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Tag: Medical Marijuana

June
28th

Cannabis or marijuana? Lawsuit filed to stop medical pot changes

A medical-marijuana grower and activist has filed a lawsuit to stop a new state law from taking effect.

The Legislature this year approved a major expansion of the voter-passed 1998 law on medical marijuana. But Gov. Chris Gregoire carved it up over concerns that it put state workers at risk of prosecution. The pieces of the law that survived will take effect July 22.

SB 5073 includes a rebranding: references to “marijuana” are changed to “cannabis.”

Steve Sarich, of North Bend, says the law leaves it unclear what happens now to patients with marijuana authorizations from a medical provider.

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June
24th

Tacoma: Supporters of cannabis measure set to turn in signatures

Two local medical marijuana dispensary owners are expected to turn in some 4,200 signatures to the city clerk’s office today, as part of an effort to qualify a local measure for November’s ballot that seeks to minimize prosecution of cannabis-related offenses.

“This shows there’s a lot of community support, especially with patients who are already authorized to use medical cannabis,” said Don Meridan, owner of the Rainier Wellness Center. “We just want to make sure that they’ll continue to have access to their medication.”

Modeled after an 8-year-old law in Seattle, Tacoma’s Initiative No. 1 seeks to make cannabis-related offenses “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”

Supporters are required to submit 3,858 valid signatures to the city by July 5 in order to qualify the measure for the city’s Nov. 8 general election ballot. City Clerk Doris Sorum said she’ll transmit the petitions on Monday to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office, which will begin validating signatures.

Already with a cushion of 300-plus signatures, supporters say they will continue to collect and submit more, right up until the deadline. Volunteer signature-gatherers are expected to collect hundreds of signatures on Saturday alone, during Tacoma Hempfest – a festival celebrating marijuana to be held in Wright Park.

As supporters continue to pursue the measure for ballot qualification, they’re hopeful the issue won’t need to be taken to city voters. They want the city council to step in to approve Initiative No. 1 as a city ordinance.

“If they want to be leaders, they can simply make this law,” said Sherry Bockwinkel, a veteran signature gatherer supporting the campaign. “If not, then we’ll throw it onto the ballot. But this issue is not going to go away.”
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May
24th

Drive to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries fails

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. Read more »

May
13th

ACLU, industry association differ on medical marijuana bill

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: Read more »

May
10th

Medical marijuana bill up for hearing; GOP may not block it once budget’s done

The medical marijuana bill introduced today is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

It’s the first step in the process of moving through the Legislature, but the measure’s fate could depend on whether House Republicans agree it can be heard in the special session. Gov. Chris Gregoire wants all four partisan caucuses to agree.

House GOP Leader Richard DeBolt says it’s a waste of time when there are more important issues like the budget and worker’s comp reform. “It went through the process. It went to the governor’s office. It was vetoed,” DeBolt said.

But DeBolt

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May
10th

Medical marijuana bill introduced

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? Read more »

May
5th

Tacoma: Hearing examiner postpones license cases for medical marijuana dispensaries

With about 100 protestors gathered outside of City Hall this morning, Tacoma City Hearing Examiner Rodney Kerslake agreed to a 60-day continuance on the appeals cases of dozens of local medical marijuana dispensaries that face having their city business licenses revoked.

“With indications now that the Legislature still may be dealing with this (medical marijuana) issue, we agreed to set a date for another status conference call in 60 days,” Kerslake said after today’s meeting.

The continuance buys time for both the city and dispensary proponents, with the hope that state lawmakers come up with a new medical marijuana law that renders the local appeals cases moot.

But, Kerslake added, “if the legislature does nothing, the legal issues will still need to be determined.”

In the meantime, the City Attorney’s office and lawyers representing as many as 41 medical cannabis dispensaries will work toward an agreed-upon set of facts that will be the basis for a legal determination by the hearing examiner, if need be.

Thursday’s continuance maintains the status quo on the local license revocation issue.

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May
3rd

New medical-marijuana bill developing in Legislature

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

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