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Medical marijuana patient registry dropped

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
May 20, 2011 4:31 pm

UPDATED 4:25 p.m.

Medical marijuana’s champion in the state Senate, Seattle Democrat Jeanne Kohl-Welles, has dropped a push for a statewide registry of marijuana patients.

The idea was to give patients protections from arrest if they signed up with the state. It was supported by law enforcement and Gov. Chris Gregoire. The medical marijuana industry and some of its advocates supported versions of it as part of a broader bill that Gregoire mostly vetoed, but was always wary of patients’ names going on a list that could be accessed by police.

The registry is dropped from a substitute bill that won tentative support in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, in lieu of a version earlier in the special session that kept the registry. It’s unclear how the change might affect Gregoire’s support for the earlier version.

There’s also a change to where dispensaries — which the bill calls cooperatives and would require to be nonprofits — could locate. Under the earlier special-session version, they could go anywhere as long as a city or county authorized them. In the latest version, they could go only to counties with more than 200,000 people — a list that includes King, Pierce, Thurston, Spokane, Snohomish, Yakima, Clark, Kitsap and Whatcom counties, according to Census data.

The cooperatives would be legal under a “pilot project” that runs only through 2014. Cities and counties would still have the choice of whether to opt in, an idea dispensaries oppose.

Seattle, King County and Tacoma requested they at least be able to participate in a pilot project. “It’s completely elective — nothing mandatory for any local jurisdiction,” Kohl-Welles said.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m.: The bill was declared passed in Ways and Means on a voice vote, but it needs the signatures of a majority of the committee to officially pass and head to the Rules Committee — and so far, it lacks enough signatures.

Kohl-Welles could be seen trying unsuccessfully to convince Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, to sign. Afterward she said most Republicans also wouldn’t sign, even though the bill has proceeded on a somewhat bipartisan basis in the Senate. Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt has said he wants to stick with the topics Gregoire called for when she ordered the special session.

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Hatfield says he has signed the bill, which he says leaves it one short of the votes needed.

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