Steve Bloom Staff file, 2016
A Washington cannabis business group is starting a fund to help patients defray the cost of medical marijuana.
The Washington CannaBusiness Association said Tuesday that the new charitable effort will expand patient access to medical marijuana.
Marijuana’s illegal status at the federal level can present challenges to patients seeking the assistance they can get with so many other medicines.
“People don’t have access to the same kinds of opportunities to get assistance for their medicine,” said WACA Executive Director Vicki Christophersen.
“We heard, and have been hearing from patients — legitimate patients who have an authorization — there are people having a difficult time accessing their medications.”
Patients facing an array of medical conditions can sometimes get assistance for prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and charities.
That support system doesn’t exist for medical marijuana.
“Hopefully we can help fill that void until the federal government changes the status of marijuana nationally,” Christophersen said.
Because of the many legal and regulatory challenges and unknowns regarding cannabis, the medical access fund is still being organized. WACA hopes to have it operational by spring.
Qualifying patients with an authorization from a medical professional can apply for financial support from the fund. Forms will be available at WACA members’ retail locations and online starting in the first quarter of next year, according to the association.
The lack of certified medical products offered in retail stores did not play in to the decision to start this fund, Christophersen said.
“All of our retail members who have medical endorsements have products on their shelves, and they’re getting more every day,” she said.
Anyone will be able to donate to the fund, she said. It will be administered separately from WACA.
WACA also announced a new code of conduct Tuesday that its members are signing on to.
After WACA was formed following the passage of Initiative 502, the organization realized it needed to represent the will of the people, Christophersen said.
“The voter will was a safe, fully regulated market that keeps product out of the hands of kids, generates revenues for the state to deal with things like substance abuse and others,” she said. “Our members feel very strongly about that responsibility, and they take it very seriously.”
The WACA Code of Conduct codifies WACA’s professional and community values and demonstrates the standards on which WACA policy positions, community outreach and member relations are based. The code of conduct covers social responsibility, clean cannabis, a fully-regulated system, responsible consumption, community relations and internal compliance.
“We’re still in the process, nationwide frankly, of changing hearts and minds,” Christophersen said.
By the end of next year, all current 70 members and any future ones will adopt the code.
For more information, go to wacannabusiness.org.