In Washington state, a medical cannabis patient who is registered on the Marijuana Authorization Database can grow up to six plants at home, while a qualifying patient who is not registered can grow up to four plants — but do medical cannabis patients in Washington really have legal access to seeds, clones, and plants?
We recently decided to check.
When Washington’s medical and adult-use cannabis systems were merged in 2015 with the passage of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, activists quickly noticed the legislature forgot to include a way medical home growers could legally acquire plants for their gardens. So lawmakers passed a fix in early 2017: in their provision, registered patients can purchase seeds, clones, and small plants (while qualifying patients can buy seeds) directly from I-502 producers.
Using a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) list of licensed producers, we called a total of 40 producers from around the state, 20 from the four largest counties and 20 more from smaller counties throughout Washington.
A large majority of the calls ended with an answering machine and no callbacks. Among those who answered, some had heard of the program but were not ready to sell to patients. A few had not heard of the new regulations but were open to eventually participating in the program. However, none of the contacted producers had concrete plans in place to sell to patients, and not one producer out of the 40 on our call list was able to provide clones at the time of our call.
“We don’t really feel the state has explained this enough,” said Rick Roening, a Spokane County licensed producer. “We worry about patients coming into the grow and bringing pests. There is also an extra security risk. We have genetics we’d like to keep under wraps, and no one has said what happens if our plants find themselves in illegal grows.”
“We just don’t feel the return is worth the risk right now, but if there is more clarification from the state we may be open to direct sales to patients at some point,” he said.
While Roening was unable to provide us with any plants at that time, he pointed us in a direction that did yield, after another call and email, a Washington I-502 producer who is selling clones.
Crystal Oliver, President of Washington’s Finest Cannabis, said that they are ready to sell clones to registered cardholders and are happy to be helping: “We want to get our strains out to patients to help and to share our unique strains, their benefits, and our joy of growing them.”
“Many growers are abandoning diverse heirloom strains in favor of high THC, high producing cultivars, putting some strains in jeopardy of being lost forever. Not only does selling clones to medical home growers help those in need, but it helps keep cannabis genetic diversity going in the state. Unfortunately, over-regulation is making this whole process more difficult than it should be,” Oliver said.
We asked the WSLCB what more could be done to help patients find the rare producers who provide this service. LCB spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter said there may be a way to inform patients about who is selling clones using the new data system set to come online January 1, 2018.
“At the moment, producers don’t have to say up front if they will sell clones to patients, but they must enter them into the traceability system once they are sold. The new system isn’t set up for this yet, but we may be able to do a data search after the fact for producers who have made this type of transaction. Then, provide those names on a list. This is something we are looking into,” Carpenter told Ganjapreneur.