Could Legalized Pot Hurt Washington’s Medical Marijuana Industry?

Nov 18, 2013

A year after Washington state voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, the licensing process is underway. Starting Monday, applications to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana can be submitted online, by mail or in person.

The start of the application process could expand the legal marijuana market, but some are concerned that could shrink another area: medical marijuana. The state Liquor Control Board has recommended that the Legislature eliminate home growing and collective gardens, which are essential for medical marijuana operations.

The move would force patients using medical marijuana to use only retailers licensed under state rules – which critics say could price out patients and push them to the black market.

Sean Green, owner of Pacific Northwest Medical, a medical marijuana collective in Shoreline with a second location in Spokane, said he plans to apply for a business license that would permit him to sell pot to recreational users. He has concerns, however, about the medical side of his business.

“To take an existing operation such as ours and consider it to be no longer a valid form puts substantially more risk into our endeavor moving forward because we’re throwing all of our eggs into one basket instead of diversifying," Green said.

Green is confident that he's a strong candidate for a license, but the evolving regulations make him uneasy.

“All businesses can fail," Green said. "And if you take their projections, 50 percent of these businesses are expected to fail. The only thing we can do is our best and hope it pans out for us. ”

Potential growers, processors and retailers will be vetted by investigators from the liquor control board for any violations like out-of state money or connection to organized crime.