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Medical marijuana, what's going on?


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A state Senate committee on Friday appeared to have passed a compromise version of medical marijuana legislation. But maybe it didn't.

Senate Bill 5955, heard by by the Ways and Means panel, seemed to get the OK in a voice vote. But AP reported late Friday that the measure was unable to secure enough votes. We're trying to track down what exactly happened. No lawmaker spoke against the bill, which has been stripped of a controversial provision that would've included a registry for medical cannabis patients. Some medical pot proponents complained that registry could be misused.

Last month Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed critical parts of a medical cannabis bill, Senate Bill 5073, reiterating her concerns that state workers could be prosecuted under federal law the way the measure was written.
The legislation was passed to set clearer regulations on medical marijuana use and to establish a licensing system and patient registry to protect qualifying patients, doctors and providers from criminal liability. Gregoire vetoed provisions of the bill that would have licensed and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and producers. She also vetoed a provision for a patient registry under the Department of Health, but said she would support legislation creating a registry as long as state workers weren't put at risk.

That measure's sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, introduced new legislation, S.B. 5955. It would allow dispensaries – called "nonprofit patient cooperatives" – only if local jurisdictions opt in by approving an ordinance.

Evergreen State voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998. Washington is one of 15 states which allows marijuana use for medical purposes. The federal government does not recognize any medicinal use for cannabis.

Seattle's mayor and city attorney and King County's executive and prosecutor sent a letter to legislative leaders this week, urging them to pass a compromise version of medical marijuana legislation that is now opposed by some pot proponents. Mayor Mike McGinn, Executive Dow Constantine, City Attorney Pete Holmes and Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Tuesday that Gregoire's veto of a previous medical cannabis bill "leaves local governments with no clear path forward as we struggle to balance three priorities: public safety; the need of qualified patients to have safe access to medical marijuana; and law enforcement's need for clarity."
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