The Future of Medical Marijuana in Washington State
In a controversial move, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5052 into law late April, overhauling the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana market and effectively merging it with the recreational cannabis framework created by I-502. While it is certainly not without flaws, it’s evident that effort went into writing the bill in a way that ensures safe access and quality assurance for Washington’s medical marijuana patients. One especially rational provision mandates that the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB)– the government branch responsible for regulating marijuana production & sales since 2012– be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Under this law, the procurement of a “medical marijuana endorsement” will enable existing and future retail cannabis shops to sell medicinal marijuana products to registered patients and caregivers. The classification will be awarded to applicants who meet conditions such as compliance with all I-502 regulations for retail sales, a designated product mix of concentrates and infused products [yet to be determined] with specified proportions of THC to CBD, and a demonstrated ability to register and look up patients in a new voluntary patient database.
Whereas medical marijuana patients were previously able to grow up to 15 plants and possess up to 24 ounces of dried flower– the most permissive policy in the country until recently– the new law limits medical patients to the same 1-ounce limit of dried flower applied to recreational users, but allows patients to grow up to 4 plants (currently in Washington state, recreational cannabis users are not legally able to cultivate cannabis for their own personal use, though this law is expected to change in the near future). Aside from access to the specified product selection, the incentives for joining the voluntary patient database are that it increases the patient’s purchase & possession limit to 3 ounces of dried flower, as well as the ability to grow an additional 2 plants (allowing the patient to posses up to 8 ounces of homegrown medicine).
Under the new law, employees of retail pot shops may be trained and certified as Medical Marijuana Consultants. Though it has yet to be developed, the text explicitly states the topics covered by this state-approved training must include:
- The medical conditions that constitute terminal or debilitating conditions, and the symptoms of those conditions;
- Short and long-term effects of cannabinoids;
- Products that may benefit qualifying patients based on the patient’s terminal or debilitating medical condition;
- Risks and benefits of various routes of administration
- Safe handling and storage of useable marijuana, marijuana-infused products, and marijuana concentrates, including strategies to reduce access by minors;
- Demonstrated knowledge of [Washington’s medical marijuana laws]; and
- Other subjects deemed necessary and appropriate by the secretary to ensure medical marijuana consultant certificate holders are able to provide evidence-based and medically accurate advice on the medical use of marijuana.
As our training institution already offers much of this information, we hope & plan to work with the Washington Department of Health to develop an online certification curriculum for Medical Marijuana Consultants. Being a Seattle-based company staffed primarily by patients, we’d appreciate the opportunity to help facilitate training for the Medical Marijuana Consultants who we’ll be purchasing our medicine from come July 2016.
For more details on how SB 5052 will impact medical cannabis patients & businesses, take a look at this informative article by CTI advisory board member Rachel E. Kurtz: Gleam Law