New Medical Pot Bill: Cities Would Call the Shots

Jacob Bell

New Member
New medical marijuana legislation created following Gov. Chris Gregoire's veto of major sections of a medical cannabis bill last month would allow "nonprofit patient cooperatives" to operate only in cities that specifically allowed them.

According to a Senate memorandum sent Monday to Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the measure Gregoire rejected, the new measure:

* Permits NPCs (nonprofit patient cooperatives) to distribute cannabis for the medical use of its members. NPCs are permitted only if the local government in which it is located adopts an ordinance that does not prohibit NPCs. Requirements for NPCs are provided in the bill and include: That they must be nonprofit; may obtain cannabis from collective gardens or may produce cannabis, subject to limits set in statute or as further limited by the local government; must keep

* Provides that local governments are not preempted from imposing zoning requirements, licensing requirements, permitting requirements, health and safety requirements, taxes or other conditions upon any entity producing, processing, or dispensing cannabis within their jurisdictions. Local governments may adopt requirements relating to NPCs including: security requirements; inspection standards; limits on size of membership; and limits on number of plants and amounts of useable cannabis.

The tentative version of the reworked bill is available here.

It is expected to be formally introduced soon.

On Monday, Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Clark said she was working with City Attorney Pete Holmes to come up with medical cannabis dispensary zoning rules — especially if Kohl-Welles' new bill goes nowhere. Seattle's City Council, mayor and City Attorney all supported the legislation Gregoire vetoed.

Kimberly Mills, Holmes' spokeswoman, said the city attorney's office would work with the Council should "medical marijuana legislation fail entirely this session. We haven't gotten very far on that front because our energies continue to be focused in Olympia."

The new bill also would establish a "Medical Cannabis Registry" to be administered by the state health department.

Last month 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.

Gregoire has since agreed, in principle, to the language in Kohl-Welles' new bill. However she wants the leaders of the four legislative caucuses to also sign off on the new idea, something House Republicans have balked at.

In addition, some medical marijuana proponents object to the idea of the cannabis registry, worrying that police would use it as a tool to track down users. Also, they say specifications as to the amount of marijuana that can be made available by the non-profit co-ops are overly restrictive.

Evergreen State voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998. Washington is one of 15 states which allows marijuana use for medical purposes.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Chris Grygiel
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