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New medical-marijuana bill developing in Legislature

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
May 3, 2011 2:28 pm

The blueprint for a new medical-marijuana proposal is circulating in the Legislature.

Cities and counties are pushing lawmakers to come up with a bill Gov. Chris Gregoire will accept after she vetoed most of the last one. The developing proposal would leave key decisions up to those local governments.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and her allies developed the new ideas, discussed them in a meeting Monday and are showing them to Gregoire’s office in hopes they will meet her requirement of keeping state employees away from the regulation of marijuana.

The governor nixed the idea of state-licensed, for-profit dispensaries. So Kohl-Welles wants to allow “nonprofit patient cooperatives,” she said, “that could operate like a dispensary, but there would be no state regulation.”

Instead, local governments would have some authority over them through zoning and business licensing.

The cooperatives would grow marijuana subject to the limits on collective gardens that Gregoire did sign into law. They could sell the pot, but only to cover the cost of their operations.

Another part of the proposal would create a registry of patients maintained by the state Department of Health, which Gregoire supports. Registered patients would get protections from arrest.  If the people who run the dispensaries — er, collectives — want protection, they too would have to join the registry.

Before any of this can be considered, legislative leaders would have to agree to expand the scope of the 30-day special session devoted to the budget and a few other topics. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has agreed it can be heard, Kohl-Welles said, but it remains to be seen how House Speaker Frank Chopp feels.

The two Republican leaders will also have a say, if Gregoire sticks to her proclamation ordering the special session. It calls for bipartisan decisions on the session’s topics.

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