Seattle-based medical marijuana patient advocacy group the Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC) has expressed serious concerns about Senate Bill 6265, currently in the Washington state Legislature.
“SB 6265 would legalize a limited number of medical cannabis access points in a limited number of jurisdictions, but it will come at great cost to the Washington State medical cannabis community,” CDC said. “Governor Gregoire—whose partial veto last year put an end to the ‘designated provider model’ under which most access points were operating—has set boundaries on any medical cannabis bill she is to sign, and SB 6265 represents what is acceptable to her.
“The bill would provide broad authority to local counties, cities and towns to regulate medical cannabis collective gardens and access points through zoning, taxation, licensing, health and safety requirements, etc.,” the email said. “This will allow pot-friendly jurisdictions like Seattle and Tacoma to license, tax and regulate the medical cannabis businesses which have sprouted up in their midst, and over which they have uncertain authority.”
“In exchange, all other local jurisdictions get the clear right to effectively ban medical cannabis access points and collective gardens under their authority,” CDC said. “Different standards will be codified for different parts of the state, and we will have ‘dry counties.’ It will fund the creation of a government registry of medical cannabis patients, which in other states have been disclosed, misused, and ordered by the courts to be turned over to the feds. This is too great a trade to legalize a handful of dispensaries.”
2. Dry counties make no sense
According to the CDC, SB 6265 would, right off the bat, ban nonprofit patient cooperatives in 30 counties with less than 200,000 residents.
“In the other nine counties, local city councils may ‘opt out’ of the state law—meaning they may ban access points,” CDC pointed out. “Neither of these components makes sense to us.
“Washington State voters enacted a medical cannabis law statewide,” the email said. “Let us keep a statewide law, and not go the route of California where every jurisdiction has its own medical cannabis law.”
3. Local authority is too great
According to the CDC “SB 6265 provides local jurisdictions with too much power to limit safe access to medical cannabis.”
“City, town, county, or state employees may access patient records while engaged in administrating and enforcing the requirements of local ordinances or state law,” the email said. “Plant and useable cannabis limits may be further limited by local government ordinance.
“Local governments may impose zoning requirements, licensing requirements, permitting requirements, health and safety requirements, taxes or other conditions upon any entity producing, processing, or dispensing cannabis within their jurisdictions,” CDC said. “Local governments may limit the number of patients that can grow together in a collective garden down to three.”
4. State registry threatens gun rights, patient safety
“The voters of Washington State believe medical cannabis patients are not criminals, but our state government still wants patients to register as if they were,” CDC said.
“Other states have registries, both optional and mandatory, and we should learn from their experiences,” the email pointed out. “The federal government recently won court-ordered access to Michigan’s medical cannabis registry. Bill sponsors claim that this registry will use computer technology to disallow federal access, but the whole system is designed to be used by our law enforcement, many of whom are federally deputized as members of drug task forces throughout the state.
“The federal government believes medical cannabis patients forfeit their Second Amendment right to bear arms,” CDC said. “This was ironically illustrated when activist Steve Sarich—whose guns were seized after a shootout with armed home invaders—was told by the King County Sheriff’s Office that the FBI’s background check system ‘informed us that possession of a medical drug card is sufficient to establish an inference of current use,’ which is cause to deny Sarich and all other medical cannabis patients their gun rights.
“Do not believe that the government intends to protect you with its registry,” CDC warned. “Medical cannabis patients are best protected when off the government radar.
“The State of Washington should not spend our limited tax dollars to issue cards to medical cannabis patients which are sufficient cause to negate their Second Amendment rights,” the email said.
5. Removes most forgiving affirmative defense
According to the CDC, “SB 6265 repeals the most forgiving of our three affirmative defense clauses, RCW 69.51A.047. This section allows an authorized patient to raise an affirmative defense argument in court, even if they did not show their paperwork to police upon questioning.
“This had been a problem before, and authorized patients were denied their affirmative defense in court if they invoked their right to remain silent and not cooperate with police during a raid,” the email said. “Technically, it seems as though RCW 69.51A.047 can be raised for any number of plants or any amount of useable cannabis.
“It is a very forgiving affirmative defense, and you can bet the prosecutors’ lobby hopes to ‘tighten” it up,’ CDC said.
CDC Urges Patients and Advocates To Call 800-562-6000 And Say No To SB 6265
“Contact the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000 and leave a message for your representatives asking them to oppose SB 6265,” the email said.
“The bill was ‘fast tracked’ by the health care committee, meaning it has skipped the ways and means committee where the senate would analyze its cost,” the email said. “Now it’s heading to the rules committee, the group that decides if it will reach the senate floor.
“You don’t need to say anything beyond ‘oppose SB 6265,’ although you can raise some of our ‘5 biggest concerns,” the email said.
“Senator Kohl-Welles wrote on February 4 that she intends to rectify the affirmative defense issue with a floor amendment,” CDC said. “Our other 4 major concerns, however, seem to be the meat of the matter, the heart of the bill, and we see no way to salvage SB 6265.
“Please contact 800-562-6000 and ask your legislators to oppose SB 6265,” the group said.
“Ask any patients you know—or serve—to do the same.”