The latest episode of The Impact (on TVW.org) featured an interview with Representatives Condotta & Hurst about top issues being decided this session through the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming. The conversation on the major cannabis overhaul bills, 5052 and 2136 (written to be passed together), starts at 36:07 on the video (they discuss hemp & e-cigs before that).
Representative Condotta is supportive of the bills but realizes that the medical aspect is too expensive & restrictive for patients. He especially has a problem with the registry.
Condotta states, “I’m a little concerned with how the medical bill we’ve got goes a little too far a little too fast. I do think we need to license and limit, that’s what we started out to do. But they’ve created this entire package that really goes the whole route and they’ve put it all together.”
“I’m particularly concerned with the registry. It’s almost 17 years they’ve been doing this and it hasn’t been an issue. “
Thank you, Rep. Condotta! Unfortunately, he thinks the proposed bills just need some ”fine tuning” in the future and they will work for now. He needs to realize that patients will suffer & die while waiting on the legislature to fix yet another faulty law. Condotta seems to have good intentions towards medical cannabis; yet continuing to support this legislation would cause irreparable harm.
On the other hand, former police officer & detective Representative Hurst appears smugly eager for bills 5052 and 2136 to be enacted and enforced. He would like to go further to regulate all cannabis (recreational, medical, tribal) and get it “on the same page”.
The interviewer asks if there is enough time this session to find what works best for both the medical and recreational sides of cannabis.
Rep. Hurst responds, “If we get to the point that we’re licensing dispensaries and shut down the ones that won’t get a license, that’s the biggest step we can take. Everything after that is frosting on the cake. There’s a lot more things we’ll get to.”
That is hardly a compassionate response to the needs of patients.
Hurst says he doesn’t have sympathy for medical dispensaries because they are illegal and every transaction is a felony. He calls the medical cannabis system the “new organized crime”. I suppose if that is true, the state is also guilty for accepting $15 million in so-called illicit tax money paid by dispensaries in just the last fiscal year and a half (2014 to part of 2015, Source: Dept. of Revenue). They haven’t been a problem until the poorly regulated recreational industry formed, hired lobbyists, and greedily aimed to destroy any competition. The state uses the Cole Memo as an excuse for recent efforts to over-regulate cannabis, however, this reasoning is faulty because it was not mandated by law and the memo did not specify the drastic control and restrictions proposed under these bills.
Rep. Hurst claims that forcing patients into the recreational system will provide them with a safer product than they get today. Legislators in favor of pushing patients into the recreational system continue this scripted excuse but patients know better. They accuse medical cannabis products of being untested and tainted. Actually, most medical cannabis products are tested because of market demand. In addition, patients can currently often obtain their cannabis directly from the grower and closely inspect flowers for quality (sight & smell can tell a lot about terpenes, trichome structure, mold/mildew, etc.) None of that would be allowed under the proposed bills.
As for the recreational system… First, most of the testing labs in WA are not equipped to test for pesticides and it is extremely cost-prohibitive. Second, the 502 system is permitted to use over 200 approved pesticides. The testing done by recreational stores is the same testing currently done by medical cultivators and dispensers and uses the same labs. The testing laboratories themselves are not regulated by mandated standards of practices and there is some question about inconsistency of results among labs. The test samples are chosen, packaged, and submitted by the producers/processors at their discretion. Samples can be from anything and could be adulterated to test stronger or cleaner. In addition, bribery and favoritism are risks to accurate results. Testing of commercial cannabis should not be required unless and until the laboratories, sampling & testing methods themselves are regulated.
Hurst curiously estimates that under bills 5052/2136, patients will probably pay less than they do now. Even though bill 2136 reduces the excise tax to 30%, it is still at least 30% more than current costs. Medical cannabis prices per gram range from approximately $6-8 directly from the grower to $8-10 at dispensaries. The average price at recreational stores is approximately $25 per gram. Even the recent blow-out sales at 502 stores due to overstock have only brought the price as low as approx. $15 per gram, and only in high-density areas. The 30% reduction in the exorbitant excise tax won’t help the sickest, poorest patients; it would be an added expense. For disabled patients limited to a below-poverty-level income, every dollar affects their health and wellbeing.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, other states have medical cannabis taxes that range from 0 to 8.8%. 13 of the 19 states with licensed, regulated cultivators and dispensaries have NO excise tax. Some charge sales tax while others do not. These bills would cause Washington State to have the highest taxed medical cannabis in the country, by a ridiculous amount.
Bill 2136 would allot $12 million dollars to local jurisdictions for “marijuana enforcement”. While not all of that would go to the police, you can be sure a good portion of it does. Where will this money come from? The state expects the system to pay for itself with the extra revenue from forcing patients into the recreational system but will be disappointed by our lack of participation in a broken system. Fiscal reports estimate that two-thirds of the current medical market will move to the illicit market if these bills pass. This legislation would criminalize patients and would give law enforcement the resources to do so.
Former police detective Rep. Hurst’s final words in the interview are a grim warning of what the medical cannabis community faces if these bills pass, “Patients are going to be better served, and the folks that want to play by the rules are going to do fine and those that don’t want to play by the rules are in for a big surprise.”
To protect and serve, eh? It won’t be a surprise, but the proposed changes would be a disaster for the cause of medical cannabis and the state of Washington.