In 1998, Washington voters approved a law allowing state residents to legally purchase, possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
But the law is vague, creating problems for users and law enforcement. At issue is the legal phrase “only one patient at any one time,” regarding the sale of marijuana from a care provider.
Marijuana advocates argue the law allows dispensaries to essentially become the care provider for the limited time when they sell to each licensed marijuana card holder.
Spokane County law enforcement officials have a different interpretation. Prosecutors say the law makes no provision for commercial dispensaries or the sale of marijuana.
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OLYMPIA – Medical marijuana would come under some of the same licensing requirements as the recreational form of the drug but its buyers would pay fewer taxes under a plan to harmonize the state’s two pot systems.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, announced Tuesday the Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Act, one of several medical marijuana bills expected in this session, saying patients need certainty in the quality of the drug they are getting.
Her bill would give the state Liquor Control Board, which now controls recreational marijuana, in charge of licensing and regulating medical marijuana. Recreational stores could receive endorsements to sell the medical products, medical dispensaries with clean records would have an easy time receiving licenses and patients would not have to pay some of the high taxes for their products. Among other proposals in the bill:
Growers of medical marijuana would be subject to the same quality control and testing requirements as the recreational growers, who can’t use most chemicals to control pests and mold.
Adults in Washington would also be able to grow up to six plants in their home for either medical or recreational use.
Cities and counties that want to ban or restrict legal marijuana businesses would have to get voter approval.
Another bill, the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, by Sens. Ann Rivers, R-Vancouver, and Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, is scheduled for a hearing later this week in the Senate Health Care Committee. Kohl-Wells said she expects the final proposal to pass the Legislature will have elements of both, but insisted “we’ve got to have a law passed this session.”
The parents of a terribly ill 9-year-old Idaho girl worked with state lawmakers from both parties this past session, Boise State Public Radio’s Adam Cotterell reports, to get an exception to Idaho’s strict anti-marijuana laws for a treatment that could help reduce the child’s frequent, lengthy seizures – but, while lacking in the ingredients that cause users to become high, is extracted from the marijuana plant. However, Cotterell reports, though lawmakers initially kept telling the Idaho couple there was a chance, no legislation was drafted or introduced.
Senate Health & Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, told Cotterell, “This would not be an easy sell, I don’t think, in Idaho, given the nature of our conservative Legislature.” Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, however, said the issue is separate from medical marijuana, and he’s confident lawmakers can address it next year. “If we can find a way that doesn’t legalize marijuana but helps these kids, I believe Idahoans and Idaho legislators are compassionate and will want to work on this,” he said. Utah already has passed an exception for the specific treatment oil to help patients with the rare condition. Idaho lawmakers last year passed a resolution opposing any future legalization of marijuana in the state for any purpose; it passed the Senate 29-5 and the House 63-7. You can see and hear Cotterell’s full story here.
A "food truck" that plans to offer marijuana laced offerings as part of a plan to sell a "foodie" kitchen gadget has rerouted.
Instead of attending a public market just outside of Everett this weekend, it will make a stop at a marijuana farmer's market in Black Diamond, the Everett Herald reports.
As Spin Control previously noted, state officials had raised questions this week about the legality of the truck, which is outside the state's recreational marijuana statutes but plans to sell pot-infused sandwich offerings under the medical marijuana provisions to customers who have a valid doctor's recommendation..
A food truck with marijuana-infused offerings plans to be open this weekend at an Everett public market, although state officials say it would be operating in a "gray area" of Washington law. (Update: The truck cancelled plans Thursday for Everett and is instead planning to stop at a marijuana market in Black Diamond.)
The SAMICH truck, a reconfigured school bus decked out with kitchen equipment and operated by the Magical Butter company, will be selling food items that contain as much as 100 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The food is a way of demonstrating a machine that helps infuse marijuana into various food products.
But there's a catch. Not everyone can place an order for their sandwiches that offer nut butter and jelly, Vietnamese pork or turkey and stuffing. . .
