Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Friday to merge Washington's recreational and medical marijuana systems under one entity for regulatory purposes.
Essentially, the bill by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, brings the state's largely unregulated medical marijuana world under the umbrella of the just-renamed Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board. The bill had extensive bipartisan support, as well as collaboration across the aisle in its development.
"We have a measure that will create a medical marijuana system that works for our state," Inslee said.
"I recognize the solution is not perfect. However, I do think this is far better than today's wholly unregulated system," the governor added, making a reference to the lack of controls on the sales of medical pot.
In a related matter, Senate Republicans and House Democrats failed Friday to resolve their differences on another pot bill by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. It would revise taxes on recreational marijuana and how the tax revenue should be appropriated. While Friday was the last day of the Legislature's regular session, the dispute can still be resolved during the body's 30-day special session, which begins Wednesday.
The bill that Inslee signed Friday sets up a prioritization system for people applying for retail licenses, while requiring the state Liquor & Cannabis Board to increase both the amount of legal space for marijuana production and the number of stores.
The bill has a voluntary medical patients’ registry system with safeguards to protect against that registration database being used to arrest people. The registry will help the state determine the scope of medical marijuana use in Washington.
The bill also limits the ability of a city or county to prohibit marijuana businesses, making a public initiative the only route to enacting a ban. The bill also allows local governments to reduce from 1,000 feet to 100 feet the buffer zones between marijuana shops and parks, libraries and day care centers. However, that 1,000-foot-buffer requirement remains intact around schools and playgrounds.
This story was originally posted at 8:57 p.m. on April 24.