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Bid To Shore Up Pot Bill Crawls AlongPosted by CN Staff on May 11, 2011 at 19:49:30 PT

By Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Source: Seattle Times


medical.gif Seattle, WA -- A second attempt to reform the state's medical-marijuana law now grinding through Olympia is drawing as much criticism as its predecessor, which Gov. Chris Gregoire partially vetoed last month.


Despite concerns, lawmakers are under pressure to act during the legislative session because Gregoire's veto — which left some parts of the law intact — muddled already confusing parts of the 1998 voter-approved law.


At a committee hearing Wednesday, medical marijuana's prime legislative champion, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, said she worked quickly to resolve key problems, including patient access to marijuana and questions of how to monitor newly legal 45-plant "collective gardens."


She urged lawmakers to act. "We have a gray area of the law, and the law is worse than it started out to be," said Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.


The new bill, SB 5955, for the first time would give arrest protection for patients who enroll in a voluntary registry and would give local governments broad power to regulate newly legalized nonprofit dispensaries


Each of those elements drew criticism in brief public comments. Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said legalized dispensaries and collective gardens will be difficult to monitor if they decline to enroll on the registry. "We think it will make it more difficult for local law enforcement," he said.


Rachel Kurtz of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, a patient-advocacy group in Seattle, said patients will feel coerced to join the registry despite concerns that it invades medical privacy.


A member of her group, John Worthington, said the local control authority in the new bill would allow cities and counties to overrule a doctor's medical advice regarding appropriate marijuana dosages. It would allow cities to be "practicing medicine without a license," he said.


Unlike the version Gregoire vetoed, this bill exempts dispensary sales from state sales tax. The state Department of Revenue estimated in February that taxed marijuana sales would generate least $2.1 million in the 2011-13 budget, although the figure could be much higher.


The most pressure to act in the special session comes from municipal governments. Randy Lewis, Tacoma's lobbyist, said the proliferation of dispensaries and confusion after Gregoire's veto produced "chaos in our communities."


Seattle also has embraced the pending bill, fearing that without legalized dispensaries, patients will struggle to get marijuana. "Without a new bill, we are concerned collective gardens will spring up all over the city," creating a headache for police and neighborhoods, said Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn.


Source: Seattle Times (WA)

Author: Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Published: May 11, 2011

Copyright: 2011 The Seattle Times Company

Contact: opinion@seatimes.com

Website: http://www.seattletimes.com/

URL: http://drugsense.org/url/22Z8wFy2


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