Posts tagged: medical marijuana
OLYMPIA — Changes to last year's recreational marijuana law that a sponsor says will make it more workable will get a hearing next week in a House committee
Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, wants to shrink the distance restrictions for locating stores that sell marijuana and have the state sell store licenses at market rates to raise more money.
Under Initiative 502, a store selling recreational marijuana must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other institutions. That would so severely restrict possible locations that large areas of cities would be closed off, Hurst said. Spokane might have as few as nine locations where a store could be located, he said.
His proposal would change the restriction to 500 feet, which is currently the restriction for liquor stores.
“If we don't make it available, the criminal market is going to fill those gaps,” he said.The goal of I-502 is to drive the illegal market for marijuna out of the state, he added.
I-502 also sets a licensing fee of $1,000 for a marijuana store. Hurst's bill would allow the state Liquor Control Board to set a market value on the right to sell marijuana, which could be much higher, depending on the location. The right to set up a store in a high-end shopping mall should be worth more than the right to set up a storefront operation in a small town, he said.
He estimated the market certificate system could raise as much as $50 million for the state's general operating fund.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in Hurst's Government Overssight and Accountability Committee. Because it contains potential tax revenues that could help the budget, it does not face impending deadlines to be passed by one chamber or the other to remain viable.
But it will require two-thirds approval in both chambers, because it seeks to change a successful initiative less than two years after it was passed by voters.
OLYMPIA – Washington will soon have two very different systems for legal marijuana, but a plan to tax medical patients similar to recreational pot users is unfair and unworkable, a legislative committee was told Monday.
The proposal to place higher taxes on medical marijuana did what a long-time cannabis advocate said once was unthinkable. It is turning a normally dysfunctional family of regular marijuana users into “normal citizens, complaining about taxation,” Jeff Gilmore told the House Finance Committee . . .
OLYMPIA — Forums on the state's new legalized marijuana law are proving so popular that the state agency sponsoring is adding to its schedule and in some cases finding bigger venues to handle the expected crowds.
The State Liquor Control Board also moved one forum to Tacoma after a legislator wondered why the state's second largest county was being ignored, and its residents were having to drive to Seattle or Olympia to have their say.
The Liquor Control Board originally scheduled six forums around Washington to discuss how the state should set up legailzed production, processing and sale of marijuana after the approval last November of Initiative 502. Among its forums is a Feb. 12 Spokane event; it's still starts at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Forums in Olympia and Seattle attracted overflow crowds, so the board changed to larger locations for the forums scheduled in Mount Vernon, Yakima and Vancouver. It added a forum for March 7 in Bremerton.
Today the board announced it is moving a second forum planned for Olympia to Tacoma on Feb. 21, and holding it in the Convention Center.
At a recent legislative hearing for the board to explain the work being done to set the rules for growing and selling a federally illegal substance legally in Washington, Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, asked why no forum had been scheduled anywhere in Pierce County.
“I would formally request that you add that,” Becker said to Rick Garza, the control board's point man on preparing for legalized pot.
Three days later, the board announced a schedule change, an acknowledgement of Becker's logic or her position as chairwoman of the Health Care Committee. Or both.
OLYMPIA — Washington is in danger of having two different, and sometimes conflicting, marijuana laws, one for those who have it for medical uses and one for everyone else, legislators were told today.
The Senate Health Care Committee is considering a revision to the medical marijuana laws which would try again to clarify how the state would regulate the drug under a 1998 initiative. Among the questions, how does the state designate someone as a qualified patient, and how does that patient get marijuana now that a 2012 initiative says everyone can use small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
Washington is the only state that has a medical marijuana law that does not also have some sort of state registry from patients who have some type of doctor's approval for using the drug. Senate Bill 5528 would require patients to have an authorization card on some type of tamper-proof paper, but no registry.
A registry, which would have a patient's name and address and could be made public, “could be just a roadmap for burglars,” Arthur West, a medical marijuana advocate, told the committee.
The State Liquor Control Board is setting up a system for marijuana to be grown, processed and sold in Washington under last year's Initiative 502. But the stores licensed by the control board will be separate from marijuana dispensaries that have sprung up to supply medical marijuana. And the 502 recreational marijuana will be taxed at a higher rate than medical marijuana.
“That's part of the mess we have right now,” Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union-Washington, told the committee.
Medical marijuana advocates said any identification system for patients should be handled by the state Health Department, not the Liquor Control Board.
