Unlicensed Medical Pot Stores Had To Close By July 1

SEATTLE (AP) — To comply with a new law, medical marijuana dispensaries without a recreational pot license were forced to shut down by July 1.

Q-13 reports the Washington Department of Health says more than 300 recreational pot stores are approved to sell medical marijuana, but patients still worry about access.

After Friday, law enforcement will be in charge of cracking down on dispensaries that are not compliant in their jurisdictions.

Under a law passed by the Legislature last year, unlicensed dispensaries that proliferated in the past decade were required to close. Large-scale growing cooperatives that supplied the medical stores were also forced to shut down, to eliminate competition with Washington’s pioneering legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, approved by voters in 2012.

Washington in 1998 became one of the first states to approve the use of marijuana as medicine, but the initiative passed by voters did not allow commercial sales. Instead, patients had to grow the marijuana for themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. The measure did not prohibit patients from pooling their resources together to have large collective gardens on a single property, which police sometimes raided.

After Initiative 502 passed, lawmakers had a financial incentive to reduce competition with the state’s recreational market, and they did so last year. The Liquor and Cannabis Board decided to boost the maximum number of licensed pot shops statewide from 334 to 556 to accommodate the medical market, and it adopted a merit system for helping decide who got the additional licenses.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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