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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Proposes Medical Marijuana Registry, Tax Exemption

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Medical marijuana patients in Washington would have to register with the state if they don’t want to pay pot taxes.

That’s just one recommendation issued Monday for sweeping changes to the state’s largely unregulated medical pot industry.

Washington is grappling with how to regulate the medical marijuana industry so that it doesn’t become a black or gray market that competes with new, legal recreational pot.

Medical cannabis users are likely to chafe at the proposed restrictions. They include the creation of a mandatory state registry for medical pot patients and their designated providers. Patients who register would be exempt from pot taxes. But the list would be made available to law enforcement.

Also, patients could no longer possess a 60-day supply of usable marijuana. Instead, they’d be limited to three ounces per week.

Another dramatic proposal: collective gardens and home grows would be banned. Pot patients would instead get their medicine at licensed recreational pot stores with special approval to accept medical marijuana authorization cards.

Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association says the proposed rules go too far.

“The thought of completely merging the two systems and simply creating a database for people to be in if they want a tax exemption for getting some pot to smoke – it doesn’t really cover what patients need.”

Eickmeyer says some merger of the medical and recreational marijuana markets in Washington might work. But he objects to the draft recommendation that patients could no longer grow their own marijuana or have collective gardens.

Next up, the public will have a chance to comment on these proposals. State regulators will then make final recommendations to the legislature by January 1st.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."