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ACLU, industry association differ on medical marijuana bill

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
May 13, 2011 2:01 pm

The coalition that supported the medical marijuana bill gutted by Gov. Chris Gregoire is divided over a new effort.

The new bill allows local governments to regulate and ban medical marijuana dispensaries, or cooperatives, which now fall in a gray area of the law that is interpreted differently from city to city.

The remnants of the previous bill that survived Gregoire’s veto pen eliminated one justification dispensaries have cited for their existence, but the industry thinks it creates new ones. It makes references to dispensaries’ existence, although it’s not clear about what they are.

“Our people known how to live in the gray area,” said Ezra Eickmeyer, lobbyist for the Washington Cannabis Association. “They exist because local jurisdictions have allowed them to.”

They’re threatened by the new proposal because it creates an “opt-in” process. Cities and counties would have to pass laws saying dispensaries are allowed. Instead, the industry says, they should have to “opt-out” or ban the dispensaries.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington agrees that “opt-in” should be changed, but its lobbyist, Shankar Narayan, said today in a letter to legislators that it supports the overall bill with that and other caveats:

It allows safe access to medical cannabis for patients, local control and regulation of that access, and improved ability for law enforcement to maintain public safety around the access points.In conclusion, it is important to remember that this committee has heard from groups that represent some patients, and also from groups that have a financial interest in maintaining the gray market status quo.  But you have not heard from the vast majority of the patients who are worst affected by the status quo—individuals who live in places where they have no safe way to get their medicine, and no interest in becoming political activists.  This bill would help them.

The Cannabis Association has also issued a statement:

It’s clear that the state has to manage medical cannabis. Any other scenario is madness. The Governor is just wrong.

We can see by looking at other states that creating cannabis regulations city-by-city is not the way to go. Why repeat what does not work in other states? The Feds are not going to arrest state employees for doing their jobs under state law.

Cities and counties that have been demanding clarity support the bill.

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