Lawmakers consider taxing, tightening policies for medical pot


SEATTLE - Big changes could be coming to the medical marijuana industry as lawmakers consider taxing users for their pot, as they will for recreational users.

 While medical users say taxation would be a hardship for patients, others worry the state could lose millions if lawmakers don’t regulate medical marijuana.

 With recreational pot now legal, growers, sellers and buyers will all be heavily taxed.

 But without any taxes on marijuana sold at dispensaries, many are concerned users will side-step the state and avoid paying taxes for legal weed by purchasing it from dispensaries, tax-free.

 A proposed Senate bill would impose a 20 percent tax on medical pot. The rate is 5 percent less than the retail tax on recreational marijuana.

 It would also call for the Liquor Control Board to license all medical dispensaries, processors and producers, same as the board will do for recreational marijuana sales.

 The bill would also tighten the policies for getting a medical marijuana prescription.  Face-to-face visits between patients and primary doctors would be required before getting a pot prescription.

 Patients under 18 would be required to have at least two separate office visits before authorization.

 Lawmakers are divided on the bill.

 Some say the state can't have two competing pot markets. Others say taxing medical marijuana could push patients to buy their medicine from illegal drug dealers.

 The bill won't go up for a vote for at least a few more weeks.