Spin Control

WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2011, 1:11 P.M.

Special Session Day 16: Medical marijuana bill assailed

OLYMPIA -- The sponsor of a new medical marijuana proposal conceded Wednesday it was put together quickly after a disappointing partial veto of a previous measure, and critics ranging from patients to dispensaries to law enforcement criticized it on most points.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, said Gov. Chris Gregoire's veto of most sections of her previous bill left the state in a bad way: "The law is now worse than what it started out to be."

So she crafted a new bill, SB 5955, which she conceded was imperfect and done quickly. It had little support at this morning's hearing in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Many witnesses agreed with the "imperfect" assessment. 

Jim Cooper of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, said the bill would encourage more teens to try pot.

Valtino Hicks, a medical marijuana patient from Yakima who recently was found innocent in a trial over his use of the drug, said it would do nothing to curb overzealous law enforcement. (Editor's note: An early version of this story misspelled Hicks' name.)

Steve Sarich of CannaCare, which operates marijuana clinics and dispensaries, said it would lead to a hodge podge of rules across the state by allowing cities and counties to decide how many medical marijuana facilities, if any, would be allowed locally.

Don Pierce of the Washington Sheriffs and Police Chiefs said the state should require medical marijuana to be dispensed the way other drugs are, through pharmacies. To do that, it should change its classification from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug.

But that's not really practical, said Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, a pharmacist, only the federal government can make that change.

That might not prevent the state from trying, however, Sen. Karen Keiser said a bill was introduced this morning that would change marijuana place on the drug schedule in Washington.

The committee took no action on the bill.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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