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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."

Inslee Signs Sweeping Medical Marijuana Regulation Measure

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Governor Jay Inslee, flanked by six-year-old Haiden Day, poses for a photo after signing a sweeping medical marijuana regulation bill. Day has a severe form of epilepsy that is controlled with high doses of marijuana extract.

The era of ubiquitous green cross marijuana dispensaries in Washington state is about to come to an end.

Governor Jay Inslee Friday signed into law a sweeping medical marijuana regulation measure. Supporters say it will end what’s been described as a “wild, wild West” medical cannabis industry.

Under the new law, medical cannabis in Washington will be regulated through the state’s recreational marijuana structure. The renamed Liquor and Cannabis Board will let current medical providers apply for a state license.

Inslee acknowledged that not all patients are happy about this new law.

“However, I do think this is far better than today’s wholly unregulated system,” he said.

Inslee signed the so-called Cannabis Patient Protection Act with six-year-old Haiden Day at his side. Haiden has a severe form of epilepsy that’s controlled by high doses of extracted marijuana CBD.

After the signing, Haiden’s father Ryan said the new law won’t change much for his family.

“I’m still able to grow my medicine in my garage for my son,” Day said. “I’m still able to get him everything he needs in a cost effective way.”

But Day says having clear rules will give him peace of mind.

Other patients strongly object to the new patient registry created by the law. And many medical marijuana providers fear being put out of business if they can’t qualify for a new state license.

Governor Inslee said more work needs to be done in the upcoming special session to address issues like marijuana tax policy and sharing of marijuana revenues with local governments.

Inslee did veto several sections of the medical marijuana measure, including one that tied enactment of the law to passage of a recreational marijuana overhaul that has not yet passed the Washington Senate.

Other elements of the new law include:

  • The Liquor Control Board is renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
  • Medical cannabis will be regulated through the state’s recreational marijuana structure.
  • Patients are not required to join the database, but those who do receive benefits like the ability to grow more plants at home, possess three times more marijuana than recreational users and protection from arrest.
  • Recreational marijuana retailers will be able to apply for an endorsement to sell medical marijuana.
  • The Liquor Control Board will establish a merit based system for issuing retail licenses to existing medical marijuana providers. First priority goes to applicants who previously applied for a marijuana retailer license.
  • Collective gardens are banned as of July 1, 2016, but four member cooperatives are allowed.
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."