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Washington Senate backs medical marijuana overhaul

OLYMPIA – A measure to overhaul the state’s medical marijuana system cleared the Senate on Saturday as the state moves to merge that largely unregulated market with the still-developing legal recreational market.

Senate Bill 5887 passed on a 34-15 vote and now heads to the House, which passed a similar measure last month. Both chambers will now negotiate a final bill to reconcile the medical market with the recreational market approved by voters in the fall of 2012.

The changes under the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Ann Rivers, of La Center, include reducing the amount of marijuana and the number of plants patients can possess, doing away with collective gardens and establishing a patient registry.

Under the measure that passed Saturday, collective gardens would be eliminated on Sept. 1, 2015, meaning that unless current dispensaries receive a license from the state, they will have to close. But under the measure that passed Saturday, patients and designated providers may form cooperative marijuana-growing operations of no more than four participants.

Under the measure, the amount of cannabis patients can have would be cut from 24 ounces to 3 ounces. Under the recreational law, adults are allowed to have up to an ounce. The measures also limit the number of plants patients can grow to six. Under current regulations, they can grow 15.



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