Is there a tent big enough to hold recreational and medical pot users?

Marijuana advocates are split on a proposal to tax medical cannabis usage.
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Alison Holcomb at a hearing in February.

Marijuana advocates are split on a proposal to tax medical cannabis usage.

A bill to tax medical marijuana and have it supervised the Washington Liquor Control Board is drawing mixed reactions.

The Washington Senate's Ways & Means Committee heard testimony Tuesday on the bill introduced by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-LaCenter.

The bill's proposed medical marijuana taxation rates are 20 percent of the selling price on each wholesale sale of dried medical cannabis to a processor or dispensary. There would also be a medical cannabis excise tax equal to 10 percent on the retail sales by a person who is licensed as both a producer or a processor and a dispensary. Medical cannabis is currently exempt from sales and use taxes, according to the Ways & Means Committee's staff report.

Rivers said her bill is designed to deal with people who would try to sidestep Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana in Washington. "It makes sure that all our actors are acting in an ethical and upfront way,” Rivers said.

Phil Wayt of the Northwest Producers and Processors Association, a group formed to lobby marijuana legalization issues, said, "This begins ... the discussions on how to combine the two platforms of this industry (medical and recreational marijuana) that appear to be on a collision course."

The Washington Cannabis Association, the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics, and the Northwest Producers and Processors Association supported the bill. Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association said the medical marijuana world is loosely regulated. "This bill tightens up entry into medical programs," he said.

Rick Garza of the Liquor Control board voiced concern about the current lack of doctor-patient regulations regarding medical authorizations to smoke marijuana

Two other groups, the Cannabis Action Coalition and the Alliance of Medical Marijuana Patients, opposed the bill. Some thought the Washington Department of Health should regulate medical marijuana as a non-taxed prescription medicine.

I-502 architect Allison Holcomb of the American Civil Liberties Union opposed Rivers' bill, saying that recreational marijuana and medical marijuana have different uses and different users.  

Medical marijuana patient Laura Healy of the Washington chapter of America for Safe Access said "Our needs are distinct from recreational users," said .

Some people argued that the state should wait until the recreational marijuana regulations are nailed down before tampering with the current medical marijuana rules. "It makes far more sense to wait for implementation (of I-502) until you start changing the medical marijuana laws," said Brian Stone, who said he was testifying as a private citizen.

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.

  

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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8