WA Bill Introduced to Recreational and Medical Marijuana Markets - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

WA Bill Introduced to Recreational and Medical Marijuana Markets

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OLYMPIA, WA - Washington state lawmakers are considering new legislation that would align the recreational and medical marijuana markets in Washington state, but supporters of the current system don't like it.

The Health Care & Wellness Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on the measure seeking to overhaul the state's medical marijuana system in order to reconcile the market with the state's new legal recreational market.

The changes reducing the amount of marijuana and marijuana plants patients can possess, doing away with collective gardens, and requiring a patient registry for patients to get a card from the state Department of Health.

Lawmakers have worried that the largely unregulated medical system would undercut the taxed, recreational system. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department has warned that the state's medical cannabis status quo is untenable.

The new piece of legislation would give the Washington State Liquor Control Board the authority to regulate licensing of marijuana retailers and to supervise the issuance of a medical marijuana endorsement.  The Department of Health is provided with regulatory authority over aspects of medical marijuana, including issuing verification cards to qualifying patients and ensuring the health care professionals who authorize the medical use of marijuana are subject to their profession's supervising boards.

 

Initiative 502 requires the Liquor Control Board to determine the maximum number of marijuana retail outlets that may be licensed in each county. This bill however, asks the board to take into consideration the needs of qualifying patients in making this determination.      

The following is a breakdown of what the bill would include.

Medical marijuana endorsement

 · A marijuana retailer may apply to the LCB for an endorsement to sell useable marijuana and marijuana products to persons holding DOH-issued verification cards.  This includes qualifying patients who are 18 years of age or older and those persons who are acting as designated providers to qualifying patients. 

· The retail location may not be used to authorize persons for the medical use of marijuana.  · The retailer must carry marijuana products with CBD and THC levels identified by DOH as appropriate for sale to qualifying patients.  

· Products may not be marketed to children.

Persons under the age of 21

· Persons who are aged 18 to 21 may be issued a verification card if they are authorized for the medical use of marijuana by their health care professional. They may purchase at a retail location holding a medical marijuana endorsement and they may grow for themselves.

· Persons who are under the age of 18 may be issued a verification card if the health care professional consults with the parent or guardian of the minor.  The parent or guardian must act as a designated provider to the minor.  Minors may not enter a retail store or grow for themselves. Medical Marijuana Verification Program and Verification Cards

· Qualifying patients and designated providers who seek the benefits outlined below may only do so if they possess a DOH-issued verification card.  DOH will issue these cards after the patient or provider has been entered into the medical marijuana verification program.

·  DOH must create and implement a medical marijuana verification program.  The program may only be used for the following: 

    - Health care professionals to place qualifying patients and designated providers in the program in order for the patient or provider to receive a verification card. - Law enforcement to confirm the validity of verification cards.

    - Marijuana retailers to confirm the validity of verification cards. 

    - The Department of Revenue to verify tax-exempt purchases. 

    - DOH and relevant disciplining authorities to monitor the program and ensure licensee compliance. 

· Only health care professionals may place qualifying patients or designated providers in the medical marijuana verification program.

· Verification cards are valid for one year. After one year, the qualifying patient or designated provider must seek re-authorization from a health care professional. 

· DOH may charge a fee to health care professionals for placing persons in the medical marijuana verification program.

· Information in the medical marijuana verification program must be secure and is not subject to public disclosure. Rules adopted by DOH must ensure that the minimum amount of personally-identifiable information of qualifying patients and designated providers be entered into the program. 

· DOH, in conjunction with the University of Washington, Washington State University, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission, the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, the Board of Naturopathy, and stake holders with demonstrated experience and education in the field of medical marijuana, must develop evidence-based practice guidelines that take into consideration any medical guidelines developed by the University of Washington and Washington State University on:

     - Conditions that may benefit from the medical use of marijuana

     - Assessing a patient to determine if he or she has a debilitating condition or intractable pain.

     - Conducting an adequate examination of a patient for the need for marijuana for medical use - Dosing criteria related to the medical use of marijuana

     - Developing a treatment plan for patients who may benefit from the medical use of marijuana - Communicating with a patient about the medical use of marijuana and other options for treating the medical condition

     - Maintaining records for patients who have been authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes · DOH must develop a training that consists of these guidelines and information on the laws of the state relating to the medical use of marijuana.  Health Care professionals may not add persons to the medical marijuana verification program until the training has been completed. 

Benefits of holding verification card

· Possession amounts

     - Recreational users of marijuana may purchase a combination of the following: one ounce of useable marijuana, sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.  

     - Qualifying patients and designated providers with verification cards may purchase a combination of the following:  three ounces of useable marijuana, 48 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 216 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.

     - Qualifying patients and designated providers with verification cards may grow marijuana plants for the medical use of the qualifying patients.  They may grow up to ten plants.

