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News (Media Awareness Project) - US WA: Local Medical Cannabis Providers Ponder The Future
Title:US WA: Local Medical Cannabis Providers Ponder The Future
Published On:2012-02-02
Source:West Seattle Herald (WA)
Fetched On:2012-02-04 06:02:54
LOCAL MEDICAL CANNABIS PROVIDERS PONDER THE FUTURE

Marijuana is on the mind of elected officials in Olympia these days as
Initiative 502 (proposing recreational legalization for those over 21)
is discussed ahead of a likely vote by the people in November.

In addition, letters have been sent from Gov. Gregoire and 42
Washington lawmakers asking the DEA to reclassify cannabis as a
Schedule 2 drug, which would verify its medicinal value at the federal
level, allowing doctors to prescribe and pharmacies to distribute the
drug.

The Herald spoke with two local medical cannabis dispensary owners to
get their take on how I-502 and reclassification could affect the
industry.

Initiative 502

The initiative, if passed, would allow adults 21 and older to purchase
marijuana for recreational use from stores licensed by the WA Liquor
Control Board. The Board would also control manufacture and
distribution, while the state would tax the sales, creating hundreds
of millions in revenue to go towards public programs, according to
backers. The sticking point for many is the DUI provision, where
people could be tested for THC (the main active ingredient in
cannabis) levels in their blood. Opponents have said THC stays in the
body far longer than alcohol, so the test would not be an accurate
reading of impairment.

John Davis, owner of the Northwest Patient Resource Center at the
corner of 35th and Roxbury, said I-502 would likely have little effect
on medical marijuana dispensaries or their patients.

"They will (medical marijuana dispensaries) still be there, they will
be separate and distinct," Davis said. "It comes up to the liquor
control board to pass regulations and to figure out exactly which
places are getting licensed. I don't know if you will see places are
both medical and recreational that work with cannabis ... that will be
up to the liquor control board."

Chris Cody, owner of Herban Legends on 16th Ave in White Center, said
he hopes the initiative will provide a distinction between medicinal
and recreational users, because he doesn't believe his patients should
have to pay the same 25 percent tax hike as recreational users.

"I do not think medical patients should have to pay that and I do not
think it would be particularly effective because the street stuff
would still be cheaper," Cody said, alluding to the possibility of
recreational prices getting jacked so high that people look back to
the black market to save money.

Reclassification from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2

Gov. Gregoire sent a petition to the DEA asking them to reclassify
marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug on Nov. 30, 2011, "which will allow its
use for treatment - prescribed by doctors and pharmacists." Marijuana
is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA, characterized
by high abuse, no recognized medical value and a lack of safety in
use. It is classified with heroin, LSD, MDMA and methaqualone.

Looking into the theoretical future, Davis said, "A doctor may at that
point prescribe cannabis, but who is going to fill that prescription
is anyone's guess. If it is Schedule 2 a place that dispenses cannabis
for prescription use will have to be a licensed pharmacy."

Under current Washington law doctors can recommend, but not prescribe
cannabis treatment.

"I doubt if Walgreens or Bartell have the infrastructure currently to
supply cannabis as medicine and really have an idea of what that is to
patients," Davis added. "There are different types of cannabis and
they can have very different effects. I don't know if Walgreens is
going to have a jar of quote-unquote 'cannabis' that they just
dispense, but I doubt the medical validity of that approach."

Davis said it is possible that current medical marijuana dispensaries
could become licensed pharmacies "that just dispense one type of
medicine, but with cannabis you have many different subtypes in that
model.

Medicated edibles and tinctures and teas - there are many different
models of ingestion - and I just don't see Walgreens, in their current
model, being able to stock something that would suit the needs of a
cannabis patient."

Cody at Herban Legends said he sees reclassification effort as
"misguided" because it would likely put medical cannabis distribution
in the hands of established pharmacies.

"There are a lot of different strains (of marijuana) out there and a
lot are more condition specific than others (in alleviating symptoms),
he said. "I don't know if pharmacists and doctors would really
understand a lot of this."
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