SB 5528 is the latest attempt to clear up the state's medical marijuana rules. A 2011 effort passed the Legislature only to be gutted by partial vetoes by Gov. Chris Gregoire as federal officials were cracking down on dispensaries. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who has sponsored many of the legislative attempts to bring clarity to the medical marijuana law, likened the process to the movie “Groundhog's Day” but said I-502 created a “huge change” that has to be addressed.
It's not enough to say medical marijuana patients can simply buy their drug from state-sanctioned recreational marijuna stores, she said. “Some people are not able to go to a store. They are very, very ill.”
Medical marijuana users are able to grow their own drugs, and have up to 24 ounces of it on hand. Recreational marijuana users cannot grow their own, and are limited to 1 ounce.
In Senate Joint Memorial 8000, the Legislature would ask the federal government to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no legal use, to a Schedule 2 drug, which would allow it to be prescribed for certain medical conditions. That might help medical marijuana patients, but would have not provide any protections to recreational marijuana users.
Most people would agree that marijuana shouldn't be lumped with other Schedule 1 drugs like heroin and LSD, Kohl-Welles said.
But some marijuana advocates said the state should go farther. Catherine Jeter said the public doesn't need to be protected from marijuana: There is no need for rescheduling. Deschedule it.”
OLYMPIA — Two more initiatives to legalize private use of marijuana hit the streets this week, as proponents of what's being dubbed the Cannabis Child Protection Act employ a two-pronged strategy.
They've drafted identical bills, one as an initiative to the voters for this fall's ballot and another as an initiative to next year's Legislature. If they collect signatures on both for the next three months, but if they don't have enough signatures on the first by early July, they'll scrap it and keep collecting signatures on the legislative initiative, which has a January deadline.
The proposal allows people 21 and older to grow, possess and use marijuana, and buy it from any other adult of their choosing. But it has penalties for minors who buy, sell or possess the drug, and felony charges for adults who sell to minors. There are exceptions for parents, giving them “the ability to guide their children's exposure for spiritual and social use”, and for medical marijuana patients.
Text of I-1223, the version that's trying to get on the November ballot, can be found here.
Voters already will face one marijuana initiative in the general election. I-502, which is a different approach to legalizing marijuana for personal use, was an initiative to the Legislature which goes to the voters because legislators failed to act on it.
Gingrich answers questions at an Olympia press conference.
OLYMPIA — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he thinks allowing same-sex couples to marry is wrong, but the path Washington is taking to change its law is right.
Voters should have a chance to decide the issue, rather than the courts, Gingrich said. The Legislature passed, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed, a bill to allow same-sex marriage but opponents have filed a referendum that would delay the law and block it if they gather enough signatures by June 6.
“I don't agree with it. If I were voting, I'd vote no,” Gingrich said during a break in meetings with Republican legislators this morning. “But at least they're doing it the right way.”
During a later news conference with local reporters, the Republican presidential candidate said he's changed his mind on medical marijuana and no longer supports efforts to have the federal government reclassify the drug so it could be prescribed for certain conditions.
He did support such reclassification in the 1980s, he said, but changed his position: “I was convinced by parents who didn't want any suggestion made to their children that drugs were appropriate.”
States don't have the right to pass medical marijuana laws and then allow some sort of distribution system to be set up, he added. “I think the federal government has been very clear… that federal law trumps state law.”
The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed Monday that marijuana should be able to be possessed legally by people who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.
The council approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing a letter that Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee sent to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in November requesting that marijuana be reclassified from being a “Schedule 1” drug to become a “Schedule 2” drug.
Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin, are illegal. Schedule 2 drugs can be legal with a prescription.
Last year, dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries shut down, voluntarily or by force, in Spokane County after federal authorities warned that they were violating federal law.
OLYMPIA — The latest incarnation of a bill to add structure Washington's medical marijuana laws has supporters who don't like parts of it and opponents who do.
People who operate clinics and dispensaries questioned the need for a voluntary registry of medical marijuana patients. Law enforcement officials like the registry, although they don't care for a provision that would allow patients to set up non-profit co-ops to grow their supplies. Some cities like flexibility for co-ops and collective gardens, others want to be able to ban them.
What they generally agreed, however, was that something has to change.
“This is like a big puzzle, trying to put all the pieces together into a coherent whole that will make sense for all the groups,” Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, the sponsor of SB 6265 said.
OLYMPIA — A snowy day in the capital, but the Senate Health Care Committee does have a hearing on a medical marijuana bill this morning that is happening.
Witnesses and senators were a bit late getting in, but they did get to Sen. Jeanne Kohl Wells' SB 6265 after a brief delay. We'll have a report when testimony wraps up.
