Legislation to bring together Washington’s two dueling marijuana systems is moving forward. As KUOW’s Amy Radil reports, the challenge may come in deciding which medical dispensaries get to stay open.
Since Initiative 502 legalized marijuana in Washington in 2012, a number of issues have emerged that legislators are hoping to address this year. One is the competition licensed marijuana stores are facing from unlicensed medical marijuana businesses. Another is the difficulty finding legal locations for marijuana stores, which can’t be too close to parks and schools.
Philip Dawdy is a consultant to marijuana businesses. He says two bills moving forward this year seem poised to address those problems.
Dawdy: “I think we’re going to end up with a reasonable, workable structure for medical marijuana retail going forward.”
One bill would allow cities to ease the rules on where marijuana businesses can be located. The other bill would allow the state to license some medical marijuana businesses. Medical dispensaries that opened after I-502 passed would be penalized.
Dawdy: “Some of them came along and did this for the right reasons, and some of them were just trying to piggyback and were being hustlers selling pot.”
Shy Sadis owns several medical marijuana dispensaries including one in Seattle’s University District called The Joint. He says the state’s lottery for retail licenses was a bad idea.
Sadis: “If they went to people who knew what they were doing, Washington wouldn’t be the laughingstock of marijuana.”
He’s excited that the bill t o license medical providers will consider the dispensary’s track record.
Sadis: “How I see it is a merit-based system. They should give these medical dispensaries that have been around Nov. 8, 2012, paid their taxes, they should grant them both licenses, one to have both recreational and medical.”
He envisions stores like the ones in Colorado, with medical marijuana on one side and recreational on the other. The main opposition to these bills comes from medical marijuana patients, who have concerns over a new patient registry and say paying the excise tax would be an unfair burden. The bills were scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.