As many people are making plans for the upcoming summer, Washington's medical marijuana dispensaries are scrambling to become licensed under the Cannabis Patient Protection Act before the July 1 deadline, or face closure.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced this licensing requirement in September, with the intent of aligning the previously unregulated medical marijuana market with the recreational market.
One Eastern Washington shop, SpoCannabis, has recently become the first dispensary in the state to switch from medical to recreational.
SpoCannabis received a Level 1 priority ranking under the patient protection act, which means it got to "cut in line" because it was already an operating medical dispensary, and because owner Darren McCrea maintained his business license and paid taxes.
SpoCannabis business manager James Ropp says the shop has spent the past few months getting up to I-502 standards, which mostly meant upping security measures.
He says there is a positive and negative side to the switch.
"Our selection will definitely go up," he says. "A big difference is that everything will be tested, whereas in the medical, you didn't have right on there what the percentages of the THC and CBDs were.
"That's a big improvement; we'll be able to tell the user exactly what's in there, and it's all tested by the producer."
On the other hand, though shops will still be able to sell medicinal products because of a medical endorsement on the I-502 license, the edibles from I-502-regulated producers won't be as potent as those medical marijuana patients are used to.
"For example, there's one candy that we used to sell that was 70 milligrams, and now most serving sizes is about 10 milligrams," Ropp says, referring to candy that Spocannabis sold for $6 apiece. "Now to get 70 milligrams, you're going to have to spend probably $50 to $70."
But Ropp says the good of being able to tell consumers exactly what's in each product outweighs the bad.
SpoCannabis' last day as a medical marijuana dispensary was March 3. After the store passed inspection on Friday, Ropp hopes to receive their recreational license in the next two weeks. Spocannabis will then begin selling products from I-502-regulated producers.
Once SpoCannabis is up and running as a recreational dispensary, Ropp says he and McCrea have big plans.
"We definitely want to be the shop that has a large selection and an ever-changing selection," he says. ♦