â€‹Almost 14 years after Washington state voters approved the medicinal use of cannabis, patients in many parts of the state still have no safe access to it. A bill which would have formally legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington has died in the Legislature.
Thus ends yet another effort to clearly define the legal status of the cannabis storefronts, of which there are already more than 100 in Seattle, Tacoma and surrounding areas, reports Jonathan Martin at the Seattle Times
Although there were enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill, according to sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle), it didn’t make it past the deadline for bills to advance because of limited time in the short session, as well as due to opposition from some Republican lawmakers and a handful of cities.
|Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles: “The bottom line is, it was very difficult to reach a full consensus”|
â€‹“The bottom line is, it was very difficult to reach a full consensus,” said Kohl-Welles, who has repeatedly tried to get the medical pot shops legalized. “There wasn’t as much momentum and interest as there was last year.”
Kohl-Welles’ bill, SB 6265, would have legalized nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and—for the first time—would have created a volunteer registry which would have provided arrest protection for patients.
Washington is the only medical marijuana state, out of 16 plus the District of Columbia, that doesn’t have a patient registry.
Last year, Gov. Christine Gregoire gutted a landmark bill which would have legalized, taxed and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, grow-ops and processors with an unexpected partial veto (which covered almost everything in the bill).
What she left in the bill, however, has allowed patients to create “collective gardens,” which dispensaries, employing a broad interpretation of “garden,” have used to operate storefront collectives.
Seattle, Tacoma and about five smaller cities have specifically allowed the dispensaries, but most cities have either denied them business licenses or enacted moratoriums on the collective gardens.
Seattle, where the mayor and city council are both supportive, has more than 100 dispensaries in operation, according to Kohl-Welles. As medical marijuana dispensary critic for theÂ Seattle WeeklyÂ column “Toke Signals,” I’ve personally been in close to 50 of those over the past year.
SB 6265 could conceivably be brought back to life as part of the budget process, but Kohl-Welles said that’s quite unlikely, leaving the medical marijuana law unchanged for at least another year.
The result will likely be “black holes” with no safe patient access to cannabis in eastern and southwestern Washington, according to patient advocate Philip Dawdy of the Washington Alternative Medicine Alliance.
“It’s a bad situation for patients,” Dawdy told theÂ Seattle Times. “There’s been a whole lot of patients in Eastern Washington forced onto the black market or forced to drive to Seattle or Tacoma.”
Voter initiative I-502, which has qualified for November’s general election ballot, if approved would institute a sort of “limited” legalization for recreational (as opposed to medical) purposes. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, which they could buy from state-licensed stores.
No home cultivation would be allowed under I-502, and its strict five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml) DUI provision has turned off many in the medical marijuana community, who say that most patients never dip below that level even when they wake up unimpaired in the morning.