A new Washington state law will soon expand the state’s home grown cannabis market for medical users.
Starting on June 23, 2017, under a bill (SB 5131) just signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, medical marijuana patients in Washington will be able to purchase marijuana seeds, clones, and immature plants from licensed marijuana producers.
SB 5131 fixes a flaw with Washington’s home grown medical market. In Washington, you cannot cultivate marijuana for recreational use without a producer’s license. However, state law permits medical marijuana patients to grow a limited amount of marijuana for the patient’s personal use. But until SB 5131 goes into effect, there has been no legal way for medical patients to obtain marijuana plants or seeds.
Washington law permits any adult over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana from a retail store, but these stores only sell useable marijuana and marijuana products, not living plants or seeds. In turn, licensed producers can only sell their products to other producers, licensed processors, and retailers. Until SB 5131 goes into effect, medical patients cannot buy living cannabis plants or seeds from any of these licensed entities.
In Washington, doctors can authorize the use of medical marijuana to patients who suffer from a qualifying condition. These qualified patients may enter an optional authorization database run by the state. This database allows the state to collect information on Washington’s medical marijuana patients and requires patients to disclose personal information. Patients that do enter the database receive a recognition card.
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All Washington marijuana patients can grow marijuana for their personal use, unlike recreational users, but cardholders can grow more. Cardholders may cultivate 6 plants at home (up to 15 if their physician recommends it) which can yield a maximum of 8 ounces. Cardholders can also join state-registered medical marijuana cooperatives to cultivate marijuana with four other patients. Patients who are not cardholders may grow up to 4 plants and possess up to 6 ounces of useable marijuana produced from those plants but cannot join a cooperative.
Under SB 5131 cardholders will be able to purchase immature plants, clones, and seeds from licensed marijuana producers. Patients without cards can only purchase seeds from a producer.
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Washington is the only state that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana without permitting recreational users to cultivate their own cannabis and SB 5131 does not allow recreational users to grow their own marijuana. However, SB 5131 requires the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) study the viability of allowing marijuana cultivation by recreational users. The study must consider public safety, public health, law enforcement concerns, and compliance with the Cole Memo. The LCB must report its findings to Washington’s legislature by December 1, 2017.
Daniel Shortt is an attorney at Harris Bricken, a law firm with lawyers in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Beijing. This story was originally published on the Canna Law Blog.