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Medical Marijuana Proposal Abandoned; Dispensaries Now 'Clearly Illegal'

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A legislative effort to expand and clarify the state medical marijuana law has ended for the year, potentially spelling the end – for now – of dispensaries that have boomed throughout the state.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, announced Tuesday that her yearlong effort to reform the 1998 voter-approved medical marijuana law was over. She got a landmark bill through the session only to see Gov. Chris Gregoire mostly veto it in April.

"By far, this represents the greatest disappointment of my legislative career," she said in a statement.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that dispensaries, which had operated in a "legal gray area," will clearly be illegal because of language Gregoire did not veto.

"The commercial dispensaries jumped the gun, and are out aggressively marketing their services. Whatever gray area used to exist to allow that is gone now. They are clearly illegal as of July," when the new law takes effect, he said on Tuesday.

Satterberg said he prefers to use civil actions instead of criminal sanctions to address dispensaries, but said his office would closely review criminal cases brought by local police.

"What happened in Olympia is a significant step backward. It puts cops and prosecutors back in the business of making the medical marijuana law work. I don't think that's fundamentally the law that cops and prosecutors should be in. It should be a medical issue, not a law-enforcement issue," he said.

Cities, police and patients had sought legislation this year to clarify who can have medical marijuana and how they can access it. Patient groups sought arrest protection and legalized dispensaries; police sought a statewide patient registry and criminalization of dispensaries; and cities simply sought clarity on ways to approach the booming dispensary market.

How the new law is going to be enforced is likely going to vary. The City of Tacoma has sent cease-and-desist letters to 42 dispensaries, but held off enforcement pending the Legislative session. Tacoma city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said it is unclear how the city council is going to proceed.

Kent City Attorney Tom Brubaker said the city would decide how to deal with its four or five dispensaries soon.

"We've told these dispensaries that they're illegal, but haven't taken any stiff enforcement action" pending action in Olympia, he said. "I'd just as soon they weren't in my town."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: seattletimes.nwsource.com
Author: Jonathan Martin
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Seattle Times Company
Website: Medical marijuana proposal abandoned; dispensaries now 'clearly illegal'
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