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May 26, 2022

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Medical marijuana users raise concerns about regulation bills

Rivers introduces measure in state Senate

By , Columbian Political Writer
2 Photos
State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, listens Thursday with other committee members during a Senate hearing on the Cannabis Patient Protection Act in Olympia.
State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, listens Thursday with other committee members during a Senate hearing on the Cannabis Patient Protection Act in Olympia. A number of medical marijuana patients were in Olympia as lawmakers held their first major hearing on how to reconcile the unregulated system with legal recreational pot sales. Photo Gallery

Medical marijuana activists testified in Olympia Thursday on a measure aimed at reining in what politicians have taken to calling the “Wild Wild West.”

The Senate’s Health Care Committee held a hearing on the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, a measure introduced by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

The senator’s primary objective, she told the crowd in Olympia, was to create a “safe, affordable patient access for medical marijuana.”

“We are in a situation where patients have no idea what they are getting when they go to get it if they are getting it from a dispensary,” Rivers said.

Proponents of regulating the medical marijuana system are concerned medical shops are competing with higher-taxed and more regulated recreational marijuana, undercutting the business.

The measure would regulate the medical marijuana industry and create dispensaries that would only sell edibles and hash oil, not the buds. It would also create a registry of users and ensure the medical marijuana was tested.

Larry Lewton, 64, traveled from his home in La Center to Olympia to testify on Thursday but didn’t get a chance to speak.

Lewton said unlike a lot of medical marijuana users, he’s not afraid of the registry, although he’s not sure it’s necessary. But what does worry him is not being able to purchase medical-grade leafy product he could smoke from a dispensary. Hash oil and edibles do not alleviate his nerve pain like dried marijuana does, he said.

“With only edibles, my other alternative is to go to the black market,” Lewton said.

Alison Holcomb, with the state’s American Civil Liberties Union, said she’s concerned the measure creates a parallel system of medical marijuana stores.

“If that second set of stores has any sort of competitive advantage over nonmedical stores, it will incentivize abuse,” she said.

Other opponents said high excise taxes would make the medical marijuana too costly and said patients wouldn’t be able to grow as many plants at home.

Erin Palmer of Lacey told the committee she uses marijuana to ease chronic nausea from a genetic disorder. She’s on a fixed income of $874 per month and said she can’t afford to shop at unregulated medical dispensaries, let alone highly taxed shops. Palmer buys directly from a marijuana grower.

The other measure attempting to regulate the market and attracting attention is from Seattle Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles. It would do away with separate medical dispensaries and instead allow recreational stores to sell medical products. That approach also concerns some patients, who say they don’t want to go into a recreational store to get medicine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Columbian Political Writer

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