The proposal for legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries through local government regulation was officially introduced today as a bill.
You can read the measure here. “Nonprofit patient cooperatives,” also known as dispensaries, would have to register with the state as nonprofit companies.
One key detail that is clear now that the bill is out: The co-ops would be protected from local prosecution only if local governments take action. They would be allowed in a city or county that passes “an ordinance stating that nonprofit patient cooperatives are not prohibited by local ordinance from operation within its jurisdiction.”
Since many communities would probably be averse to putting out a sign welcoming marijuana stores, the growing medical marijuana industry and its advocates don’t like this “opt-in” system. They would prefer an “opt-out” mechanism. But the industry’s lobbying association said today it hasn’t yet decided whether to support the bill.
Local governments appear to be on board with the bill, and Gov. Chris Gregoire prefers it to the one she partially vetoed — but she is sticking to her requirement that all four partisan caucus leaders agree to consider it in the special session, which is a challenge since House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt says he’s not interested.
UPDATE 12:45 p.m.: A public hearing has been set for Wednesday on the new bill. The time of the hearing is to be announced — even though the bill page says it’s at midnight. So don’t show up on the Capitol campus at midnight and tell the security guard you’re here to learn about cannabis.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Rob McKenna‘s office has weighed in on the issue, but Rep. Roger Goodman called the agency’s letter to House Democrats a “non response” that didn’t answer their question: do federal authorities have legal authority to prosecute state employees for licensing marijuana firms?
McKenna’s office did touch on that authority, saying “Washington law cannot constrain the enforcement of the (Controlled Substances Act) or control the manner in which federal officials exercise discretion under that law.”