Unless the Washington legislature makes changes to the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052) within the next month, medical cannabis patients will no longer be able to legally acquire cannabis clones, despite other rules granting patients the right to homegrown medicine.
Washington voters passed Initiative 502 in November 2012, which legalized adult use recreational cannabis. Then, the legislature approved the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052) in 2015, which folds the state’s long-standing nonprofit medical cannabis system into the for-profit I-502 scheme. The bill is a broad overhaul of the entire medical cannabis system in Washington, and will be completely implemented by July 1, 2016.
Some changes include lowering plant count for patients, the addition of a registry, the addition of excise taxes, a decrease in possession limits, the creation of LCB-regulated collective gardens, and the law has resulted in the closing of innumerable medical cannabis dispensaries across the state.
Despite all the changes the legislature has forgotten an important part of having a functional medical cannabis system: the bill does not provide a mechanism for medical cannabis patients to acquire plant clones within the tightly regulated I-502 system.
According to Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), SB 5052 allows patients who are part of a LCB-regulated collective garden to buy clones from licensed I-502 producers. The law is silent, however, on where the vast majority of medical cannabis patients will access clones after the transition.
At the moment, patients can purchase clones at an ever-decreasing number of medical cannabis shops and at local medical cannabis farmers markets, such as the Patient Cannabis Exchange located in Tacoma, WA. Chuck Green, who runs the Patient Cannabis Exchange and owns Clones Northwest, said he will sell more than 200 clones in a week.
“Patients aren’t going to have a choice but to go to the black market,” Green said. “It’s the only place they’ll be able to get new starts. People are really starting to get nervous with July 1st right around the corner, and still no one knows how this is going to work.”
The LCB said they are working with their legal team to find a fix, but at the moment there remains no solution.