House panel hears bill to tax medical pot sales
In 2011, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana. If marijuana were listed as a Schedule 2 drug, it would be able to officially be used for medical treatment, and pharmacists could dispense the drug.
Opponents argued that the rate of taxation under the proposed measure is unfair, especially to low-income people who need it as part of their health care.
"We need to bring the price of medical cannabis down for medical marijuana patients, not up," said Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association. "It would certainly be a mistake to do anything that increases the cost of medicine to sick patients."
Carlyle said the bill is a first draft, and he'll continue to work to refine it, but expects that some version of the bill will pass out of his committee.
The state Liquor Control Board is in the process of developing rules for the new industry, possibly including such measures as digital tracking of inventory to prevent diversion to the black market. Sales are set to begin late this year.
The bill is one of several marijuana-related measures pending in Olympia. One would allow anyone with a misdemeanor pot conviction to have their record cleared and another would protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.
The excise tax on dispensaries would bring in $7.9 million dollars through 2015, according to a fiscal note put together by the state Office of Financial Management.
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee sent U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder a letter detailing the efforts the state is taking as it moves forward with creating rules for the legal market for marijuana.
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said that the governor has not yet taken a position on the dispensary tax bill, "but we are looking carefully at every marijuana bill in light of the governor's pledge to implement the initiative in a responsible way."
The measure is House Bill 1789.
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