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Drive to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries fails

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 24, 2011 at 9:33 am with 11 Comments »
May 24, 2011 9:33 am

Last week, I wrote that the medical marijuana bill was on life support. Today, it’s officially dead.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the main proponent of legalizing and licensing dispensaries that sell marijuana to patients, announced today that even her most recent, scaled-back bill won’t proceed.

It’s “the greatest disappointment of my legislative career,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement.

Gov. Chris Gregoire gutted her first try at proposing regulations, but allowed a few changes to proceed into law, including authorization for collective marijuana gardens. The remnants that made it into law also contain some vague references to dispensaries — which the industry hopes to use to convince courts they are indeed legal.

The next move is up to cities and counties. Tacoma has ordered dozens of dispensaries to close, and their appeals were put on hold while the City Council waited for the Legislature to act.

Here’s Kohl-Welles’s statement:

OLYMPIA—Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, issued the following statement today regarding her efforts to reform Washington’s medical marijuana law.

“Regretfully, I have decided not to pursue further attempts this year to strengthen our state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

“My efforts to make improvements to existing law were motivated by the need to provide qualifying patients with protection from arrest and prosecution and access to a safe, secure and reliable source of the medicine they are legally entitled to use and that has been recommended to them by their licensed health care provider. I also sought to increase public safety and provide a bright line for law enforcement in determining those who are authorized patients, regulated growers and dispensers.

“Despite having bipartisan support, we were unable to achieve these objectives. By far, this represents the greatest disappointment of my legislative career.

Senate Bill 5073, the medical marijuana legislation I originally introduced this session, included many key improvements to the status quo, such as creating a state regulatory system for licensing producers, processers, and dispensaries and protecting patients who voluntarily sign up on a confidential, secure state registry from arrest and prosecution.

“Unfortunately, around the time the bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reinforced its authority to prosecute those involved with commercial dispensaries. As a result, Governor Gregoire vetoed the most substantive parts of SB 5073 out of concern that state employees involved in regulating medical marijuana would be at risk of federal arrest and prosecution.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the situation for patients and their designated providers was exacerbated as a result.

“While the governor did encourage the Legislature to follow-up with a special session bill, it is apparent there is insufficient time to pass a bill addressing these problems at this time.

“My original bill was developed over the course of a year, with significant input from a diverse group of stakeholders, including groups representing patients, designated providers, advocates, local governments, state agencies, and law enforcement.

“But it’s very difficult to develop complex policy—especially with multiple stakeholders—in the course of a 30-day special session.  And, unfortunately, in the end, it just was not possible to pass a bill that would address the governor’s concerns, while meeting the needs of patients and local governments in such a limited time frame.

“The governor also specified that the leaders of the four legislative caucuses agree to move the bill.  Unfortunately, that was not possible.

“In addition to my keen disappointment in not being able to improve access and protections for patients, I also regret our failure to provide cities and counties with the tools they need to regulate dispensaries and grow operations. The attached letter submitted by King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes illustrates the challenges faced by local governments.

“My most recent attempt to reform the medical marijuana law would have scaled back the proposal to a pilot program giving local governments in counties with populations greater than 200,000 the option of authorizing and regulating nonprofit patient cooperatives.  It also would have created a joint legislative task force to make recommendations to the Legislature next December on issues still needing resolution. But, even this proposal failed to receive sufficient support to move forward in the remaining days of special session, mainly due to the overriding focus on the budget.

“While it is clear this issue has stalled for now, we cannot continue to ignore this issue– it simply will not solve itself.  It is clear that the needs of patients and local jurisdictions remain unresolved and will necessitate further legislative efforts.”

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. Dwatson18 says:

    Once again, political cowardice rules the day. It’s purely sucks when the legislature writes bad law and doesn’t have the guts to admit they wrote bad law and the show the courage to actually fix the bad law they wrote. Now it appears Washington State will be saddled with a mish-mash of incoherent statutes relating to medical marijuana with either lax enforement or over zealous prosecution of patients and suppliers. In any event patients will be the one who suffer needlessly without viable access to the medicine they are justified in having.

