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Dispensary Owner Slams Medical Marijuana Lottery Proposal

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PORT ANGELES – A proposed law that would give additional legal protection to medical marijuana users and remove dispensaries from a legal gray area has found a critic in the owner of a dispensary in Port Angeles.

Richard Pharr, who runs Olympian Canna LLC, said Friday he is against Senate Bill 5073 because it would require him to participate in a lottery in order to receive a license.

That puts him in a position, he said, of not knowing if he would be able to operate if the state Legislature adopts the bill, which is in a House committee now and faces a House floor vote and, if it passes the House, consideration again by the Senate.

"It's a step in the right direction, but I don't feel that it is a good bill," Pharr said, describing it as doing more harm than good.

"They're putting the future of my life and my family in the hands of a lottery."

The House Health and Wellness Committee added the lottery requirement to the bill Wednesday.

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, sits on the committee. He said the committee didn't include any preference for existing dispensaries in the amendment because of uncertainty over whether they are even legal to begin with or could meet new regulations.

"They have no legal standing to be already established," said Van De Wege, who represents the 24th District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Van De Wege said a House floor vote may be a week or two away.

He plans to vote for it because it helps eliminate some of the gray areas in the law.

Scott Finch, who operates a dispensary in Sequim, said he is not as concerned as Pharr.

Finch said he believes a lottery wouldn't be a problem because he expects there will be enough licenses issued for Clallam County.

"I'm not too concerned with that," he said. "As far as I know, there are no other patient networks that can provide medical cannabis care."

The number of dispensaries allowed in a community would depend on how many patients sign up for a voluntary state registry.

The bill, now up for review by the House Ways and Means Committee, also would protect medical marijuana users from arrest.

Currently, they can be arrested for possessing marijuana but have the right to use their medical marijuana authorization as a defense.

Since the bill has been amended, it would have to be sent back to the Senate for another vote before becoming law, if it were passed in the House floor vote.

The state's medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1998, allows a person to grow plants for an authorized patient but does not address dispensaries.

The law also says providers can grow plants for only one patient at a time.

Pharr and other dispensary operators say they comply with that requirement because their patient-provider agreements last only for the length of the transaction.

Some law enforcement agencies disagree and have moved to close dispensaries in cities such as Tacoma and Spokane.

If the bill is approved by both Houses and signed by the governor, it would take effect July 2012.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: peninsuladailynews.com
Author: Tom Callis
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Copyright: Horvitz Newspapers
Website: Dispensary owner slams medical marijuana lottery proposal
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