OLYMPIA — Governors from Washington and Rhode Island asked the federal government Wednesday to reclassify marijuana so it can be used for medical use.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration to take off Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs like heroin and peyote that have no medicinal use and thus are illegal under all circumstances.
It should be moved to Schedule 2, which is for drugs like morphine and codeine, which are illegal under many circumstances but can be prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacist for certain conditions.
“It’s time to show compassion and it’s time to show common sense,” Gregoire said. “There’s no evidence to suggest any medical marijuana patient has died from an overdose.”
OLYMPIA – Whether she realized it or not last spring when wielding her “partial veto” pen, Gov. Chris Gregoire has prompted a hodge podge of pot laws around the state and a fair amount of confusion among the cities.
In Seattle, where possession of a small amount of marijuana is less likely to bring public condemnation than drinking mediocre coffee, medical marijuana dispensaries are being told to register as businesses, pay their taxes, meet building codes and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But be advised: No smoking laws apply to smoking medical marijuana, too.
In Spokane, dispensaries are being raided by federal agents. There is a city ballot initiative supporting medical marijuana on file with the City Clerk, although sponsors managed to miss all deadlines for making this year’s ballot.
In Ellensburg, people who want medical marijuana are told to get a permit, grow it in an indoor collective garden that can’t be observed from public places and not within 300 feet of schools and other “youth oriented facilities.”
Castle Rock and Shoreline have some temporary rules for collective gardens while Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Snohomish and Tukwila have temporary moratoria on such operations. Pullman might go the moratorium route this week….
OLYMPIA – States that have legalized marijuana for medical uses are pushing the U.S. Justice Department for help in sorting out the conflict between federal drug laws and their own, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he’s aware of the problems and agreed this week to work with her, as the head of the National Governor’s Association and the point person for the 16 states with medical marijuana laws.
But Holder told her a department memo on not using federal resources to pursue patients using medical marijuana is being “misinterpreted” by the states and people setting up dispensaries to sell the drug to patients. That lack of prosecution was intended only for “those that are really quite ill” she said. “It’s expanded beyond anything anticipated in the Ogden Memo.” Holder told her he fully supports federal prosecutors who are shutting down dispensaries, and they are in Eastern Washington and Montana.
Gregoire believes the federal government should reclassify marijuana so it can be used for some medicinal purposes. Right now it’s classified as illegal for all uses. But reclassification usually takes time for drug tests, and the states don’t have that luxury. “I said, ‘The states need your help, the sooner the better.”
OLYMPIA — With prosects for medical marijuana legislation dead in the Legislature, a group unhappy with what's left of the cannabis law post-veto will try to get it on the November ballot so voters can dump it.
Steve Sarich of CannaCare filed Referendum 73 with the Secretary of State's office this week, a proposal that would ask voters to put the law back to where it was before Senate Bill 5073 was passed and partially vetoed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
CannaCare, which operates medical marijuana clinics and dispensaries, lobbied against 5073 as it bounced around the Legislature and contends Gregoire's partial veto that wiped out large sections of the bill made it worse.
Referendum supporters will have to get about 121,000 signatures by August 23 — assuming the Legislature finsihes work sometime today. (They have 90 days from final adjournment.)
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, tried to push a new medical marijuana bill through the Legislature in the final days, but on Tuesday threw in the towel and conceded it was not going to make it; she'll try again next year, she said. For an Associated Press account on the end of that legislative effort, click here.
In other medical marijuana news, Rep. Roger Goodman, a supporter of the medical marijuana legislation, sent Attorney General Rob McKenna a letter challenging him to state his position on medical marijuana, in light of the fact the AG has a well known position on another health-care topic, the federal Affordable Care Act. (McKenna's against parts of it, and joined a lawsuit seeking to block its implementation.)
OLYMPIA — There will be no more attempts this year to rewrite medical marijuana laws.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, announced this morning that she's done for now and won't try to move her latest proposal through the Legislature in what's left of the special session. For the entire statement, click to go inside the blog.
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
OLYMPIA – With a Senate panel considering a new rewrite of the state’s medical marijuana laws, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she’ll push to get the federal government to rewrite its laws and make the drug legal to treat some conditions.
The newest attempt to regulate some aspects of medical marijuana had few supporters for its debut in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday morning. Its sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, conceded SB 5955 was drafted in a hurry and needed revision.
Steve Sarich of CannaCare, which operates medical marijuana clinics and dispensaries, said if the goal was to provide clarity, allowing each city and county to set limits on the drug won’t do that: “You guys are creating chaos if you pass this measure.”..
To read the rest of this story, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.
