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Wed., Jan. 15, 2014, 9:58 a.m.

Medical pot proposal slammed in morning hearing

OLYMPIA -- Medical marijuana patients bashed a proposal by state agencies to change current state laws on the drug as everything from unworkable to unconstitutional at a morning legislative hearing. Legislators also sharply questioned staff from the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Health on proposals to reduce the amount of marijuana patients could grow or possess, and shift them to the upcoming recreational marijuana stores to be licensed later this year.

Local officials and lobbyists for law enforcement and the medical community, however, urged the House Health Care and Wellness Committee to pass the bill and give them clear guidelines for dealing with patients who use the drug.

HB 2149 is supported the liquor board which regulates recreational marijuana and would require medical marijuana patients to register with the state after getting a recommendation from a health care provider. That's a violation to a person's constitutional right against self-incrimination and federal laws that make medical information private, Jerry Dierker, a patient, said.

"We are self-regulating. We have created a system that does work for us," Stephanie Viskovich of the Cannabis Action Coalition said.

Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, questioned the rationale for reducing the amount of marijuana patients currently can have from 24 ounces to three ounces. Kristi Weeks of the Health Department said the current limits were developed when patients would have no other access to the drug than produce it themselves or in a cooperative garden, and needed to have enough "to get you through to your next harvest."

"It's no longer the need with the new recreational market," Weeks said.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg,questioned a provision that would ban home grows after 2020, essentially creating a monopoly for stores licensed by the liquor board after that time. Weeks said, however, that a study would be done in 2019 to recommend whether the ban should be lifted.

"It is ridiculous to ask patients to wait for a five-year study," said Ryan Agnew of C Squared Public Affairs, who added that a registry amounts to "mission creep" for state agencies..

Medical marijuana patients who filled two committee rooms told the panel they doubted the recreational market would succeed and those products will be heavily taxed. But Washington doesn't tax medicine and marijuana is a recognized botanical medicine, Kari Boiter of Health Before Happy Hour, a medical marijuana group, said.

Recreational marijuana is different from medical marijuana, patients also said. The former is rich in a chemical that produces the euphoric "high", the latter is rich in different chemicals that reduce pain or nausea, and the recreational stores might not stock it.

Don Pierce, a lobbyist who represents sheriffs and police chiefs, said the state's separate laws on recreational and medical marijuana have to be reconciled for law enforcement. "We need to know whose rules apply to whom," he said.

 




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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