Medical Marijuana

Austin Jenkins

Washington state regulators are tightening their grip on medical marijuana this week by targeting dubious patient authorizations. But some clinics say the changes, which begin Friday, will put them out of business.

The new Cannabis Patient Protection Act requires any health care provider who authorizes more than 30 medical cannabis patients in a month to report to the Department of Health.

 

UPDATE: The Seattle City Council approved legislation Monday that will lead to the closure of dozens of medical marijuana shops. Dispensaries that sell to minors, and shops that don’t check for medical authorizations are the places the city wants to shut down.

According to city officials, since Washington State’s recreational marijuana law, I-502,  became law two and a half years ago the number of medical marijuana shops in Seattle went from 45 to well over 100.

David Mendoza, a policy advisor to Mayor Ed Murray, says the resolution before the council creates a structured system that lets the city close medical marijuana businesses that came on the scene after I-502 was enacted in January, 2013. The medical marijuana dispensaries that can prove they were operating before that date will be allowed to remain open.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

 


 

The King County Prosecutor’s office is sending a message to the operators of Medical Marijuana shops in unincorporated areas: Shut your business down or face serious consequences.

 

AP Images

UPDATED: The employees at Tacoma’s Cannabis Club Collective will soon be members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

All eight staff members voted this week to join the 1.3 million-member international organization in what is the first-ever union contract in Washington’s marijuana industry.

Austin Jenkins

 

At a Tuesday news conference, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Washington’s unregulated medical marijuana industry is “unworkable” and “needs to be fixed."

Adam Cotterell

 

Legalizing marijuana in Idaho has been a complete no-go, even as its neighbors have started licensing pot dispensaries and retail shops.

But now Republican leaders in Idaho say they're willing to consider a very narrow version of a medical marijuana law.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

At some point today, depending on where you live, you are likely to pass by a medical marijuana collective garden, which is more commonly known as a dispensary.

These places have been allowed to flourish in cities like Seattle. But according to a ruling last March by Washington’s State Court of Appeals, dispensaries are actually illegal and communities have the authority to ban them.

Courtesy of George Wing.

When voters approved Initiative 502, one part of the law that appealed to parents was that recreational marijuana would only be available to people 21 and older.

What many parents don’t realize is that it’s possible for a healthy teenager, with the help of an unethical medical provider, to obtain authorization for medical marijuana, which then gives them access to hundreds of dispensaries in the Seattle area. 

Meanwhile, Seattle Public Schools officials say marijuana use by students is on the rise, and students say it is easier to get than alcohol. Where is the supply coming from? Parents and school officials suspect medical marijuana dispensaries. 

AP Photo

Washington state is looking at a major overhaul of its medical marijuana system, to avoid competition with the recreational market and to avert any crackdowns from the federal government.

The state's Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the largely unregulated medical system can be brought under the umbrella of Initiative 502.

Associated Press

Washington’s former “pot czar” says a proposed overhaul of medical marijuana could drive lots of business to the coming state-licensed pot stores. And though they’ve come in for criticism from some advocates, Mark Kleiman says the proposed changes would probably be good for patients, too.

Kleiman is the UCLA professor hired to advise the Washington state Liquor Control Board. That contract has now ended.

Right now, medical marijuana users in Seattle buy pot at one of an estimated 240 loosely-regulated dispensaries. But state agencies are recommending rules that would basically shut those stores down. Patients would have to shop instead at one of the state-licensed stores set to open next year under Initiative 502.

Associated Press

An advocate of the state’s medical marijuana industry says the state regulators’ proposed rules go too far.

State regulators on Monday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the industry, including a registry of medical marijuana patients. Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association says the proposed rules go too far.

Associated Press

Medical marijuana patients in Washington would have to register with the state if they don’t want to pay pot taxes. That’s just one recommendation issued Monday for sweeping changes to the state’s largely unregulated medical pot industry.

AP Photo

The Washington state Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card.