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.
OLYMPIA — Supporters of better laws defining medical marijuana procedures are “rolling another one”.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, introduced a bill today that she believes will overcome Gov. Chris Gregoire's concerns about the previous bill, which was mostly vetoed late last month.
The new bill, SB 5955, proposes a voluntary registry that would shield medical marijuana patients from arrest and set up a system of non-profit cooperatives where they could buy their supplies. It would also allow local governments to control where dispensaries can be located.
But it does not set up a system that has the state Department of Agriculture licensing growing and processing operations and the Department of Health licensing dispensaries. The last bill proposed that, and set off a debate over whether federal agents could arrest state workers involved in medical marijuana tasks could be arrested under federal drug laws.
The bill gets a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
OLYMPIA — Federal prosecutors may mean what they say about charging state employees who oversee medical marijuana operations, a state lawyer told legislators looking for direction on finding a law that can navigate the controversy.
Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even told legislators he can't predict the risk of federal prosecution to state employees after U.S. Attorneys Mike Ormsby and Jenny Durkan raised concerns about sections of a medical marijuana law. Federal drug laws preempt state laws in most cases, he said, so it's not possible to assume that a bill directing state workers to license and regulate the growing and sale of medical marijuana would be immune from prosecution if that bill became law.
A group of 14 House members asked last week for Attorney General Rob McKenna's opinion about the conflict between state and federal drug laws after Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed much of the medical marijuana bill. The response they got today was “a non-response,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the drafter of the letter.
“I want to know what the attorney general's opinion is to providing safe acess to patients. His response is an effort to evade the issue,” Goodman said.
Even wrote that the state attorney general's office doesn't normally interpret federal law, but federal prosecutors “have already stated the position of the United States with respect to this issue.”
Ormsby and Durking did that in April, in a letter to Gregoire that the governor used as a reason for vetoing much of the medical marijuana bill that passed the Legislature with bipartisan support.
Even said he couldn't predict whether there would be prosecutions: “This office has no control over the (federal Controlled Substance Act) and cannot meaningfully predict what the United States may or may not do in that respect.”
Goodman said Monday he believes prosecutions are unlikely and that the Justice Department would seek a court order barring enforcement of a state law regulating medical marijuana. But that law isn't likely to emerge any time soon.
“We're not going to be able to override the governor's veto,” Goodman said, and crafting a new bill on growing operations and dispensaries is unlikely in the special session which will be half over on Tuesday. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, has a proposal that would help clarify rules for patients using cooperatives, he said, but currently lacks agreement from the leaders of both parties in both chambers to introduce it.
OLYMPIA — A few days after their party's governor vetoed most of the medical marijuana bill last week, House Democrats are asking a likely Republican gubernatorial candidate for a little help on crafting a new version.
Fifteen Democratic representatives, including Spokane's Andy Billig, signed a letter to Attorney General Rob McKenna for help redrafting a bill that would do some of the things that Gov. Chris Gregoire chopped out of the medical marijuana bill with her veto pen.
“We need your guidance as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, given the current heightened uncertainty about the legitimacy of Washington’s medical cannabis program,” the group wrote, adding that the veto has thrown the state's program “into a crisis.”
In the signing some, vetoing most session last week, Gregoire said she hadn't consulted with McKenna about the issue after receiving warnings from federal prosecutors that state employees involved in the regulation of medical marijuana, as required by the bill, could face prosecution under federal drug laws that still make the drug illegal for any use.
Update 1: A spokeswoman for McKenna said they have not yet received the letter (they know about it, having read versions of it on-line) and when the request comes in it will be referred to the head of the opinions office. How long it might take to craft an opinion is unclear, but the office will try to expedite an opinion because legislators are looking at a deadline with the special session, Janelle Guthrie said.
But an AG opinion is supposed to “hold great weight”, so the office will have to study the issue carefully, Guthrie said.
Update 2: At a press conference Tuesday, Gregoire said she didn't ask McKenna for an opinion because the issue involves federal law, not state law. “It's fine they're asking for an opinion, but it's not relevant.”
If state employees did face federal prosecution, McKenna's office would have to defend them, she added.
So to review, House Democrats are asking the Republican state attorney general to help them get around the warnings from federal prosecutors appointed by a Democratic president and a veto by a Democratic governor. This is also the same Republican state attorney general whom legislative Democrats have vocally dissed for his legal opinion on another matter of federal/state relationships regarding health care.
Although to be fair, in challenging federal health care reform, McKenna is on the side arguing state laws overrule federal mandates, which is the side House Democrats want him to take in this issue.