After arguing against the marijuana legalization initiative last fall, unsuccessfully, the medical cannabis industry is trying a new tack to preserve its brand: claiming that recreational pot will be of lower quality than the stuff sold at medical co-ops.
To that end, Tacoma attorney Jay Berneburg, who represents 61 medical cannabis businesses, recently testified before a senate committee in the state legislature: "Medical marijuana is to pot what pharmaceutical grade cocaine is to blow," he said, explaining that recreational pot can't "address the needs of medical patients."
But will recreational pot really be subpar?
Under Initiative 502, the state will prescribe standards for sanitation, quality, and identity of marijuana. Producers must also send cannabis to third-party testing labs, and these labs must meet certain standards to be accredited. "Requiring testing definitely raises the bar," says David Lampach from Steep Hill Labs, the country's first cannabis testing business. Most pot they test is free of pesticides and excessive mold, he notes, but a few samples register above the limits suggested by the American Herbal Products Association. If cannabis fails such testing, he says, dispensaries may pull it from their shelves or sell it to the public anyway.
But when legal pot fails such testing, it will be destroyed. Under state law, it can't be sold or go to hash oil production. So recreational cannabis users will be guaranteed that their pot is clean and safe—in a way that medical pot patients and cooperatives aren't (because I-502 does not apply to medical marijuana).
Here are some other ways that legal cannabis will differ from medical cannabis:
• No teenage budtenders. The young woman selling you pot is guaranteed to be at least 21 years old.
• No smoking. You can't smoke weed in a legal pot shop, and you can't smoke tobacco, either, thank god.
• Proper labeling. Ganja food packaging will look more professional, but more importantly, the dosage data will be standardized and more accurate.
This is to say, for all the hot air about the superior quality of medical marijuana—and fears that legal pot will suck—recreational cannabis will actually be required to meet a much higher standard.