Wednesday, February 19, 2014
For some time, we have put mind-altering substances into one of three boxes: (1) acceptable for recreation (e.g., alcohol and tobacco), (2) acceptable for use as a medicine but for no other use (e.g., substances in Schedules II through V of the CSA) or (3) not acceptable for any use (e.g., all Schedule I substances.) Kimani Paul-Emile wrote an interesting article (PDF) discussing this, and advancing an alternative framework for thinking about drug control, a few years back.
There isn't a lot of modern precedent for a substance regulated under the law for both medicine and recreation. (Of course, there was medicinal alcohol during prohibition. But after repeal, interest in alcohol as a medicine faded pretty fast.)
With evidence of marijuana's value as a medicine only mounting as time goes on, it doesn't seem likely that interest in the medical use of marijuana will vanish anytime soon. And so, as marijuana legalization takes hold, regulating the medicinal and recreational uses of marijuana may pose difficult legal and policy challenges.
In Colorado, legalization left medical marijuana largely untouched (at least in terms of legal regulation). Recreational pot stores have one "menu" and set of prices for registered medical patients and a different "menu" for recreational buyers (with medical marijuana subject to less tax and, as a result, cheaper). Colorado already had a robust set of medical marijuana regulations, which may have helped the state implement this system. So far, Colorado medical marijuana patients seem to be OK with how things are going.
Washington is a different story. There, the State's pre-legalization medical marijuana law was much more open-ended. And, as a result, regulators and lawmakers have been struggling over what to do about medical marijuana now that they are implementing legalization.
Earlier this week, Washington state legislators passed a measure that would bring medical users into the recreational system. And so far, medical marijuana patients do not seem happy about the development.
Jacob Sullum has the story at Forbes:
Last night the Washington House of Representatives approved a bill that would abolish medical marijuana dispensaries, a.k.a. “collective gardens,” and impose new restrictions on patients who use cannabis for symptom relief. H.B. 2149, which passed by a vote of 67 to 29, would thereby eliminate some of the unregulated competition for the state-licensed pot stores that are expected to start opening this summer under I-502, the legalization initiative that Washington voters approved in November 2012. Supporters of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), hope that banning dispensaries will help maximize tax revenue and mollify the feds.
The bill requires patients to buy their cannabis from the same stores that serve recreational customers, which would be the only legal sellers of medical marijuana as of May 1, 2015, when the provision allowing collective gardens would be repealed. Patients could continue to grow marijuana for their own use, but the maximum number of plants would be reduced from 15 to six (three of them flowering). The ceiling on possession by patients would be cut from 24 ounces to three. The bill instructs the state Department of Health, together with the Washington State Liquor Control Board (which is charged with regulating marijuana growers, processors, and retailers), to produce a report by November 15, 2019, on the question of whether it is appropriate to continue allowing home cultivation.