Washington state’s version of “folding” the medical marijuana industry into legal recreational side of the business is proving rough going. Almost three weeks into the new system decreed by SB 5052, under which all medical marijuana dispensaries without I-502 licenses, and all cannabis farmers’ markets in the state, must shut down, but patients’ needs simply aren’t being met by the recreational system.
“It’s not as smooth as one would hope,” admitted Danielle Rosellison, co-owner of Trail Blazin’ Productions, a marijuana grower in Bellingham, reports Kie Relyea at the Bellingham Herald.
Medical marijuana dispensaries, which have existed in the state for close to a decade after voters approved a 1998 medicinal cannabis law, are being shut down, and patients are being encouraged to enter a state database. While patients can be exempt from 9 percent sales tax if they enter that database, they still have to pay a whopping 37 percent excise tax on their medicine.
While Rosellison remains optimistic that patients’ needs will eventually be met by the recreational marijuana system, “It ’s just not going to be timely, and there will be this murky period for the next few years,” she said.
Dispensaries that couldn’t get approval from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board were required to shut down by July 1, the supposed public rollout of a new recreational/medical system, but many dispensaries didn’t seem particularly interested in participating.
As of July 15, just 69 stores out of 341 in the state with medical endorsements actually had a medicinal cannabis consultant on staff and were issuing patient recognition cards. A total of 1,665 patient cards have been issued so far for adults, and two for minors, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Washington labs still aren’t ready to test for heavy metals and micro-toxins, because those rules weren’t even finalized until recently, according to Aaron Nelson, senior vice president of operations for4 2020 Solutions, which has two recreational pot stores in Whatcom County.
No labs have even been certified to test for all of the state requirements yet, according to Rossellison. “And certainly not one lab that could do all of it, so now you’re sending multiple samples to multiple labs, which just increases the cost to the patient even more,” she said. “The whole thing is so frustrating.”
Less than 17 percent of growers said they would have cannabis that meets the state’s medical rules ready by the July 1 deadline.