State medical marijuana workgroup releases recommendations

The Washington State Legislature appointed a Liquor Control Board-led medical marijuana workgroup to draft recommendations for a new medical marijuana policy. A public hearing was held to learn the public’s opinion on Nov. 13. The draft policy, released Oct. 21, dismantles much of Initiative 692, which legalized medical marijuana in Washington State in 1998.

The workgroup is a team of employees from the state’s Department of Health, Department of Revenue, and Liquor Control Board charged with writing recommendations for new medical marijuana laws for the state legislature to consider passing. Major recommendations for a new medical marijuana policy include requiring a patient registry accessible to law enforcement, a massive reduction in the amount of marijuana that patients are allowed to possess, and a ban on a patient-grown marijuana.

The proposed recommendations severely limit patients’ access to medical marijuana. Under Initiative 692, patients may possess 24 ounces of marijuana, whereas the new recommendations limit possession to three ounces, or roughly a one week supply. The draft eliminates collective gardens and requires patients to purchase from currently non-existent marijuana retail outlets. Under the draft regulations, medical providers face increased scrutiny. The draft regulations, available on the Liquor Control Board’s website, state a provider’s work could “…not consist primarily of authorizing medical marijuana” and the ”standards of care would be developed similar to those…regarding the use of opioids to manage chronic pain.”

Many citizens attended the Nov. 13 hearing at St. Martin’s University’s Worthington Center. Only 30 minutes into the hearing and over 100 people had signed up to speak. Some stipulations were well received; requirements that marijuana be sold at least 1,000 feet away from locations children congregate and that providers examine patients in person, were both met with applause. The audience audibly disapproved of others, such as a requirement that new qualifying medical conditions for marijuana authorization would need approval via the legislative process.

The workgroup didn’t state in their recommendations how they would reconcile the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects patient privacy with limiting access to patient medical records for law enforcement purposes. Regardless of medical circumstances, patients must agree to be part of the registry to receive treatment. Legal protections for patients who used over the legal amount for medically valid reasons would be removed.

The workgroup barred the public from meetings. This lack of transparency provoked anger among those observing the process, resulting in a lawsuit filed against the Liquor Control Board. The workgroup claimed the meetings could be closed to the public because no elected officials or department board members were part of the group. But according to, at least one elected official, State Senator Kohl-Welles, was present at a workgroup meeting.

The draft policy is available at the Liquor Control Board website: