On July 1, when the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052) took effect, all dispensaries without an I-502 license were forced to shut down, sending many of the state’s medical marijuana patients into a panic. Patients worry that the recreational market doesn’t have enough medicinal cannabis for their needs and that what is available is not affordable. Many point to the fact that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) issued only 222 new retail licenses to replace more than 1,500 medical marijuana dispensaries.
But there’s another aspect that should trouble patients, though few may know about it. Thanks to a loophole in the state’s licensing process, many longtime dispensary operations were shut out of the recreational market. New actors were able to game the system by buying pay stubs from former medical marijuana dispensary employees in order to bolster their applications.
“[The state was] supposed to create new licenses to move over the [medical marijuana] system so that the patients could be served,” said John Davis, owner of the Northwest Patient Resource Center, who applied for but did not receive an I-502 license. “That’s not what they did. They were just giving licenses to people who were scamming the system.”