I am a gullible, ignorant fool just waiting to be fleeced and have my health harmed in the process.

    My being a patient is more important than being a consumer? What other power do I have? Because I sure don’t have any power as a patient. And we have as much medical validity as MMJ patients as the feds (and your city and state) will allow. I don’t feel protected as an MMJ patient, nor do I feel any protection as a disabled person, a pain patient, or really as a citizen. Whatever laws they put on the books today, they will change tomorrow, usually to my detriment.

    All of which is to say that there SHOULD be some kind of demarcation between a patient and a consumer. (Am I a consumer when I buy a prescription for Vicodin? Am I a patient when I buy a beer?) See, what I’m trying to say is that we have to change how we view everything else when we add medical cannabis to the picture. When you’re talking MMJ, you have to compare it to how patients use other drugs. When you’re talking about a legal drug, you have to compare it to how consumers are using beer and cigarettes. The laws regarding cannabis will never be fair unless we are able to compare them against similar laws for similar products and have them come out equally.
    What I’m talking about is moving the discussion up a couple of notches, to a macro-level, that allows us to see the whole picture, not just specifically cannabis. We’re not just cannabis patients, we are pain patients and cancer patients and patients suffering from depression. We have a right to the medicines and drugs that help us, no matter where they come from.

    We are both for legalization and we are both for strong MMJ patient rights. But I am no fool, and wherever the politicians and activists and doctors and corporations decide to take this fight, I will find a way to obtain the medicine that I need. Not that I “need” cannabis, but I have found that I do need some sort of quality of life. Peace.

  2. You are a PATIENT, first and foremost, which is different from a consumer. The fact that you are a patient is more important than being a consumer. I have no problem identifying myself (for reasons of mmj) as a chronic pain/chronic nausea patient (multiple disorders). While I oppose prohibition, I am sorry to see that the loosening of regulations is becoming detrimental to mmj laws as they currently stand. I think that if anything we should SEPARATE patients/consumers even more. Let’s use our permits for what they are meant- identifying us as people who respond better to mj than to some pharmaceuticals and the fact that it helps us medically. The fact that I have a valid permit allows me to test positive for THC in my random UA tests that my pain clinic does. If the medical validity washes out in legislation, I will have to choose between my pain maintenance meds or mj. Here is a quote from an article I ran across: “The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just “providers” selling services to health care ‘consumers’ — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values.” This is from a 2011 article regarding the national healthcare debate. The article is called: “Patients Are Not Consumers”. I DO understand what you are trying to say, but, for better or worse, certain words bring about certain connotations. Here is the op-ed if you want to read it: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/opinion/22krugman.html?_r=0

  3. Shearin the sheep on

    The ASA is a stooge group that represents the same people that passed i-502. Please don’t be fooled by these hucksters into some type of cointelpro effort to undercut real opposition to the takeover. The last i heard the ASA was inviting liquor control Board members to monitor its “opposition” meetings. These con artists will do anything to support their corporate handlers, including selling out their “stakeholders”.

  4. Identifying the regulatory structure and power of the liquor board (and how it relates to both the MMJ legislation and the commercial legislation, which you say are separate) is a great idea. If you poke at this area, be prepared to have the other side then suggest that the separate legislations should be combined and/or call for an increase in the power of the liquor board.

    I’m wondering if you’ve looked into the differences between the definitions of “patient” and “consumer.” For instance, right now I am a healthcare consumer, a pain patient, an MMJ patient AND a medical cannabis consumer. When legalization happens, should I narrow my self-label to just a chronic pain patient? Are pain patients who take prescription medications defined by their drug of choice? Do you see what I mean?

  5. letter i just sent to my reps you should do the same the squeaking wheel you know.’

    I have on idea where you stand or your personal opinion on the subject of medical marijuana but the people who set up the original rules on this had a pretty good idea of what was needed for the normal medical grower to have a supply to last a year. most medical users cannot afford a indoor growing operation or the bills it requires to operate this type of operation. 2 lbs sounds like a lot until you realize it is a years supply and must last until the end of the next growing season. The liquor control board is planning to tamper with theses rules, I’m not sure their power , derived from the recreational use law, which by the way i do not support, gives them any control over the medical use.

