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Seattle Times: Medical Marijuana Reform Hits a Road Bump With Governor, Feds

By Andrew Calkins April 14, 2011

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' (D-36, Seattle) push to reform the state's medical marijuana system seemed like a done deal after the house approved its own version earlier this week by a 54-43 margin, leaving only the senate and house to reconcile their competing versions (the senate approved its own proposal 29-20 last month). The Seattle Times reports today, however, that Governor Christine Gregoire isn't convinced the new bill will fly in light of recent actions by the US Department of Justice.

The Kohl-Welles legislation would regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana, establish a state registry for patients, protect patients from arrest, set rules for dispensary locations, and allow 1 dispensary for every 20,000 people.

According to the Times, Gregoire's concerns stem from US attorneys threatening to prosecute licensed growers in California and from the concerns of DOJ prosecutors in eastern Washington:
Gregoire became concerned about a potential federal crackdown after speaking with the U.S. attorneys for Eastern and Western Washington, Michael Ormsby and Jenny Durkan. The prosecutors, who did not return phone calls Thursday, were concerned that the proposed legislation would legalize commercial sales of marijuana, said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the bill's prime sponsor.

[...] Gregoire's letter seeks federal input before considering whether to sign the bill. "The governor wants to make sure that if a law goes forward, it's done in a way that won't set up Washington state for an endless battle of court cases," said her spokesman, Scott Whiteaker.

Kohl-Welles said its possible Gregoire might veto all or portions of the bill. She said legislative and executive staffs were considering potential changes to the bill even as the governor waits for response from Washington, D.C.

But Kohl-Welles said she was mystified why DOJ would treat legalized dispensaries in Washington different from six other states and the District of Columbia, which all currently license and regulate dispensaries.

"Why should our state be treated differently than other states?" she asked.
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