     - Qualifying patients and designated providers are permitted to possess up to a total of eight ounces of useable marijuana (three ounces of which can be purchased). 

     - Qualifying patients with verification cards whose medical needs require a greater amount of marijuana than what is permitted in the bill draft may petition the DOH for a waiver from these requirements.  DOH must adopt rules on the terminal or debilitating medical conditions and treatment plans that would require a greater amount of marijuana than what is permitted in law and provide an opportunity for the qualifying patient to present evidence relating to his or her medical needs. 

· Excise Tax

     - Retailers who sell to medical users with verification cards are not subject to the 25% excise tax.  The savings subsequently achieved by the retailer must be passed to the purchaser.

· Sales and Use Tax

    - Medical users with verification cards are subject to sale and use taxes Valid documentation

· Current medical marijuana laws provide that a qualifying patient with valid documentation (a statement signed and dated by an authorizing health care professional stating that the patient may benefit from the medical use of marijuana) is provided an affirmative defense to charges of violating marijuana state laws.  

· The ability to assert an affirmative defense remains for qualifying patients under the bill draft.  However, valid documentation does not provide the same benefits available to a patient who holds verification card.  (Valid documentation does not allow a patient to possess greater than 1 ounce of marijuana, it does not allow the excise tax exemption to the retailer, and it does not authorize a patient to grow in his or her home.) 

Designated providers

· Designated providers are designated by a patient to purchase or grow marijuana for that patient only.  However, qualifying patients may grow for themselves and may act as the designated provider for another.  They must be 21 years of age or older and must hold a verification card.

Small cooperatives

· Up to five qualifying patients and/or designated providers may share responsibility for acquiring and supplying the resources required to produce and process marijuana for medical use.  All participating members must hold valid verification cards and the location of the cooperative must be included in the medical marijuana verification program along with the names of all the qualifying patients and designated providers so participating.

· A patient or provider who stops participating in the cooperative must request DOH to remove his or her name from the medical marijuana verification program.  An additional patient or provider to replace the former member may not participate in the cooperative until 90 days have passed since the last patient ceased participation. 

· Ten plants are permitted per patient, but no more than 30 plants total.  There may be no more than 30 ounces of useable cannabis kept at the location. 

· Qualifying patients and designated providers must provide labor in order to participate.  Their contribution may not be monetary.

· Members of the small cooperatives may not sell, donate, or otherwise provide marijuana or marijuana-infused products to a person who is not a participant.  

· The location where the plants are grown must be the domicile of one of the members and a copy of each participant's verification card must be kept at the location at all times.  Terminal or debilitating medical conditions

· The conditions for which a patient may be authorized for the medical use of marijuana remain the same as those provided in current law.  However, additional language is added in the definition of terminal or debilitating medical conditions to clarify that these medical conditions must be severe enough to significantly interfere with the patient's activities of daily living and ability to function and which can be objectively assessed and evaluated.  Intractable pain is further described to clarify that intractable pain must significantly interfere with the patient's activities of daily living and the ability to function.

· In the bill draft, MQAC continues its authority to authorize new terminal or debilitating medical conditions.  However, they may make a preliminary finding of good cause before a public hearing and must approve or deny the petition within 210 days of submission (modified from 180 days).  Health Care Professionals

· To authorize a person for the medical use of marijuana, a health care professional must: complete an in-person physical examination of the patient; document the condition that qualifies the patient for the medical use of marijuana in the patient's medical record; inform the patient of other options for treating the terminal or debilitating medical condition and document in the patient's medical record that the patient has received this information; document in the patient's medical record other measures attempted to treat the terminal or debilitating medical condition; and must have a business or practice with a permanent physical location.

· Health care professionals may sell or donate products with a THC concentration that does not meet the definition of marijuana.  These would be products with a THC concentration of less than .3%.   Arrest Protection/Affirmative Defense

· Qualifying patients and designated providers who hold verification cards are provided protection from arrest so long as they comply with the laws on medical use of marijuana. 

· Qualifying patients and designated providers may assert an affirmative defense to charges of violating the possession amounts relating to the medical use of marijuana if they establish that more marijuana is needed to treat their terminal or debilitating medical condition than what is permitted by law. 

· Qualifying patients and designated providers who do not hold a verification card but do hold valid documentation may assert an affirmative defense to charges of violating state marijuana law. Class C Felony

· A person is guilty of a Class C Felony if he or show knowingly or intentionally:

   - Tampers with or forges a verification card.

   - Tampers with or forges valid documentation.

   - In the case of designated providers, sells, donates, or otherwise uses the marijuana produced or obtained for a qualifying patient.

   - In the case of qualifying patients, sells, donates, or otherwise supplies marijuana produced or obtained by the patient to another person.

Collective Gardens

· The provisions authorizing collective gardens are repealed effective July 1, 2015.  

 

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