    They are two separate and distinctly different things authorized under two different legislative acts. It seems to me they are overreaching their power and trying to extend their control into a area where they have no power.

    Medical users by and large cannot afford the prices that the recreational user can pay, they are going to use it once in a while and the medical people use it daily, huge financial difference.

    I have given them my input but i request that you examine their new proposals and how and where they are getting their power to try to regulate the medical end of marijuana.

    please share your thoughts on this matter and give the liquor control board your input on this matter.

  6. this would be so good for people with medical condisions,when we got to pop pills everyday this makes us get more depressed.joke of the day;what do you call a group of baboons?~congress~we need this the very sick in elba,ALABAMA!!!

  7. Robert Dewayne King on

    We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
    Abraham Lincoln

  8. I knew before I moved to New Mexico that I would have to register with the state. No, I didn’t like it, I hated it, but I did it anyway. I guess they know where to find me. Anyway, HIPPA died, man. She just… died.

    Home grows are essential, both for medical and legalization overall — I don’t see how it can be done well or effectively without the ability for home grows.

  9. How does the doctor “registering” you as a patient with the State Health Dept. NOT violate HIPA. My use of marijuana as a patient is between me and my doctor, not between me , my doctor and some fucking state agency. The no home grow clause shows they clearly have their heads planted firmly in their ass.

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  11. Okay, scratch that post below. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what I saw when I looked into I-502, and of course I was right. (Sometimes I hate being right.) I was gonna give you my opinion on what it looks like from the outside, but only if you’re still, I don’t know, hanging around out there in the cloud. Why do I feel like I’m talking to air?

  12. It would be great if you could create a visual aid, like a graph or something, showing all the power players in the new cannabis marketplace. There are too many of them, and I just can’t get them all straight in my head.

  13. Natosha Monego on

    You can call your WA legislators and leave your thoughts on their hotline, 1-800-562-6000. For other ways of contacting them, view the WA legislative website, go to: http://www.leg.wa.gov/LIC/Pages/hotline.aspx. This post is in reference to the proposed recommendations made by WA state legislators in response to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr’s concerns for Washington State Recreational and MMJ cannabis programs. Additionally you can also hand write a letter to them, go into their offices personally and speak with them, and/or attend upcoming legislative meetings on the matter.

  14. firetheliberals on

    The recreational market, highly regulated, can be easily shut down by the Feds. If the state eliminates the mmj market , which does not identify growers in a centralized state run database, you can’t eliminate that market. Since recreational is even more regulated, it is much easier for the Feds to target. This is paranoid and conspiratorial but who would of thought the state would regulate mmj out of business..

  15. Well, all businesses are “registered” in some way. When you say shut down the “legal” market, to which are you referring, cuz I’m a little confused.

  16. firetheliberals on

    If the state eliminates mmj, then the dea can more easily shut down the legal market in a single blow as the entire industry of suppliers are registered. We may end up with no supply at all. Time for another initiative..

  17. firetheliberals on

    No rights to affirmative defense, no additional medical problems. Talk about screwing the entrepeneurs who riskef it all to pave the way for legalization. This looks like MAN is saying bend over and take it. The douchebags like shively will take over this business and all the innovation will be stifled. Prepare for schwag!

  18. We know there is a lot of money behind this grab, because there is a lot of money to be made in cannabis cultivation. Why would you take away a patient’s right to grow the particular strain that benefits them? To drive them out to the market to purchase their meds at premium prices! This isn’t rocket science, it’s economics and botany. I thought this might happen. IT’S A GODDAM WEED, PEOPLE!!! That’s the problem; anyone can grow it. And if that’s true, the only profiteers will be the folks who sell growing supplies. To the 1% slavering over this issue, that is unacceptable.

  19. The people modifying what is already in place are conservative politicians. Are you saying the DEA is behind the scenes, pushing against Republicans?

  20. Natosha Monego on

    The Feds still want to take the entire marijuana industry down. It’s no secret. They are merely tolerating what’s going on right now in the states. The Feds will try to use people like AG Holder to restore their agenda, with or without his knowledge. What better way to regain control over the industry than to use and modify what the people have already put into place. Just a few thoughts, is all.

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