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Washington Medical Marijuana Clinics Spooked Over New Reporting Requirement

Austin Jenkins

Washington state regulators are tightening their grip on medical marijuana this week by targeting dubious patient authorizations. But some clinics say the changes, which begin Friday, will put them out of business.

The new Cannabis Patient Protection Act requires any health care provider who authorizes more than 30 medical cannabis patients in a month to report to the Department of Health.

Amber Berman-Ortiz, co-owner of the Verde Medical Clinic in Seattle’s U-district, says authorizers don’t know what exactly the state plans to do with that information. She says her staff is spooked.

“Providers feel as if this is becoming a witch hunt. They don’t see that it’s worthwhile for them to continue to write authorizations when they have the Department of Health on their backs,” Berman-Ortiz says.

"No Liability If They Did Everything Right"

The Department of Health says businesses following the rules need not worry.

“There’s no liability if they did everything right,” says Kristi Weeks, policy council for the department.

Weeks says the state boards and commissions that license doctors, naturopaths and other health professionals might simply review their patients’ charts.

“They will examine those records and determine whether or not there was compliance, and if there’s compliance with the law, then the inquiry ends there,” she says.

The requirement sunsets a year from now, when a new voluntary patient registry is to launch.

A Rush To Beat Deadline

Berman-Ortiz says the biggest effects could be on people in rural areas in central and eastern Washington, where fewer health professionals write authorizations. The new state law will force her to stop holding “satellite clinics” around the state, as authorizations will now have to take place within a provider’s brick-and-mortar office.

She says that, along with the possibility that some authorizers will scale back their business, has patients rushing to get authorized or renewed before the Friday deadline.  

“I think what’s going to happen next week: There’s going to be limited hours and prices will go up,” she says.

Other changes kicking in this week include adding PTSD and brain injury to the list of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis, and a ban on the home production of butane-extracted hash oil – a practice linked to fires and explosions. 

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