November 2012’s election season left legislators with an enormous task; regulate cannabis for the purpose of responsible adult recreational use in one of the two states where it was approved by voters. Since then, legislators in Washington State have come a long way, bravely navigating the unknown waters of legalization by introducing many state bills to mitigate issues rising as the tight reins of prohibition loosen and a new age begins in the United States.
Voters in this state already passed initiatives allowing for safe access to cannabis for medical purposes, and some cities now have moratoriums allowing for collective gardens or small access points available only to qualified patients with current recommendations. Currently, these access points follow state law while adhering to local policy without a centralized regulatory agency. Lawmakers’ first consideration is how to separate a healthy medical cannabis market from a new recreational one. Proponents of MMJ have been quite vocal about keeping the two markets completely separate. After all, regardless of the fact that the end product originates from the same plant, medical patients use cannabis in very different ways. MMJ patients are alleviating the pain and symptoms of specific ailments whereas recreational users would likely be more concerned with flavor and potency.
SB 5887 is a bill to tax medical cannabis, tighten rules on dispensing medicine and making recommendations and put MMJ regulation under the jurisdiction of the state Liquor Control Board. Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Mercer Island) and Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) are both supporters of the bill and its corresponding budgetary bill. Senate Bill 5034, a budgetary bill for fund appropriation, proposes Amendment 224, which would designate regulatory control over medical cannabis to the Liquor Board for the purpose of appropriating administrative funds.
MMJ activists support HB 1084, which adds arrest protection for patients who fall in the 24-ounce, 15-plant limit when facing law enforcement. Currently, patients enjoy an affirmative action defense usable in court should they face with cannabis possession and/or cultivation charges. The bill awaits a committee hearing.
House Bill 1808, introduced by Democratic Rep. Christopher Hurst and Republican Rep. Terry Nealey, outlines “proper disposal of legal amounts of marijuana inadvertently left at retail stores holding a pharmacy license.” The bill was written to address issues arising when a recreational user drops their cannabis in a store where their pharmacy license requires no federally prohibited substances be onsite at any given time.
HB 1976, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon), calls for a tax of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value of “all trademarks, trade names, brand names, patents and copyrights related to marijuana.” Currently, intellectual property is taxed when a business is sold. The taxable amount is determined by the total amount of the sale. This bill proposes to assess the value of intellectual property before it is sold for the sake of collecting taxes. Makers of more popular strains would pay more taxes. The bill remains controversial for these reasons.
All of these bills are currently working through the legislative process. Anyone can get involved by calling their state legislator offices to let elected officials know which of these bills they support. For full texts and timeline updates visit www.leg.wa.gov.
Clearing the Record
Recreational users are also benefiting. House Bill 1661 addresses criminal prosecution. The bill would allow anyone over the age of 18 charged with possession of 40 grams or less to have the conviction removed from their record if they were convicted within a designated date range specified by the proposed legislation.