Through complex amendments and Republican opposition, the state Legislature is pushing forward on a bill that would change Washington’s medical marijuana laws, a move supporters said could bring clarity to a confusing system.
Senate Bill 5073, which would set up a voluntary patient registry and license medical marijuana dispensaries passed the House Health Care and Wellness Committee in a 6-5, mostly-partisan vote Wednesday, with some applauding it as a way to better oversee marijuana-use in Washington and others worrying that it could lead to abuse of the system.
“Right now we have such ambiguity in our law regarding our protection for authorized medical marijuana patients, and I hate to see that,” said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a Seattle Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since voters approved Initiative 692 in 1998, but that law left some grey area around how people who qualify to use medical marijuana can get it.
Under the rule, patients are allowed to grow limited amounts of medical marijuana for themselves or designate a provider to grow it for them. But marijuana providers are only allowed to give the drug out to one patient at a time, and some have interpreted this to mean that dispensaries, or businesses that sell medical marijuana, are illegal.
Senate Bill 5073 would authorize dispensaries to operate in Washington, but they would have to get a license through the state Health Department.