The state Department of Health’s voluntary database for medical marijuana patients wasn’t ready the night before it was set to launch.
Update, 8:40 a.m. Friday, July 1, 2016:
The state Department of Health announced at 8:31 a.m. that the medical marijuana database is up and running.
The new state database that’s supposed to provide benefits to medical-marijuana users as they get folded into the recreational system wasn’t ready to launch as Friday’s deadline loomed.
David Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Health, said an IT glitch is keeping the database offline. Officials are hopeful it’ll be running sometime Friday and they’re “burning the midnight oil to get it fixed.”
In the meantime, patients are expected to pay full price at retail recreational stores; medical dispensaries must close by Friday.
When voters legalized weed with Initiative 502 in November 2012, they sealed medical marijuana’s fate.
It was untaxed and unregulated, so the state merged it with the recreational system.
Although patients will be encouraged to shop at retail stores, they can enter themselves into a database that will provide a number of benefits, including a waiver of sales tax. Patients also will be allowed to possess more, and grow and buy different products with higher amounts of THC.
But without the database, none of the benefits is available.
“What we’re saying to folks is that we understand their concern and we are working to get this up and running in accordance with the law,” Johnson said.
John Davis, owner of Northwest Patient Resource Center and a medical-marijuana advocate, said patients “simply aren’t going to be served.”
“You know, it needs to be up and running tomorrow for medical patients,” he said Thursday afternoon. “It completely misunderstands medical cannabis versus recreational cannabis.”
Kristen Adamson of Save WA MMJ said the delay in the database’s launch shows the state’s incompetence.
“They had, what, a whole year to implement the database and they still couldn’t do it in time?” she said. “It’s a failure to the people living in Washington.”
Both activists said they expect many patients won’t put themselves in the database, anyway, and might turn to the illicit market.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the state is going to force patients to join a database and be on, basically, a watch list,” Adamson said.