Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she wouldn’t sign a medical marijuana bill to license dispensaries in Washington because doing so would be “irresponsible.”
Gregoire said she thought the bill, which the state Legislature already passed, had some good elements, including a proposal to set up a patient registry to provide some arrest protection, but she couldn’t approve a bill that could put state employees at risk of arrest by the federal government.
“I’m looking at it only with what I can save, not whether I will sign it,” said Gregoire of Senate Bill 5073.
The conflict between the governor and the Legislature over medical marijuana began two weeks ago when Gregoire received a letter she had requested from U.S. attorneys about the proposal, which clashes with federal law.
Under federal rules, marijuana is illegal, although the Justice Department has said it won’t prosecute patients who use medical marijuana in compliance with state laws.
In the letter the U.S. attorneys Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby sent to Gregoire, they said they “maintain the authority” to prosecute people who “participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”
Supporters of the bill, including Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, have pointed out that seven other states and Washington D.C. already have laws allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in some form, and nobody has been prosecuted for carrying out the state laws there.
Gregoire said despite that argument she was convinced that signing the bill wouldn’t be a responsible choice for a governor to make after hearing the attorneys’ position.
“I don’t live in those other states,” she said.