In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A Seattle investment group has declared the advent of “Big Marijuana,” but big questions remain about just how their multimillion dollar nationwide pot business would work.

Associated Press

Doctors are sounding an alarm about marijuana and young children, especially when it comes to marijuana-infused products, or "medibles". 

The rise of medicinal marijuana has brought a growing number of food products that contain the drug and might appeal to kids. Pot brownies have been around for decades, but nowadays you can also find pot cookies, lollipops, bon-bons, lasagna, and more. These products make it easier on someone who needs to use marijuana for medical reasons but doesn’t want to smoke. 

Keith Seinfeld / kplu

Federal law prohibits banks from helping drug dealers. So where do marijuana businesses keep their cash?  

“We would put the cash in the safe on premises, which obviously makes you nervous. You have to leave it there overnight,” said Cale Burkhart, who sells cannabis-infused lotions. His shop closed last year, but he’s still selling a line called Vita Verde.

As Washington moves to legalize marijuana, there are fresh concerns that a parallel market for pot will continue to flourish. It’s not quite a black market. Let’s call it a “grey” market – for medical marijuana. The question now: how will highly taxed and regulated pot compete with largely unregulated medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but health insurance doesn't cover it and patients often scramble to cover the cost.

"It's an expensive medication, no doubt about it," says Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a patient advocacy group. "Patients are struggling to afford it, regardless of whether it's available in their state."

Jen Nance / Office of Seattle Mayor

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has signed an ordinance that will regulate medical marijuana shops like any other business.

"Good Lord, how did we get here ..."

Seattle has become the first city in Washington to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. A number of other cities have banned the businesses outright.  The Seattle City Council decided to take the opposite approach after efforts to regulate medical pot at the state level failed.

Flickr

The city of Seattle is getting closer to regulating medical pot dispensaries.

The Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee of the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a measure that would require the marijuana shops to comply with city building codes, zoning ordinances and fair employment laws.

Flickr

With roughly 25,000 Seattleites “legally” smoking marijuana for medical reasons, the city council has decided to step in where Gov. Chris Gregoire dared not tread. The city will begin holding hearings on an ordinance for regulating the growing and sale of medical marijuana.

The city of Kent has put a stop to medical marijuana dispensaries in the area, at least for now. And, the Everett Herald reports, three cities in Snohomish County are moving to delay licensing of collective gardens for growing marijuana for medical purposes.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Governor Chris Gregoire says she wants all the states that allow medical marijuana to ask the federal government to reclassify the drug. She scheduled a conference call among those states Thursday. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on a last ditch effort to pass an overhaul of Washington’s medical marijuana law.

AP

Marijuana dispensaries say their legal situation is actually getting worse now that Governor Chris Gregoire has vetoed most of the medical marijuana bill.  The legal gray area they’ve been using since 1999 as a justification for opening co-ops and storefront shops will be eliminated when the law takes effect in July. 

A new law that would legalize medical-marijuana dispensaries and growers in Washington has already passed both chambers of the legislature in Olympia.  But it looks like it won't ever take effect.

That's because the state's top federal prosecutors have threatened to crack down if it goes forward.

In a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane write that the bill would undermine drug enforcement

The debate over legalizing marijuana in Washington is producing some unusual alliances. At a legislative hearing Wednesday, lawmakers heard from the wife of Canada's so-called "Prince of Pot." And from the former federal prosecutor who indicted him.

Andrei Pungovschi / AP

You can't walk into a store and legally buy marijuana in Washington for medical or any other purposes. Yet. But some cities in the state - anticipating that you soon might be able to - have placed a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and another is considering one. And the shops aren't even lawful. Yet.

Some state lawmakers are proposing major changes to Washington's voter-approved medical marijuana system. 

Associated Press reporter Curt Woodward describes a packed meeting yesterday of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, which was discussing Senate Bill 5073, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. It would give medical marijuana users more protections against arrest than they currently have.