December 1 2013   By Jerry Whiting in Seattle

When Washington state voters legalization marijuana by passing I-502 last year, the existing medical marijuana ecosystem was to be left untouched. De facto this is far from the truth.

The Official Party Line is that MMJ exists because at the time (1998) there was no legal alternative for medical marijuana patients. The arguement is that nothing in the MMJ legislation supports dispensaries and the various other MMJ institutions.

On Oct 21st, seven recommendations were presented to the WA Liquor Control Board concerning MMJ on the eve of the I-502 application period. It seems LCB wants to throttle MMJ before I-502 comes online. The two hot button issues among the 7 recommendations are the end of patient cultivation and collective gardens. With no central registry (yet) no one knows how many MMJ patients there are in the state but from the groundswell of opposition, one can safely assume that there are hundreds if not thousands of MMJ gardeners in the state.

A public comment hearing was held on Nov 13th. The crowd was vocal and near-unanimous in its disapproval of the proposed changes. I attended several organizational meeetings before the public comments and patients are the ones leading the movement. They are impassioned, adament, and strident. No one has any plans to cease gardening.

There is no way that any sentient being could listen to almost 3 hours of patient testimony and remain unmoved. The questions posed by Chris Marr proved that at least one member heard what was being said.

The LCB will present its recommendations to the legislature no later than Jan 1st. How closely their recommendations match the Oct 21st recommendations remains to be seen. Their stance on cultivation and collective gardens will tell us how receptive they are to having MMJ co-exist side by side with I-502. It can be done, if LCB has the will.

Meanwhile the MMJ community has been meeting and organzing. What’s refreshing is to see members of different groups and organizations throw off the shackles of previous affinities and come together as one working group. It appears that melding the various proposed bills into one is a shared goal. The timeline is short but everyone is taking that as an indicator that there’s no time to waste. Fix MMJ now or run the risk of having it disappear.

Even if MMJ survives in some manner it won’t resemble the freewheeling system in place now. That’s why everyone is planning on taking advantage of MMJ in 2014 while they can. Folks are redoubling their efforts assuming that the door will be shut by the end of the year.

What’s most unsettling is that the LCB thinks that I-502 will address the needs of patients. Apparently the year they’ve spent getting up to speed left them with the mistaken belief that “medical” patients are the same as “receational” users. They fail to appreciate the difference between package stores & apothecaries, stoners & patients, THC & CBD.

The fact of the matter is that stoners want THC to get high and patients need CBD to get well. Given that genetics dictates the cannabinoid profile, stoner pot is of little use to patients seeking medical cannabis. Corn is corn but if I bring popcorn to your barbeque no one is going to be happy when I toss it on the grill.

If the public comments heard by the Liquor Control Board are any indication, the state legislature is in for an earful. The political organizing efforts of the MMJ community lead me to believe that this is going to be a long, vocal, and passionate battle.

Happy New Year!