Last month Washington's Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5052 into law. SB 5052 made a lot of changes to Washington's long established medical marijuana program. Some of those changes included:
- Requires every medical cannabis dispensary in the state to close by July 1st, 2016 forcing patients to purchase from recreational cannabis outlets (despite most cities in the state prohibiting them) or rely on the black-market.
- Reducing patient possession limits from twenty ounces, to three, and their cultivation limits from fifteen plants, to six. Patients caught possessing between three and twenty four ounces, or caught growing between seven and fifteen plants will be committing class C felonies once the law takes effect, and could be imprisoned for up to 5 years.
- Patients will be required to join a patient database, or only be allowed to possess an ounce, and cultivate four plants.
A group in Washington is hoping to challenge the new law in the form of a citizen's referendum. Per Marijuana Business Daily:
A Washington State group is looking to challenge newly minted regulations that roll the state's medical marijuana market into its heavily regulated recreational cannabis program.
The group hopes to gather enough signatures to get a referendum in front of voters that would unravel the new law. A spokesman for the proposal - dubbed Referendum 76 - said the regulations limit access for patients who use MMJ to treat various ailments.
The new law - which the governor signed April 27 - will essentially eliminate the state's mostly unregulated medical marijuana industry and force existing MMJ businesses to get licenses under the recreational cannabis program or close down.
Senate Bill 5052 is rough for Washington medical marijuana patients, and medical marijuana industry members to say the least. I'm curious to see how many medical marijuana dispensaries stay open anyways. That's what is happening in California, and for a long time happened in Oregon before Oregon passed a comprehensive medical marijuana dispensary bill. With prices still very high at recreational stores, I'd imagine more patients will go to the black market than convert to purchasing recreational marijuana in the event that there is a massive wave of dispensary closures across the state.