Governor signs off on new medical marijuana rules
By Lauren Dake and Sue Vorenberg
Columbian Staff Reporters
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure Friday that will regulate the state’s medical marijuana system and create a voluntary patient database of users.
While signing Senate Bill 5052, Inslee said it would create a system that delivers medicine in a safe and accessible manner. The governor recognized the measure had its detractors and noted it was not perfect.
“But this is far better than today’s wholly unregulated system,” Inslee said.
The governor signed the bill on the final day of the regular legislative session.
However, earlier in the week, Inslee called a special legislative session, giving lawmakers another 30 days to hammer out a deal on a two-year operating budget.
Inslee vetoed provisions of the bill tying it to another measure that would have reformed the state’s recreational marijuana system, including making changes to its tax structure.
One of the more controversial portions of the bill is the database. Although it’s set up to be voluntary, those who don’t register would not benefit from the same tax breaks and would not be able to possess or grow the same amount of marijuana.
In 2012, voters legalized recreational marijuana. Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1998, it has operated in legal gray zone. The state does not have a firm handle on how many medical marijuana users there are in Washington. Many users, however, fear a database since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
The measure will also prohibit community gardens starting July 1, 2016. Instead, it permits “cooperatives” consisting of only four patients.
Many local recreational marijuana business owners were pleased to see the legislation become law. During the debate over the bill, recreational business operators voiced concerns of being undercut by the unregulated medical dispensaries.
Jim Mullen, who runs the The Herbery, a Vancouver pot shop, went to Olympia for the signing event.
“We feel that this is a significant step forward to stabilizing the Washington marijuana industry in its entirety,” Mullen said, adding he plans to start selling medical marijuana in his pot shop.
Tom Lauerman, a medical marijuana farmer in Vancouver, wasn’t as upbeat.
“I’m not really happy but we’re going to have to work with what we get,” Lauerman said. “We’re going to have to see it as a work in progress.”