By Justin Gardner
January 24, 2015
The historic I-502 vote in Washington state legalizing recreational marijuana use was a great win for liberty. But all is not well on the western front.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is pushing to stamp out the small scale medical marijuana industry that has existed in Washington for 16 years. Holmes wants to bring all marijuana sales, recreational and medicinal, under a single system that would impose heavy taxes on the sick and criminalize existing medical marijuana providers.
Washington’s Liquor Control Board (LCB) would be the central player in this extortion racket. Currently, medical marijuana is subject to sales taxes of approximately 9 percent, much like over-the-counter medicines. If Holmes and the LCB get their way, medical marijuana would be taxed at an effective rate of 44 percent (a “sin tax”), the same as recreational marijuana.
They can’t stand the thought of any form of marijuana being sold without a shakedown from authorities.
Proponents are seeking to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries by abolishing “collective gardens.”
“Collectives are generally administered by patients and for patients, with the greatest concern for the health and well-being of the patient membership on a not-for-profit basis, where patients obtain the highest quality medicine at the lowest cost possible. Collective cultivation represents a closed network of production and access that prohibits diversion or distribution to or from non-medical sources or recipients. Collective gardens must maintain the legitimacy of their operations and membership.”
Ending collective gardens would deprive many sick patients of the medicine they need, especially if they cannot grow their own plants. Patients would instead have to go to state-licensed “adult use” stores and pay exorbitant taxes, and hope to find the strain and form most effective for their particular illness.
This assault on liberty and decency is predicated on the notion that there is no difference between recreational marijuana use and therapeutic cannabis use. However:
“Certain strains and preparations that are uniquely beneficial for medical use produce little to no intoxicating effect, making these products unlikely to be available in an adult use market. Similarly, while adult use consumers largely smoke cannabis, many patients must use a variety of preparations (topicals, tinctures, sublingual, transdermal, etc.), in addition to rapid delivery methods such as combustion and vaporization, to ensure proper cannabinoid absorption.”
Not only would patients face higher taxes and limited choice; those who grow their own would be forced to grow much less. Under proposed bills individuals could only grow six plants, whereas patients can currently grow 15 plants. The 6-plant rule is the result of a misguided central planning effort to control the total quantity of marijuana produced in the state.
Even if medical marijuana is not totally assimilated into the new recreational use paradigm, it would be neutered under currently proposed bills in the state legislature. A variety of measures could accomplish this, including: shut down or severely limit collective gardens, ban smokable forms of marijuana in medical shops, limit home growing to six plants, regulate THC content through the state Health Board, and tighten restrictions on health professionals.
It’s no surprise that big business groups such as the Washington CannaBusiness Association are encouraging government to go after medical marijuana. Both parties believe that medical marijuana will “unfairly” compete with the recreational industry, thereby reducing revenue for government and business.
Washington’s medical marijuana industry is the product of 16 years of essentially free-market interactions between patients and producers, resulting in an efficient network of collective gardens and diverse people delivering specialized medicine at reasonable prices. If lawmakers must satiate their appetite for central planning and increased revenue, they should keep it to recreational use. Let the medical system be.