LACEY, Wash. - Hundreds of people packed a sometimes rowdy meeting in Lacey Wednesday night and let loose on state regulators over plans to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens.
Medical marijuana patients fear they will have less access to the cannabis they need and will pay higher prices if they have to buy at new recreational marijuana stores.
"I'm not doing this to get stoned, I'm doing this to live, to heal," one patient told the board.
At a clinic in Seattle, Leland and Susan Schmidt said they both use medical marijuana, he for back pain, she for pain from cancer surgeries.
"This isn't for recreational, this is for medical purposes and we want it treated as such," said Leland Schmidt.
Washington voters approved medical marijuana but, at best, the industry is in a legal gray area.
"The idea that medicinal should not be regulated and recreational is seems a bit odd," said Liquor Control Board Director Rick Garza.
State officials said it is clear many medical patients aren't really sick and use the current system just to get high.
A state proposal would tighten standards for medical marijuana authorization, create a registry for patients and allow them to use their card to avoid paying taxes in recreational stores.
"I believe the merging of the two markets will actually be better for authentic patients," said Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, who runs Green Buddha Patient Co-Op, which she described as the state's oldest dispensary.
She thinks patients will be able to get whatever marijuana they need, and said dispensaries are leading the outcry because they will be put out of business.
"I see this as coming to a close and I will need to find a job. I believe that's why a lot of the places are enraged," Kyashna-Tocha said.