Lawmakers in Olympia are spending a lot of time early in this session figuring out how to implement the new recreational marijuana industry and how to deal with the current medical marijuana system.
The medical system needs changes to bring it into compliance with I-502, and there is a bill in the state House that would completely overhaul the current system.
It would reduce the amount of marijuana and the number of plants patients can possess. It would also get rid of the popular collective gardens and establish a patient registry.
Lawmakers are concerned that the medical marijuana industry will undercut all the taxes the state would be collecting from the retail stores.
Ryan Day says these changes would have a huge impact on his family and the care his 5-year-old son needs.
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“Without medical marijuana, he was experiencing over 100 seizures a day. It was debilitating – it debilitated our whole family,” said Day.
But with medical marijuana, his son’s seizures have all but disappeared. “We are very self reliant people and we want to provide medicine for our son on our own. We purchased all the equipment we need for a home set up. We are currently growing what we need to treat my son and to give him a quality of life we think all children should have.”
Patients or caregivers can grow up to 15 plants under current law. This bill would reduce that number to six.
Day said that restricting the number of plants he can grow for his son would put him in a very tough spot. “If this bill goes through, you’re going to put me and my family in the impossible position of having to choose between treating our son and becoming criminals.”
He believes the Legislature shouldn’t force him into that position.
“I was a U.S. Marine, I’ve never done drugs in my life,” said Day. “My wife is an elementary school teacher with an advanced degree in teaching math to special needs children. We are good, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who just want to help our son.”
Day said it would cost him $15,000 a year or more to buy the amount of pot his son needs from a state run store. He would rather just grow it himself.
Medical marijuana advocates say the state is putting sales tax revenue above patients’ needs. Medical marijuana sold in retail stores would be taxed at a very high rate. Patients could have that rate reduced, if they join a registry.
Meanwhile, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.
In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson said Initiative 502 leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.
The opinion was requested by the Washington Liquor Control Board, which has been concerned that such local bans could restrict access to legal marijuana and make it difficult to move people away from the black market.
Some jurisdictions, including unincorporated Pierce County, Lakewood and Wenatchee, have effective bans on pot businesses, because their local ordinances require businesses to follow state, federal and local law, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Nearly three dozen of the state’s 75 biggest cities, from Redmond to Pullman, have adopted moratoriums of up to a year on marijuana businesses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.