Medical Marijuana

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.

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