Seattle is in the midst of a battle between medical and recreational cannabis, as they deal with the ongoing adjustments of Initiative 502 rolling into normal life in Washington. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes recently issued a policy proposal that allows people to grow cannabis in their homes, as well as establishes vapor lounges and folds unregulated medical cannabis dispensaries into the new recreational system. Combining these two very different systems is problematic in many ways and is causing an uproar amongst patients all across the state.
Holmes was a sponsor of Initiative 502, and his proposal comes just before the start of a legislative session in which the future of medical cannabis could be determined. “They’re creating a public safety nightmare, frankly, and they’re undercutting the 502 stores because they’re unregulated and untaxed,” Holmes told KIRO 7. “Usually the simplest solution is the best solution,” Holmes said.
Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles also supports the notion of combining all cannabis-related business together to be regulated by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
Holmes’ policy demands medical-grade cannabis standards, medical cannabis consultants licensed by the state and possible exemptions from the excise tax for bud with low psychoactive levels. “All of these things should lead to a competitive product that meets the need of medical patients as well as the recreational users,” Holmes said.
He is trying to simplify and regulate unregulated access points, but it is much more complicated than just that. The home-based cultivation rules he proposes also aims to tend to the medical cannabis patient’s needs.
The proposed policy stated Holmes is working with Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata on legislation to try and allow cannabis use lounges, even though indoor smoking would not be allowed due to state restrictions on smoking. These lounges would provide a place for out-of-town visitors and residents whose buildings do not allow cannabis use. He does however, encourage police to crackdown on cannabis smokers and not vaporizers.
Holmes also suggests the state change from a three-tiered tax system for cannabis to a single-tiered tax system, where the tax is applied only at the point of sale, simplifying the logistics of the taxation of cannabis in this new system. Holmes wants to update the original initiative, and hopes that he can please all parties involved.
Patients are not excited about many of his new ideas, as they are unlikely to be able to get access to the specific strains and medicines they need at a recreational cannabis store, and without incredibly strict rules and implementation protecting patients’ access and rights, there is little chance recreational stores would make sure and stay stocked in the kinds of medicine severely ill people would need.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a statement that “shutting down all collective gardens is not the right solution because it leaves our patients out in the cold.” The statement also said Murray was prepared to protect patient access if the state legislature does not take the right direction.