The business of medical marijuana has largely gone unregulated. Soon, that could all change.
A new bill passed by the Washington Senate on Saturday (SB5887) lays out how medical pot shops will work in the new system. Dispensaries will have the same guidelines as recreational marijuana stores, so medical stores will have to apply for a license. Five percent of stores would be allowed to stay only medical. If they don't, owners will have to shut down by September 2015.
"A whole lot of people are thinking medical cannabis is going to go away, it isn't. It isn't what the state is looking for," said Paul Lugo, who owns the medical marijuana dispensary The Herbal Connection near the Garland District.
Lugo plans to apply for a license to keep his medical marijuana dreams alive, and says he's for some state oversight.
"We've got to be able to sit back and say, 'ok, even though we don't personally agree with this, or whatever, it may be best for the industry. We can't go completely unregulated," Lugo said.
There are a few measures some patients won't like. The number of cannabis plants they can grow at home will be reduced from 15 to six. Instead of possessing 24 ounces, they can only have three ounces. Large collective grows where patients combine plants under one roof will be eliminated. Instead, only four people can grow together
At stores, patients will only get a 25 percent discount over non-patients, so they'll have to pay more than they're used to.
Lugo says it's frustrating.
"But if it's our medication, we're still going to use it and it's still cheaper than a lot of the pills you have to buy at the store," Lugo said.
The bill still has to pass the house and be signed by Governor Inslee.
The bill's sponsor says the measures are needed to be compliant with the federal government's demand for the state to regulate its medical marijuana industry.