Medical marijuana patients in Washington may soon have to join a formal registry if they want to continue getting the benefits that make MMJ more appealing than recreational cannabis.
Those benefits include significant tax breaks that make the drug much cheaper and increased possession limits that allow patients to carry much more marijuana than recreational cannabis customers.
The Washington State House of Representatives passed two bills in April that would overhaul the state’s medical and recreational systems. The first, which had already passed the Senate, dealt with medical marijuana while the second dealt with recreational use.
Database of MMJ patients
Both bills passed the House April 10, with the Senate bill receiving a vote of 60-36 and the House measure receiving a vote of 67-28.
The Senate legislation would create a database of registered MMJ patients. The House version of that bill would make registration voluntary while the Senate version would make it mandatory.
Because the House changed that provision, the bill still must pass a second vote by the Senate. The other legislation, first passed by the House, now goes to a Senate committee before reaching the full Senate floor. Both bills are expected to pass.
“No one has taken the idea of medical marijuana lightly,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, a Democrat. “What we’re trying to make sure is that we have a medical marijuana system that fits with recreational, is safe and provides the safety mechanisms for our patients that recreational enjoys. We also want to make sure that everyone has access.”
Patients would have to register to receive full MMJ benefits
If the law takes effect, patients who decline to register under MMJ law would be excluded from several benefits reserved only for patients, including larger possession limits and sizable tax exemptions.
Medical marijuana is typically much cheaper than retail recreational cannabis in Washington, where the drug has been fully legal since 2012. This is also true in Colorado, which likewise legalized cannabis in 2012.
The higher possession limits would allow MMJ patients to possess three times as much marijuana as non-patients: 3 ounces of dried cannabis, 48 ounces of cannabis-infused solids, 216 ounces of cannabis-infused liquid, and 21 grams of cannabis concentrates.
Under the Senate version, patients would have to register via their doctor’s offices. The House version would let them do it at retail marijuana shops.
MMJ law would eliminate problem of semi-legit dispensaries
The MMJ law would also end the state’s tolerance for semi-regulated medical marijuana collectives. Instead, groups of collective growers would be limited to four patients. Some existing collectives would be allowed to continue operating, however.
The House legislation, meanwhile, would tweak Washington’s recreational cannabis law. It would only take effect if the Senate proposal also takes effect, a provision designed to encourage coordination between the recreational and medical markets.
The key change in the House bill would restructure the state’s cannabis tax, replacing the current three-tiered system with a single 30 percent excise tax. MMJ patients would remain exempt.