Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles has announced that she will be filing legislation this week to combine the medical cannabis system with the recreational cannabis system, while also legalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis for everyone 21 and older.

According to a press release sent Tuesday by Senator Kohl-Welles, the proposal would “phase out collective gardens and unregulated dispensaries”, while directing the Liquor Control Board to increase the number of licensees under the recreational cannabis system. Qualified patients would be given the opportunity to apply for a waiver to receive cannabis tax-free, and the measure would establish a “medical marijuana endorsement to the marijuana retailer license to allow retailers to hold themselves out as knowledgeable in the medical use of marijuana.”

In addition, the proposal would legalize the personal cultivation of up to six cannabis plants for everyone 21 and older. This move would simultaneously decrease the amount of plants a patient can cultivate from fifteen to six.

“The main intent of my bill is to simplify and unify the two systems so that complex gray areas and dangerous illicit markets will eventually cease to exist”, says Senator Kohl-Welles.

Senator Ann Rivers has already filed a similar bill, Senate Bill 5052. That proposal is scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday in the Senate Committee on Health Care.

“My colleague on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ann Rivers, is also working hard on this issue and her legislation has many commonalities with mine,” says Senator Kohl-Welles. “I anticipate that we will find a way to pass legislation that combines the best of both of our proposals.”

Some activists, however, are expressing concerns with this approach.

“Although we strongly support legalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis for adults, we are adamantly opposed to combining the medical cannabis market with the recreational market”, says the nonprofit organization Sensible Washington, a group working to repeal cannabis prohibition and end the drug war in Washington State. “We believe that this will increase prices, decrease access and ultimately put a heavy, unnecessary burden on patients.”

They continue; “Even with a change in the licensing structure, it would likely take years before the recreational cannabis market would be in a position to provide proper access for the entirety of patients in our state. Medical cannabis dispensaries operating throughout Washington should be reasonably regulated, and given the opportunity to be licensed under the state as a medical cannabis safe access point. We feel that it would be a regressive move to shut these locations down, giving them no opportunity to continue providing for their patients, simply to bolster the recreational cannabis industry.”

The group concludes that they “remain opposed to any legislation that would make life more difficult for those with serious, debilitating conditions, as we believe this proposal would do.”

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