by: Graham Johnson Updated:
OLYMPIA, Wash. - People who use marijuana as medicine don't want to pay taxes on pot.
Activists gathered Wednesday in Olympia upset about provisions in state budget bills that direct the state's Liquor Control Board to oversee medical marijuana.
Right now the board is implementing rules for recreational pot.
The new marijuana industry will be highly taxed. Producers, processors and retailers could each pay up to 25 percent. Sales tax would also apply. Activists don't want that system extended to medical marijuana.
"We are not going to turn medical issues over to the Liquor Control Board any more then we're going to turn heart surgery over to Fish and Game," said Steve Sarich of the Cannabis Action Coalition.
Because medical marijuana is in a legal gray area, the Liquor Control Board says it threatens the success of a highly-regulated recreational industry.
Board spokesman Brian Smith says some users are not sick at all. "We know a fair amount of people are using the medical marijuana system for recreational purposes. It's fairly easy to be able to get an authorization."
The state Department of Revenue says medical marijuana is officially subject to sales tax.
Last year, the agency said 50 businesses paid $1.2 million to the state.
Marijuana insiders say many dispensaries don't pay sales taxes at all for fear it could attract the attention of federal drug officials.