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Washington's Medical-Pot Measure Would Widen List Of Prescribers


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Patients who qualify for medical marijuana will be able to get prescriptions for it from a wider range of health-care professionals, under a bill that appears headed to the governor's desk.

Under Senate Bill 5798, it won't just be doctors who can get sick people access to pot.

The bill expands the list of licensed medical practitioners who can also recommend medical marijuana to physicians' assistants, nurse practitioners and naturopathic physicians, said one of its sponsors, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

"The reason is that, especially in rural areas in the state and away from Puget Sound, because of long distances, many people do not see M.D.s. They see nurse practitioners and physicians assistants who have prescriptive authority," Kohl-Welles said.

A representative of Kohl-Welles said the bill passed through the House Wednesday night "with little debate."

The House did add two amendments related to how prescriptions should be written, so the bill will go back to the Senate for approval, then on to Gov. Chris Gregoire for approval. A governor's spokesman said Thursday that it was too early to say what might happen because the revisions still need to be approved by the Senate.

The final marijuana-related legislation active in the Legislature this year, it passed after some others were defeated – including one Kohl-Welles had sponsored that would have reduced pot possession for adults to a civil infraction, and one from Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, to legalize pot and sell it in state-run liquor stores to people 21 and older.

Polls conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show that the majority of Washington voters are dissatisfied with current marijuana laws and favor lowering penalties for possession.

"The public is out ahead of elected officials," said ACLU spokesman Doug Honig. "There's a concern among some elected officials that they'll be accused of being soft on drugs and soft on crime if they support something like this."

Kohl-Welles holds, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology of education and an M.A. in sociology, agreed: "The Legislature tends to lag behind social change. And secondly, we have a short legislative session, and it's really hard to get to all the bills, especially if there's an issue with some of them. And I think the issues regarding marijuana are still fairly traditional in our state Legislature. If 'marijuana' is on a bill they're uncomfortable with the bill and maybe fear it may be used against them in an election campaign."

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Source: The Seattle Times Company
Author: Mark Rahner
Contact: The Seattle Times Company
Copyright: 2010 The Seattle Times Company
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