By Lisa Rough
July 1st brings the first day that Washington’s Cannabis Patient Protection Act will be in full effect. Although these changes have been slowly unfolding in the past year since the law was passed, come July 1st there will be enforcement for these rules and all patients, businesses, and physicians will be required to prove they are in full compliance. Here’s an overview of the changes that patients, dispensaries, and physicians need to know in order to stay on the right side of the law.
- Patient Information
- Is my MMJ recommendation still valid?
- How long is my MMJ authorization valid for?
- Do I need to be registered with Washington’s MMJ authorization database?
- What are the other benefits of being registered with the Washington state MMJ authorization database?
- What if I need more than the amount of cannabis allotted for MMJ patients?
- Can I join a collective garden?
- What if I don’t want to join the MMJ authorization database?
- Will I be required to pay taxes?
- Dispensary Information
- We’ve been in compliance with state law but didn’t get an MMJ endorsement. What now?
- Are there still MMJ endorsements available?
- We have an MMJ endorsement for our retailer. What do we need to know?
- How do I get certified as an MMJ consultant?
- Physician Information
- Can I authorize patients for MMJ?
- What is required for making an authorization?
- Do I need to report to the Department of Health?
- Am I putting myself or my practice at risk by authorizing patients?
Is my medical marijuana recommendation still valid?
Yes. Any currently issued medical marijuana recommendations will remain valid until the expiration date listed on the recommendation. However, you will be subject to certain restrictions until you renew your recommendation and join the Washington State Patient Registry. With a previously-issued recommendation, you may:
- Grow up to four (4) plants in your domicile for personal medical use
- Possess up to six (6) ounces of usable cannabis in your domicile
How long is my medical marijuana authorization valid for?
Authorizations must expire in one (1) year for adult patients and six months for patients under the age of 18.
Do I need to be registered with Washington’s medical marijuana authorization database?
Yes.If you visit your physician to renew your medical marijuana authorization, your physician is required to enter your information into a Washington State authorization database. Patients may also visit a retail establishment holding a medical marijuana authorization and ask to see the medical marijuana consultant on staff who will enter your information into the database, take your picture, and create a medical marijuana recognition card for you.
Once you have been entered into the database, you may purchase cannabis at any retail cannabis outlet holding a medical marijuana authorization. You may purchase any combination of the following:
- Forty eight (48) ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form
- Three (3) ounces of usable cannabis
- Two hundred sixteen (216) ounces of cannabis-infused products in liquid form
- Twenty one grams of cannabis concentrates
As a registered medical marijuana patient, you will also be authorized to grow and possess in your domicile:
- Up to six (6) plants for personal medical use
- Up to eight (8) ounces of usable cannabis produced from said plants
What are the other benefits of being registered with the Washington State medical marijuana authorization database?
Registered medical marijuana patients may participate in a cooperative garden. They are also protected from arrest, prosecution, criminal sanctions, or civil consequences pertaining to the legal amount of cannabis they are allowed to possess/consume.
What if I need more than the amount of cannabis allotted for registered medical marijuana patients?
If your physician determines that a patient’s medical needs exceed the standard specified amount, doctors may specify on the medical marijuana authorization that the patient is qualified to grow and possess in their domicile:
- Up to fifteen (15) plants for personal medical use
- Up to sixteen (16) ounces of usable cannabis
Can I join a collective garden?
Up to four patients who are registered in the medical marijuana authorization database can join together to grow the total number of plants authorized by the participants.
What if I don’t want to join the medical marijuana authorization database?
Entry into the database is voluntary, but provides additional benefits and legal protections. You may continue to purchase cannabis from retail outlets, but you will be subject to restrictions and limited in the amount of cannabis you may possess. Those who are not registered with the database may still use an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution if they possess no more than four (4) plants and six (6) ounces of usable cannabis.
Will I be required to pay taxes?
Yes and no. Patients are exempt from paying state sales tax at eight (8) percent. However, all cannabis sales, both medical and recreational, will be taxed with the full 37 percent excise tax. This includes the sales of marijuana, marijuana concentrates, usable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products, whether the products are medical or recreational.
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We’ve been operating in compliance with state law, but we didn’t get a medical marijuana endorsement. What now?
Unfortunately, if the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board did not issue a medical marijuana endorsement to your establishment, after July 1st, your dispensary will technically be illegal and face shutdown by state authorities.
Are there still medical marijuana endorsements available?
If your dispensary meets the Department of Health’s criteria, you may apply to add a medical marijuana endorsement to your existing retailer license (you must have an existing retail license to qualify). Please note that there are a limited number of endorsements available per county and endorsements may no longer be available in your area.
We have a medical marijuana endorsement for our retailer. What do we need to know?
In order to stay compliant with state law, you must adhere to the following guidelines:
- Carry concentrates and infused products identified as medical grade by the Department of Health
- You must train all employees on medical marijuana
- You must have at least one medical marijuana consultant on staff who can enter information into the medical marijuana authorization database and issue medical marijuana patient recognition cards
- You must keep records of qualifying patients and recognition cards and other records as required by the Department of Health and the Department of Revenue
- You must enter information about medical sales into Washington’s traceability system
I’ve been designated as my retailer’s medical marijuana consultant. How do I get certified?
In order to qualify to be a certified medical marijuana consultant, you must:
- Be 21 years of age or older, with proof of identification
- Complete a 20-hour training program with proof of completion:
- Five hours on Washington state laws and rules
- Two hours on qualifying conditions and symptoms
- Two hours on short-term and long-term effects of cannabinoids, both positive and negative
- Five hours on products that may benefit patients and the risks and benefits of various routes of administration
- Two hours on safe handling of cannabis products
- Two hours on ethics and customer privacy
- Two hours on the risks and warning signs of overuse, abuse, and addiction
- You will be required to take an exam of five questions for each of the above subjects and must pass with at least 70 percent in each category
- Complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training
- Print out, complete and submit the medical marijuana consultant certification application, with the following fee(s):
- Application for certification fee: $95.00
- Renewal of certification: $90.00
- Late renewal penalty: $50.00
- Expired certificate reissuance: $50.00
- Duplicate certificate: $10.00
- Verification of credential: $15.00
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Can I authorize patients for medical marijuana?
The following healthcare professionals may authorize patients:
- Medical doctors (MDs)
- Physician assistants (PAs)
- Osteopathic physicians (DOs)
- Osteopathic physician assistants (OAs)
- Naturopathic physicians (NDs)
- Advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs)
Certified medical marijuana consultants may NOT diagnose any qualifying conditions, and may NOT authorize a new patient for medical marijuana.
What is required for making an authorization?
The healthcare professional must:
- Complete a physical examination (in person)
- Document the qualifying medical condition on the patient’s record, noting that the patient may benefit from the medical use of cannabis
- Inform the patient of alternative treatment options for their condition
- Document alternative measures attempted to treat the medical condition
- All authorizations must be printed on tamper-resistant paper on the form developed by the Department of Health
- Maintain the patient’s health record, including diagnosis, treatment plan, and therapeutic objectives
Do I need to report to the Department of Health?
Until July 1, 2016, all physicians who authorize more than 30 patients in a calendar month are required to submit a report to the Department of Health. However, after July 1, 2016, all reporting will be automated through the medical marijuana authorization database.
Am I putting myself or my practice at risk by authorizing patients for medical marijuana?
The law establishes immunity against prosecution for practitioners when properly authorizing patients under Washington State law, but not under federal law.
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To continue reading this story, visit our friend’s website (opens in a new window):: Washington’s New Medical Marijuana Law: What You Need to Know