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Yesterday was the deadline to turn in signatures to qualify initiatives for the November ballot, and Boise State Public Radio reports that neither measure that was being circulated made the mark, or even came close. The backers of the initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in only 559 signatures after a year of trying, BSPR reports, while those pushing for an increased minimum wage in Idaho had 8,301 qualified signatures at the deadline. Each needed 53,751 to qualify for the November ballot; you can read BSPR’s full report here.
OLYMPIA – The state Revenue Department is stepping up efforts to make medical marijuana dispensaries pay their taxes.
After more than two years of “educational outreach” designed teach medical marijuana businesses that they must register with the state and pay taxes, the department says in a memo this week it will go after dispensaries that continue to ignore the law.
Dispensaries owe business and occupation taxes on their gross receipts. They must also collect sales tax on marijuana and “medibles” – the edible products containing the drug – and send it in. . .
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So says the state Noxious Weed Control Board, which recently discussed whether various forms of cannabis, from recreational marijuana to industrial hemp, should be considered for its list of plants that need to be controlled. . .
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OLYMPIA – The Legislature closed up shop with seven minutes before its constitutionally mandated midnight stopping time Thursday, ending a short session that was short on expectations, and many would argue, short on accomplishments.
After passing an updated operating budget that even supporters said contained plenty of things to dislike, a couple of bills on many legislators’ priority lists were saved from oblivion and moved back and forth between chambers with admirable speed.
Military veterans were granted in-state tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities, regardless of how long they’ve been in the state. A $40 fee home buyers pay to file their documents, which pays for programs to fight homelessness but due to expire this year, was extended until 2019.
Meanwhile, the subject getting the most attention seemed to be deciding what medical procedures can be performed by plebotomists, medical assistants who draw blood. A phlebotomist bill ping-ponged back and forth across the Rotunda and showed up on one floor or the other eight times in the last eight days as the chambers tweaked the bill with amendments. It eventually had to be untweaked because the wrong amendment was added – and approved – before people noticed, so that amendment had to be subtracted and replaced, prompting three roll-call votes on the last day.
“I didn’t know what a phlebotomist was until today,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, deadpanned. . .
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OLYMPIA – There is so much talk in legislative debates of the need to level the playing field that one wonders if an army of bulldozers should be dispatched to sporting facilities around the state.
Such leveling is almost always a major part of any call for tax breaks, whether it's for server farms or border-community retail stores. But the playing fields for alcohol sales are apparently the most cattywampus, judging from efforts to “tweak” Initiative 1183.
You remember I-1183, the initiative that was going to lower the price of hooch and make everyone happy by getting government out of the liquor business and letting the marketplace take control?. . .
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OLYMPIA — A proposal to restrict medical marijuana and put it under the state Liquor Control Board was sent to the full House this morning.
After adding more flexibility on the amount of the drug or number of plants a patient might have, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed HB 2149 on a 12-5 vote.
Medical marijuana is largely unregulated in the state right now, while a tightly regulated recreational marijuana system is being set up by the state Liquor Control Board. The bill would put medical marijuana sales under the liquor board and cut back the amount a patient could possess.
Under the 1998 initiative, patients are allowed to have as much as 24 ounces of the drug. The bill would cut that to three ounces, but allow a doctor to recommend a higher amount, particularly for patients who use oils derived from the plant.
It would ban medical marijuana dispensaries which have sprung up around the state to service the medical marijuana market under the state's collective grow statutes. That was never the intent of the law, Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said.
The bill is still "a work in progress", Ranking Republican Joe Schmick of Colfax said, and likely to change. The Senate also has two bills trying to blend the two marijuana statutes, but with different provisions.
OLYMPIA – Efforts to bring the state’s two laws on marijuana together is generating several proposals in the Legislature and rifts among the medical marijuana community.
