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WA State House passes MMJ reform


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State House passes medical-marijuana reform
A comprehensive reform of the state's medical marijuana law passed the state House Monday afternoon, making it increasingly likely that the state would for the first time legalize dispensaries and growers while providing patients with new protections from arrest and prosecution.

The bill, SB 5073, now goes back to the Senate, which passed a slightly different version in March. At an afternoon news conference before the House voted 54-43 to pass the bill, Gov. Chris Gregoire said, "At this point, I have concerns about it."

During vigorous debate, the House, passed an amendment requiring legal patients to sign up for a new state-run registry to qualify for pre-emptive protection from arrest, search or prosecution. Mandatory registries are in place in other states, including Oregon, but advocates in Washington fear the registry could be abused by law enforcement.

Republicans sought to chip away at the bill with failed amendments, including 1,000-foot buffer zones from schools and banning qualified patients from growing marijuana themselves. (JERKS)

Sales and business taxes would apply to dispensaries, growers and processors, producing an estimated $700,000 in revenues next year.

The bill is the biggest rewrite of the medical marijuana law since a 1998 voter-approved initiative, and answers many questions that lingered since then. Dispensaries, which currently operate in a legal gray area, would be licensed and regulated by the Department of Health under rules still to be written, and the Department of Agriculture would license and inspect commercial marijuana grow farms and food processors.

As part of amendments adopted on the house floor, one dispensary would be allowed for every 20,000 residents, meaning about 93 would be allowed in King County.

The bill's champion, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said it would expand access for patients while providing a "bright line" for law enforcement. If differences can be worked out with the Senate, "It'll be the strongest medical marijuana protection in the country," she said.


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What a horrible bill. Now you'll have to be an attorney to figure out if you're legal or not. And prices were just beginning to come down. Now they're going to be even more expensive.
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