Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council voted to require medical marijuana businesses to apply for a license under Initiative 502 regulations designed to regulate recreational marijuana, and medical cannabis activists are afraid it will destroy their industry.
The medical marijuana industry does not want to be incorporated into the same market and some activists believe the government intends to eliminate the medical industry altogether, which would only hurt medical cannabis patients.
The City Council says that they have no such intention. Instead, they are simply trying to pressure the Legislature into action. The governor has already called upon the state liquor board to take up the issue of medical marijuana in January.
When signed into law, the state’s medical marijuana legislation didn’t have any clear rules for buying, selling and processing, or sanitation requirements. Therefore, dispensaries that have emerged in Washington State have largely been unregulated.
If medical marijuana were subject to the same rules as recreational licenses, medical dispensaries in business since 2011 would have to comply with the new, more stringent regulations. This could be extremely costly for some medical businesses, preventing them from passing background checks, or placing them in zoning violations, and forcing them to discontinue operations.
For now, the city council will grandfather in medical marijuana dispensaries under their current rules, but only until 2015 when they will be subject to whatever new rules the state Liquor Control Board decides on. If the statewide limit on marijuana outlets is applied to medical businesses as well, it could make obtaining any kind of marijuana license equally difficult.