Some patients on Tuesday described a pair of bills on medical marijuana as unconstitutional intrusions, others said they were needed to provide at least some supply of the plant that’s legal under state law but illegal under federal law.
Both proposals before the Senate Health Care Committee would give the state Liquor Control Board, which currently oversees the new recreational marijuana law, some control over medical marijuana… .
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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.
Washington should severely cut the amount of marijuana that medical patients can possess, require them to register with the state, have annual medical checkups, and pay most of the same taxes as recreational users, a state agency recommended today.
In a move sure to draw fire from the medical marijuana community, the state Liquor Control Board released recommendations it will send to next year's Legislature as the state tries to blend two sets of laws on the drug.
The board is authorized by Initiative 502 to regulate recreational marijuana use, and is currently accepting applications for businesses that want to grow, process or sell the drug to adults for private use. The board has no authority over medical marijuana, which was approved by voters in 1998, and is largely unregulated.
As part of the 2013-15 general operating budget earlier this year, the Legislature directed the board to work with the state departments of Health and Revenue to study the two systems and come up with recommendations to integrate them. Legislators will still have to draft bills that would include some or all of the recommendations, and get them through the two chambers and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
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OLYMPIA – A proposal by state agencies to overhaul Washington’s medical marijuana system, restricting access and toughening requirements for patients, was immediately criticized by some advocates for the drug.
Staff from the state Health and Revenue departments, along with the Liquor Control Board which will run the state's new recreational marijuana industry, Monday released four pages of recommendations that would essentially rewrite a 15-year-old law that allows patients to use and grow the drug if they have with certain medical conditions.
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The state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law was never intended to allow people to make a profit by selling the drug to patients, a task force of officials from several agencies told a legislative committee. Dispensaries aren’t even mentioned in the law.
“These dispensaries are absolutely illegal, criminal operations,” said Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, chairman of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. “What's it going to take to shut all these down?”
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Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three medical marijuana advocates from southwest Idaho say their children were placed into state foster care after law enforcement searched their home and found marijuana. KTVB-TV reports (http://bit.ly/14J4AHT ) when Lindsey and Josh Rinehart came home from a trip last week, their babysitter was home but their two sons were gone. The Rineharts and Sarah Caldwell — who also had two sons placed into foster care — are members of Compassionate Idaho, a group focused on legalizing marijuana for medical uses. No charges have been filed, but authorities say all three are being investigated for drug trafficking and possession. Lindsey Rinehart denied the claims, adding said she has multiple sclerosis and uses cannabis to treat her illness. But she says she intends to quit in hopes of getting her sons back.
The Idaho Statesman has a full report today; you can read it here. In it, reporter Sven Berg reports that the Boise Police said officers removed Rinehart’s 5- and 10-year-old sons from her custody because they considered them to be in danger. "It's a decision that's not made lightly. It's not made very often," Boise Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said. "But it is the detectives' call." The police said officers went to Rinehart's home after an 11-year-old at a local school reported being sick; the child had eaten marijuana, reportedly from Rinehart's home. Police said the baby sitter allowed the officers to enter the house, where they "found drug paraphernalia, items commonly used to smoke marijuana and a quantity of a substance that appeared to be marijuana" within reach of the children, Hightower told the Statesman.
The Boise Weekly also has a full report today; you can read it here. The Weekly's Andrew Crisp reports that Rinehart and her husband, Josh, went public over the case, speaking out on the Statehouse steps yesterday and questioning why police declared their sons in “imminent danger” and placed them in foster care. "We're taking issue with the 'imminent danger' charge," Lindsey Rinehart said. "I am a multiple sclerosis patient. The reason I had cannabis in my household is I'm a multiple sclerosis patient."
Rinehart has been prominent in the debate over medical marijuana in Idaho, testifying repeatedly and passionately to legislative committees in favor of legalizing the drug for medical use. Rather than take that step, state lawmakers this year passed a resolution declaring that Idaho will never legalize marijuana for any use.
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."