Under current Washington State law, marijuana can be used legally to treat a wide range of medical problems as long as it is prescribed by a physician. While this has been wonderful for patients with chronic and disabling pain, it could pose some serious problems for the new recreational pot market that is about to begin. State officials believe that it may now be necessary to raise taxes or impose strict rules on medical marijuana, and this news has medical marijuana patients and dispensaries up in arms.
In order to avoid undercutting the new recreational market, some officials want to impose higher taxes on medical marijuana. Since 1998, many storefronts that sell medical marijuana pay no taxes and individuals are allowed to grow their own medical marijuana in collective gardens. In contrast, the recreational use industry faces voter-approved mandate to tax their marijuana at a current rate of 75%. This is in addition to the state and local sales tax.
Washington's pot consultant Mark Kleiman and other legislators believe that the many of Washington's medical marijuana patients are actually recreational users who exaggerate their conditions. Since most of the pot will be consumed by a minority of price-conscious heavy users, cheaper medical marijuana will make it more difficult for the recreational market to become established.
Brian E. Smith, a spokesman for Washington's Liquor Control Board, agreed that medical marijuana will be a challenge to recreational pot due to its light regulations and taxes. While some of Washington's medical marijuana dispensaries have begun paying taxes in an attempt to lessen the chances of being shut down by local and federal authorities, a large majority have not.