Sitting on the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee is Senate Bill 5131, which makes changes to the laws pertaining to medical and recreational cannabis production, processing and retailing in Washington State. Some of these changes make it slightly easier for medical patients to access plants and seeds, while other changes limit the amount of business licenses that owners can possess within the marketplace. Every year, the legislatures are creating more laws and regulations that are making it increasingly difficult for patients, producers, processors and retailers to operate in this “legalized” cannabis industry. All the while medical cannabis patients have to figure out how to navigate these changes and their health care at the same time.
The first section of amendments to the cannabis laws in Washington State refers to medical cannabis patients access to seeds, clones, and immature plants. Prior to the “legalization” of cannabis in Washington State, medical patients had an extensive network of collectives and other patients to procure clones, full grown plants, seeds, and consumables. Since then, patients have had to return to the black market to fulfill their needs for seed and clones, which is exactly the opposite of what the intention of legalizing cannabis was in the first place.
Senate Bill 5131 states that patients can now access plants and seeds from licensed producers, which is good and bad. The upside is that patients now have more options for accessing plants and seeds than they did before. This change in the law may also mean that since they are purchasing the plants from licensed producers, they would not have to pay the state excise tax of 37% like they would if they purchased them from licensed retailers. The downside to this amendment is a security issue. There are not too many licensed producers who are keen on having the general public come to their facility and pick up 6-15 plants or a few packs of seeds throughout the day. The other downside is that there are very few producers located in cities, towns and rural areas that are readily accessible by medical cannabis patients.
What does the legislature need to do? One option could allow for more retail locations to open up, as there is a dire need for greater access for medical cannabis patients across the state. Amending the law next session to allow retailers to stock seeds and clones would also help patients with their access to plants and seeds. The option to allow for clone and seed stores to open would also be feasible and could be simply achieved by issuing more production licenses or ending the licensing scheme and allowing for a free market solution. The overall best option would be to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act in Washington State completely. This would allow for patients to manage their healthcare in the way that they choose, without fear that they will go to jail for growing too many plants or having too much medicine in their possession.