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Published: Friday, November 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View/State Liquor Control Board


Uphold medical pot law

Where exactly in Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, does it instruct the State Liquor Control Board to dismantle the state law that legalized medical marijuana? State residents voted to approve recreational marijuana, in addition to medical marijuana, not to replace it. But that's exactly what is set to happen with over-reaching changes proposed by the State Liquor Control Board, the Department of Health and the Department of Revenue.
Proposals include:
•Ending the medical marijuana dispensaries and the collective gardens that supply them; medical marijuana would be available only in the state's recreational stores. It would end the patient's right to grow their own, or have someone grow it for them.
Medical marijuana patients could, however, purchase tax-exempt marijuana from the 334 recreational stores, but to be a medical marijuana patient requires doctors to register patients' names with the state, maintained by the Department of Health, and available to law enforcement and Department of Revenue. (It's hard to believe the Department of Health could sign off on such an egregious, nonsensical invasion of medical privacy.)
Reduces the amount patients could possess from 24 ounces to three ounces, removes the affirmative defense for medical marijuana patients, and end the right to petition for new medical conditions to be added.
End the right for new medical conditions to be added? Seriously? At a time when opioid painkiller abuse is one of the biggest health problems we face? Every day, scientific research and respected members of the medical community -- from Dr. Sanjay Gupta to Mayo Clinic, point to more and more legitimate uses of medical cannabis for myriad conditions, including epilepsy and other difficult to treat seizure disorders.
It's repeated daily that Washington's medical marijuana system is "widely unregulated." However, the only place this is evident is Seattle, where the number of dispensaries is unregulated. Most cities, like Everett, have made it difficult for dispensaries to open, and you can bet those that do follow the letter of the law. They have found ways to pay taxes. If a separate law is needed to limit the number in Seattle, so be it.
While medical marijuana advocates believe the medicine should not be taxed -- the way prescription drugs are not taxed -- it makes more sense to pay a tax and keep the medical dispensaries separate, rather than not be taxed and folded into the recreational stores. Because under the law, doctors can recommend marijuana, not prescribe it. It would make sense then to tax medical marijuana at the rate other over-counter-drugs are taxed (normal sales tax). (In Colorado, which keeps the medical and recreational systems separate, medical patients are registered and pay a tax. So our proposal seems a fair compromise. And in Colorado, anyone can grow their own. Which makes sense. No law keeps people from making their own beer.)
If you aren't a medical marijuana patient, or run a dispensary, likely you don't care about this issue. But the fact that sick patients don't have any political clout is all the more reason to speak up for them. Don't let the Liquor Control Board totally rewrite the medical marijuana law, which was approved by the citizens.

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Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

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