Change is the only constant in the world of cannabis. For Washington State, it’s been a winding – at times nerve racking – adventure.
When Will and I set out to bring legitimacy and transparency to cannabis production with Solstice just about four years ago, we both felt that change for our country was long overdue. Looking back, neither of us ever imagined our state would move as quickly as it has. Whether or not every change has been perfect will be for historians to debate – for now we applaud the courage, dedication, and commitment that our state has shown sailing against the current and into uncharted waters.
When Senate Bill 5052 (SB5052) was introduced to the house in January it’s aim was to do away with the current medical system. Unfortunately, it did so without an option for patients – aside from a recreational system where taxes priced products out of reach and retailers we’re incentivized to move product over providing medical guidance.
We have lobbied for medical regulation for the past six years. This session, in the wake of the medical cannabis system in Washington State evolving into a poor representation of our industry, we believed our state HAD to pass some sort of legislation. Juxtaposed to the national conversation, we went the direction of Los Angeles when we should have steered towards San Francisco or Colorado.
But you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Whether or not you believe people are taking advantage of the medical system, those who are in certain need should not be turned over to a recreational system that cannot currently serve them.
We, along with many others from the medical cannabis community fought hard to change those elements of SB5052. In many ways we were successful.
Included in the final bill – which went into effect on July 24th – is a transition for medical patients and operators that extends over the next year and tasks the WA ST Liquor Control Board as well as the WA ST Department of Health with developing a true medical system. In the legislative session that begins next January, we will aim to amend taxes associated to this cannabis to ensure access for patients will be at a reasonable price. The barrier for these patients will be raised, and medical professionals writing recommendations will be held to a higher standard. That’s positive, accountability is crucial.
It’s also crucial that we discuss and understand the new law. Here are the major takeaways that are now in effect:
- Manufacturing of concentrates with explosive (hydrocarbon) gases (butane, propane, etc) can no longer be done without a state issued license.
- Hydrocarbon extractions CAN still be sold at retail, as long as the producer/processor can document that it was created prior to July 24, 2015.
- All other concentrates (ice water, CO2, rosin, dry sift, etc.) are still legal to produce, process and retail.
- No medical producer/processor/retailer licenses are currently available.
- The WA ST LCB will work in conjunction with the WA ST DOH and WA ST DOA to develop the framework for licenses, with a finish date set of July 24, 2016.
- Businesses who have been operating in good standing in the medical system will have the opportunity to transition over. Good standing means:
o Have been operating since before the Initiative 502 application window (Nov. 2013)
o Have paid all applicable local, state, and federal taxes
o Can demonstrate ability to comply with all standards set forth by Initiative 502
- Retailers going forward who aim to transition must provide cannabis only from producers and processors who will also be eligible.
- Residential (in home) cultivation cannot exceed 15 plants – does not apply to separate structure or “out building”.
- No commercial sales are allowed from residential gardens.
- All medical cannabis recommendations must be written on new, standard form.
- Medical professionals writing recommendations are required to report to the DOH if they write more than 30 authorizations in one month.
- Qualifying patients WILL still be eligible to get renewals on their recommendations.
- PTSD has now been added as a qualifying condition (tremendous and long overdue for veterans!)
We didn’t get everything, but the plan to transition patients over into a system where cannabis can be regulated by one body makes sense. Emphasis of course being on transition, and that was accomplished.
Over the next year the state will work on creating the new licensing system. The WA ST Department of Health was in to visit Solstice last Tuesday, and we couldn’t be more excited to help them get it right. There’s been a tremendous amount of support from all sorts of directions and we, as well as the patients we currently serve, appreciate it enormously.
We’re looking forward to joining the recreational cannabis industry this fall with the opening of our new facility, but remain committed to those who we served first.