  2. This was voted down and what kind of socialist people are you.
    The tax payer vote items down then the state makes a new law to go behind the voters back to get what they want.
    I say again what or how is the State going to take care of the law suites that i can see comming and they will be directed to the State

  3. Pecksbadboy says:

    Thanks Dwatson18!

    You are right on point with you comments.

  4. Dwatson18 says:

    Hey Bird, maybe it would be best if you didn’t post about subjects you don’t have any valid understanding of. Plus I have no clue what being a socialists has to do with anything, you cretin.

    Maybe you should read RCW 69.51A, a statute currently on the books in Washington.

    Therefore, the people of the state of Washington intend that:

    Qualifying patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses who, in the judgment of their health care professionals, may benefit from the medical use of marijuana, shall not be found guilty of a crime under state law for their possession and limited use of marijuana;

  5. mojjonation says:

    If oil or corn could be used as medicine in a way where the bigwigs could make an even higher profit, or control it even more, they would be all for it. When the fed finally figures out how to extract every last dime from the sale of medical weed, then they will cut it loose. Until then, they will continue to shoot down any idea regarding the use and dispensing of medical MJ. I don’t partake in any of it, but even I am tired of seeing the fed and state govt’s half hearted appraoch to allowing the legalization to happen (or not allowing it as it is). We have local law makers trying to put something on the books to make this happen. They are pretty much stonewalled at every turn. It is sad to see.

  6. eyeugize says:

    There is only one current lawful solution to this medical marijuana issue. If you have a medical authorization to use marijuana, grow your own permitted amount.
    If you are unable to grow your own for whatever reason, designate a responsible adult in writing as your personal caregiver who can grow and provide it to you, and only you. That is a simple and safe approach, and it’s the current law as passed by the State legislature for the benefit of those who truly need it.
    Legalization for the benefit of all you recreational users and boni fide pot heads will no doubt take a few more years.
    Perhaps the doctors who now prescribe high priced synthetic marijuana such as Marinol to many cancer patients, will eventually come around and start prescribing the real thing.

  7. Remember, your provider(dealer) can only supply one patient at a time. Also, a good thing to remember is that the RCW only has to do with the state. The feds can snatch your a$$ up any time they want to. It is still a fed violation.

  8. If it is for medical purposes it should be controlled as any other medication and dispensed through a licensed pharmacy.

  9. thebestofthebest says:

    “Remember, your provider(dealer) can only supply one patient at a time. Also, a good thing to remember is that the RCW only has to do with the state. The feds can snatch your a$$ up any time they want to. It is still a fed violation.”

    This week it’s Obama…Next week, it’ll be Sarah, or Newt, or Mr. Plastic in the suit, who’ll turn it all upside down for a drug company “contribution”.

    Medical marijuana’s got along way to go before it gets into the clear.

    The national level is where change needs to happen first. Good luck with that.

    With medical marijuana in Washington state, it’s “Don’t ask…Don’t tell” !!!

  10. Phil D. Boll says:

    Larry, you are ignorant of the situation.
    1. The FDA will not / cannot approve Cannabis as medicine.
    2. No Pharmacy will sell unregulated drugs.
    Cannabis is ,for lack of a better term ,a “herbal”drug, are you going to argue that Herbal Medicine is not “real” medicine ?
    And didn’t Obama and Holder say that they are not going to bother anyone who is in compliance with State law?????

  11. seabourne says:

    It is time to “Change the Schedule of Cannabis, Cannabis Laws, and Drug Czar Laws”
    Sign the petition at

    http://www.change.org/petitions/change-the-schedule-of-cannabis-cannabis-laws-and-drug-czar-laws

    I also ask all to please sign the petition to Ban Ki-moon and all Heads of State, calling to “end the war on drugs and the prohibition regime, and move towards a system based on decriminalisation, regulation, public health and education. This 50 year old policy has failed, fuels violent organised crime, devastates lives and is costing billions. It is time for a humane and effective approach.”
    Please sign it at

    http://www.change.org/petitions/end-the-war-on-drugs-avaaz-petition

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