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One More Try: Medical Pot Bill Gets Oly Hearing

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A late attempt to salvage medical marijuana legislation got a hearing in the state Senate on Wednesday, with supporters saying Olympia needed to clear up a murky situation for patients and cities that are already seeing dispensaries pop up, and opponents warning that expanded access to medical pot would increase dangers for young people.

Evergreen State voters approved legalizing medical marijuna 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.

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, has introduced new legislation, S.B. 5955. It would allow dispensaries – called "nonprofit patient cooperatives" – only if local jurisdictions opt in by approving an ordinance. The bill would also create a statewide registry of qualified medical marijuana patients.

"We've been intensely disappointed in the governor's veto...I thought (the vetoed bill) was very good in creating a regulated system statewide," Kohl-Welles said. "We were left with a really difficult situation after the partial veto...This bill before is not perfect, it was done very quickly...but we have a grey area in the law."

Randy Lewis from the City of Tacoma urged lawmakers to create a framework for dispensaries so municipalities could act to regulate the growing industry.

"You have to end this chaos that exists in the communities," Lewis said.

But Jim Cooper of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention said the bill lawmakers are considering would send the wrong message to youth, who he said are using the drug in increasing numbers.

"Kids think marijuana is less harmful," Cooper said.

Gregoire has signed off on Kohl-Welles new bill, in principal. But she wants support from all four legislative caucuses. House Republicans have said they are opposed to the idea. And questions about the bill are coming from medical marijuana proponents, as well, who complain that the registry could be used as a tool by law enforcement to target patients and that some of the other language makes it harder for dispensaries to operate.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: blog.seattlepi.com
Author: Chris Grygiel
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Hearst Seattle Media, LLC
Website: One more try: Medical pot bill gets Oly hearing
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