This Washington

Extra Fizz: Sen. Kohl-Welles Tables Medical Marijuana Bill

By Josh Feit May 24, 2011

Saying there wasn't enough time in the 30-day special session to pass amended medical marijuana legislation after Gov. Chris Gregoire's veto, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard) has tabled her medical marijuana bill.

Gregoire vetoed the first bill, which created a state registry for patients, because she believed it put state employees at risk of arrest. Kohl-Welles' amended version tried to address Gregoire's concern by putting local governments in charge of the system, giving them the authority to license community gardens for medical marijuana.

Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45, Kirkland) proposed an alternative that got rid of the registry—the state database unnerved civil libertarians and also complicated arrest protection by failing to protect those who weren't on the state registry. Goodman's version, which he says he's queuing up for next year's session, would have guaranteed arrest protection with a patient's medical marijuana card from his or her doctor.

From Kohl-Welles' statement:
The medical marijuana legislation I originally introduced this session ... included many key improvements to the status quo, such as creating a state regulatory system for licensing producers, processers, and dispensaries and protecting patients who voluntarily sign up on a confidential, secure state registry from arrest and prosecution.

Unfortunately, around the time the bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reinforced its authority to prosecute those involved with commercial dispensaries. As a result, Governor Gregoire vetoed the most substantive parts of SB 5073 out of concern that state employees involved in regulating medical marijuana would be at risk of federal arrest and prosecution.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the situation for patients and their designated providers was exacerbated as a result.
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