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Doubts Raised About Medical Marijuana Reform Proposal

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OLYMPIA – Would the price of pot go up under proposed reforms to Washington's medical marijuana law?

Would the feds use a proposed registry of medical marijuana users as an easy way to find people to bust for possession?

Would a proposed lottery to pass out dispensary licenses penalize well-run medical marijuana shops?

Those questions were raised Wednesday as the state House's Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the medical marijuana bill. The committee is tentatively scheduled to vote today on whether to send it to the full House. The Senate approved the bill 29-20 on March 2.

The House's Health Care and Wellness Committee voted 6-5 to approve the bill. The Ways and Means Committee is looking solely at the bill's financial implications.

"We've got the Wild West out there, and we need Washington to get control of the situation, said Ezra Eickmeyer, a lobbyist for the Washington Cannabis Association.

"The current law has so many ambiguities. ... It causes chaos," said Greta Carter, a self-described conservative Republican businesswoman from Spokane who opened a medical marijuana dispensary after her son was diagnosed with cancer.

The state's voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998, but rules about the stuff have been fuzzy since. Many local jurisdictions have passed temporary bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, hoping the Legislature will clarify the rules this session.

The current bill, introduced by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, would set up a regulatory system for licensing and monitoring medical marijuana producers, processors and dispensers.

It would also provide protection from prosecution for qualifying patients, health care professionals, producers and dispensers. And it would establish a registry of patients and providers, which law enforcement could consult to make sure users, growers and distributors are legal.

The House Health Care Committee made several changes to the Senate bill, including requiring the Washington Department of Health to set up a county-by-county quota of medical marijuana dispensaries. State licenses would be issued by lottery to a specific number of dispensaries in each county.

Current dispensaries would not be guaranteed to receive licenses if the bill becomes law.

Another change forbids a doctor's practice from being solely concentrated on medical marijuana prescriptions.

John Worthington, a medical marijuana activist from Renton, said the extra bureaucracy will increase the price of medical marijuana.

"I pay $200 an ounce for an ounce of marijuana. If the bill passes, I'll probably pay $350 for an ounce of marijuana," Worthington said.

Tacoma attorney Kent Underwood, representing the Washington Defense Attorneys Association, has doubts about the voluntary registry. Since marijuana remains illegal under federal laws, some fear that federal law might check the registry for leads on its cases.

Underwood also argued that the proposed lottery system would be unfair since a new dispensary with no track record could replace an established dispensary with a good track record.

Officials from Washington's health and agriculture departments testified the program would need extra money up front to track and determine who is eligible to receive medical marijuana, to set up a laboratory to do quality control tests, and to deal with liability concerns. Dollar figures has not been crunched yet.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: kitsapsun.com
Author: John Stang
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Kitsap Sun
Website: Doubts raised about medical marijuana reform proposal
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