OLYMPIA – The latest plan to allow Washington’s most populous counties to set up pilot programs for medical marijuana cooperatives may have limited prospects of passing this year.
The proposal would allow counties with more than 200,000 people, or the cities in them, to adopt ordinances for co-ops to grow and dispense medical marijuana. Those cities or counties could set rules for security, inspections and allowable amounts of the drug, and would report results to a special task force that would give findings to the Legislature in December 2012. Unlike some previous proposals, the state would not keep a patient registry.
It's the latest iteration of a bill that Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, has been trying to craft since Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most parts of the medical marijuana bill that passed during the regular session of the Legislature.
She said she's being urged by local officials in Seattle, Tacoma and King County to give them something to address the growth in medical marijuana dispensaries.
"They're left in a very difficult position, they can't regulate collective gardens," she said. "I thought it was worth it to give it one more try."
The latest version of SB 5955 received a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Friday but may not have enough support to be reported out of committee. If it does, it may not have the required "four-corners agreement" from both parties' leaders in both chambers, necessary to get a vote in the special session dedicated primarily to budgets, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said.
Gregoire hasn't seen it yet, so she hasn't taken a stand, either, Kohl-Wells said.
Some of the interesting wrinkles in this latest version:
* Patient co-operatives would have to be non-profits.
* Patients can only be a member of one co-operative or collective garden at a time.
* Cooperatives couldn't advertise "in any manner that promotes or tends to promote the use or abuse of cannabis. This includes displaying pictures of cannabis."
* No franchises.
* It sets up a Joint Legislative Task Force on Medical Use of Cannabis. (Go ahead. Insert the joke of your choice between "Joint" and "Legislative".)
Ezra Eickmeyer, of the Washington Cannabis Association, said getting rid of the registry is a good step, limiting access to co-oops and dispensaries to only the most populous counties, not so good.
"Someone with four months to live with cancer isn't going to start planting their own cannabis," Eickmeyer said.
Biggest problem for the bill may be that it's a work in progress with only five days left in the special session