As Colorado plows forward with working systems for both medical and recreational pot, reporting moderate tax revenues that promise to grow, its northwestern partner in early recreational legalization languishes. Washington State’s medical marijuana program has been widely unregulated since the start, and since the state voted in recreational sales at the end of 2012, it has been sluggish to implement a regulatory model for sales. Now that recreational sales in Washington State are about to become a reality, some lawmakers see the need for a functional medical system before recreational sales come into existence this year. A bill sponsored by republican Senator Anne Rivers, which aimed to overhaul the state’s medical marijuana system and enact the order that it has lacked, has died in the state legislature. If you were wondering how recreational weed plays in the Wild West, keep your eye on Washington.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Washington since 1998, but was unregulated for over a decade before a reforms were proposed to standardize it. In 2011, then-Governor Christine Gregoire gutted such a bill, vetoing licensing and regulation of dispensaries and growers as well as a patient registry. Spooked by previous federal raids on dispensaries in Spokane, Gregoire cited the danger of the federal government prosecuting state employees for administering a federally illegal substance. She reiterated this concern later that year, banding with Rhode Island Governor Chafee to ask the federal government to reschedule marijuana, and thereby acknowledge its medical benefits. Though the raids have relented, there’s some evidence that Washington might still be on the federal government’s shit list.
The FBI continuously refuses to issue background checks for dispensary applicants in Washington State. They have obliged Colorado with the service, but have yet to give a clear answer on why Washington doesn’t have the same privilege. Nevertheless, Washington has gone ahead with issuing recreational licenses, opening up the potential for giving one to someone with a criminal background. But Washington isn’t currently alone in giving dispensary rights to unverified applicants.
Dispensary licensure in Massachusetts has been a debacle since its kickoff earlier this year. The state’s Department of Public Health screwed up in several ways, failing to verify applicants’ background, experience, and local support. On top of that, the department’s commissioner Cheryl Bartlett was discovered to have previously raised funds for former congressman Bill Delahunt, who received three licenses. The department also approved three companies tied to a couple who had their licenses revoked in Colorado. Another license was given to a known crooked businessman.
That’s a lot of fuck-ups for one health department! It got them sued by a denied applicant, and worse, an investigation from the state’s House of Representatives. The medical marijuana program’s director tried to duck the accusations in a letter to the representative charged with investigating it, but don’t expect this shit show to end any time soon. The department has backtracked on its approvals and says that nothing is final yet.
Things aren’t all bad! Despite some of the foulness that has come along in a couple of states, the nation’s overall trend is still moving toward a better understanding of cannabis. Look! Kentucky just legalized medical (in its own restricted way).
See? Overall, WE’RE WINNING!!