By Jeff Bess, third-year student at the University of Washington School of Law.
Say goodbye to the familiar green cross.
Big changes are coming to medical marijuana in Washington state beginning tomorrow, July 1st. That is when the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (CPPA), passed by the state legislature in 2015, will come into full effect. The law, which has been gradually rolled out since its passage, is the culmination of efforts to fold Washington’s medical marijuana program – established in 1998 – into the recreational system created following the passage of I-502 in 2012. The changes mark a profound shift in the regulation of medical marijuana in Washington that will result in a fundamentally different marketplace with significant ramifications for medical marijuana patients, producers, and dispensaries.
In the short-term, the transition will likely be rocky. The most immediate effect of the new rules will be the closure of nearly all existing medical dispensaries in Washington. This is because medical marijuana dispensaries were largely unregulated under prior law and not required to be licensed by the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). Now, in order to reopen, medical marijuana dispensaries will have to go through the licensure process and conform to the same strict regulations as recreational dispensaries – a potentially significant hurdle for medical operations used to the informal status quo and unfamiliar with the process. Though LCB has already issued a number of licenses to “medically endorsed dispensaries” (a new term of art found in the CPPA), it will take time before they are up and running and even longer to match the output of the previous system. In the meantime, medical marijuana patients will have to go to licensed recreational dispensaries or continue to produce their own marijuana in accordance with state law.
Once the dust settles, here is what to expect:
New limits on medical marijuana sources and suppliers:
- Medically endorsed marijuana stores must be licensed by the LCB
- Additional restrictions on collective gardens authorized under earlier law
New marijuana taxes. Medical marijuana patients should note that, while they may be exempt from sales and use taxes, they will still be subject to the 37% excise tax on all marijuana products. Customers of medically endorsed marijuana stores are, however, exempted from certain taxes as follows:
- No sales tax is due on medical marijuana purchases of products purchased by patients with a Washington medical marijuana card and a condition approved by the Department of Health (DOH)
- No sales tax is due on medical marijuana purchases of low-THC products purchased by patients with a Washington medical marijuana card
- No sales tax is due on medical marijuana purchases of high CBD products purchased by any patient
Photo by O’Dea, used under Creative Commons License.