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New association formed to lobby Legislature on medical marijuana

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm with No Comments »
December 3, 2010 4:32 pm

As state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles works on finalizing legislation to fix the state’s medical marijuana law, a new association has been created to lobby the issue.

Called the Washington Cannabis Association, it is made up of two dozen members of the so-called medical cannabis community and will attempt to influence the reforms of the 1998 measure passed by initiative.

The point of the changes to to deal with the production and procurement of marijuana by patients who have notes from doctors saying the drug will help their medical conditions. Now, the law is silent on how patients get the drug, except to say they can grow their own or have a care-giver do it for them.

While some patients do, most get them from various providers – either co-ops or businesses, either non-profit for for-profit.

“The medical cannabis industry has matured dramatically over the last year,” said Philip Dawdy, the new association’s media director, “and our new Washington Cannabis Association is proof.

“The WCA is putting all of its resources into fixing our state’s vague laws governing how patients can get their medicine,” he said. “Patients are better served and our communities are safer when there are regulated and licensed operations which monitor quality and adherence to state laws while serving patients.”

Here’s the text of the press release …

Washington Cannabis Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Medical Cannabis Legislation, Need for Change Spur Creation of Cannabis Trade Association

In a sign of the growing maturity and public acceptance of the medical cannabis industry in Washington State, two dozen members of the medical cannabis community have joined forces to create the Washington Cannabis Association. The association intends to be an active participant in shaping forthcoming legislation to reform Washington State’s medical cannabis law, approved by voters in 1998 as Initiative 692, and to give the industry a public face as it seeks to provide safe, consistent access to medicine for qualifying legitimate medical patients in Washington State.

“The medical cannabis industry has matured dramatically over the last year,” said Philip Dawdy, WCA’s media director, “and our new Washington Cannabis Association is proof. The WCA is putting all of its resources into fixing our state’s vague laws governing how patients can get their medicine. Patients are better served and our communities are safer when there are regulated and licensed operations which monitor quality and adherence to state laws while serving patients.”

Under current state law, legitimate patients and their providers are still regularly arrested and prosecuted even when they are complying with state law, a situation that’s arisen from different law enforcement jurisdictions interpreting the law

After reviewing initial drafts of proposed legislation from State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Queen Anne) that would clarify the state’s medical marijuana law, activists, medical cannabis business owners and supporters realized they were a new political force and should be at the forefront of creating effective regulations for a legitimate medical cannabis industry in Washington State.

The association was born in October and immediately became active in working with State Sen. Kohl-Welles to hammer out detailed regulations that will ensure safe access for patients while clarifying state law for law enforcement.

“Jeanne has been working on these issues for over a decade” said veteran business lobbyist Ezra Eickmeyer, WCA’s political director.  “But she has never had direct lobbying support from a legitimate industry, because there wasn’t one before. Other organizations have also hired professional lobbyists and we now have a collectively stronger voice for improving safe and reliable access to medical cannabis for patients. We hope for bi-partisan support for our efforts in 2011.”

Association members include medical cannabis co-operative operators, dispensary owners, medical cannabis producers, infused products manufacturers and patients. Collectively, the association represents about one-half of the estimated 100,000-plus authorized medical cannabis patients in Washington State. More members are joining the association each week.

“We want the public to know that the Washington Cannabis Association does not favor California-style dispensaries in an unregulated market,” said Laura Healy, owner of Green Hope Patient Network in Shoreline. “The association much prefers a limited and clearly regulated free market industry for production and distribution along the lines of recent regulations enacted in Colorado.”

“ We need to keep medical cannabis away from the black market for the safety of patients and our communities,” Healy added.

Calls for the State Legislature to fix medical cannabis laws have been coming from local jurisdictions and patients alike. In October, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Tacoma City Council, tired of legal uncertainty about medical marijuana cooperatives, issued a public plea for the State Legislature to fix the medical marijuana law and give clarity to law enforcement and local jurisdictions. Calls to officially legalize dispensaries have come from the City of Seattle.

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