Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5052 on Friday, effectively merging the states successful yet unregulated medical marijuana market with the new and heavily taxed recreational industry.
“I am committed to ensuring a system that serves patients well and makes medicine available in a safe and accessible manner, just like we would do for any medicine,” Inslee wrote in his signing message to the Legislature.
While medical marijuana has been largely available and self regulated for nearly two decades, I-502 lobbyist and business owners felt that they can not be competitive with a thriving grey market that is not bound by high taxes and layers of regulation.
Medical marijuana patients see the legislation as a cash grab, which will eventually force patients to purchase their meds from retail stores.
“These retail stores know nothing about medical marijuana,” said medical marijuana patient Julie Brown. “I’m not looking to get high, I just want to feel better. These retail places don’t offer the products I need. Their business model is set up to satisfy the recreational crowd, medical patients weren’t even a thought when they were building out their facilities.”
SB 5052 would not only eliminate all medical marijuana access points in Washington, but also decrease the amount a patient is allowed to grow and possess. It also creates a registry for patients that would allow them to purchase qualified products at a reduced tax rate.
The bill will also add some much needed regulation to the medical marijuana industry, making products more standardized for patients. It would also allow qualified medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for an I-502 license with a medical marijuana extension.
Inslee, who vetoed some minor sections of the bill, was joined during the signing by Ryan Day and his epileptic 6-year-old son, Haiden. The boy’s seizures have been managed with an extracted liquid form of marijuana.
Day said the new law gives his family more certainty.
“We were under the threat every single year that the system was going to change in a way that was going to take away my ability to help my son,” he said.