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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Road to Hell...

Posted by on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 4:29 PM paved with good intentions. And state senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles's medical-marijuana bill—pulled together after years of work with law enforcement and activists—was 24 karat goodwill. But the result is more of a catastrophe than I'd realized.

While reporting for the paper that hits streets tomorrow, sources explained the ramifications of Governor Gregoire's partial veto last Friday. This wasn't simply a missed opportunity to improve conditions for sick people, it turns out, but actually a step backward. Because some parts of the bill weren't vetoed, a practically random set of other parts will become law. They get overlaid—with little context from the bill—onto the medical marijuana law voters passed in 1998. As a result, new restrictions for patients (what's left after the veto) without added protections (what was vetoed) will expose more sick people and caretakers to prosecution.

To make sense of the problem now, we've got to step back to examine the old law we had before. It said that that a care provider, designated by the patient, could grow or provide marijuana to one patient at one time. A clever interpretation of that law says a dispensary could serve hundreds, even thousands, of patients by serving them one at a time. Prosecutors weren't stupid about what was going on, but they they didn't want to prosecute (the seriously ill can't farm a pot garden, after all). So many prosecutors enjoyed the arguably gray area in the law, turning a blind eye.

That's where the partially vetoed bill enters the picture.

The bill would have allowed dispensaries and arrest protection for patients, but Gregoire nixed those provisions (legal experts say her justification was bogus). But Gregoire let stand another part of the bill that restricts a care provider to one patient every 15 days. The new bill also defines cooperatives as groups of no more than 10 patients growing 45 plants.

That would turn the gray area of medical marijuana black and white: No multiple patients, no large cooperatives, no dispensaries.

The remaining situation is “worse for patients, cities, and counties” than it was before, says Kohl-Welles. And Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for the King County Prosecuting Attorney Office, agrees: “We are even in more flux than before this bill was initiated and passed.” Unless the legislature moves in the next few weeks to allow local governments to pass their own regulations for dispensaries—which many watching the bill say is unlikely—Goodhew believes King County prosecutors may lack the wiggle room to ignore dispensary operators.

Given a spate of raids in Spokane last week and virtual certainty that dispensaries won't be covered by state laws, Lonnie Phillips, owner of Seattle Alternative Medicine Collective on Aurora Avenue North, worries that he may have to shut down and that patients too ill to cultivate their own marijuana to treat cancer, HIV, and other ailments “aren’t going to be able to get the access that they need.”

Others are more blunt:

"We have had the single largest setback to medical cannabis in 15 years," says Cannabis Defense Coalition director Ben Livingston. "We have lost faith in the process and we want to run home with our tails between our legs and salvage what we can."

Defense attorney Douglas Hiatt puts it this way: “This thing is a disaster. Pushing the goddamn bill through, putting it on the governor’s desk, and then daring her to sign it—someone who is not running and has got nothing to lose—was just an idiotic idea.”

For her part, the governor insists she had the best of intentions, too. She wanted to protect the rights of patients but didn't want state employees to be prosecuted for issuing dispensary licenses. "I am acutely aware of how important this is for medical patients," she said last Friday. Then she picked up her veto pen and created this whole mess.


Comments (12) RSS

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meanie 1
remember kids, vote democrat!

Capitulating to republican demands, before they ask even! and covering your own ass for your next job. Its way better than the alternative. Right?

Worked for Gary Locke! Worked for Christine, and its on its way to work out for Dow!

The less you do, the less you can do wrong!
Posted by meanie on May 3, 2011 at 4:38 PM · Report this
Is this why Cannabis Defense Coalition has been patiently, extensively commenting on just this angle in every one of your posts on this almost since Kohl-Welles introduced the bill?

Every time you'd write, "call the Governor and tell her not to veto" they'd comment "no no no, better the bill be withdrawn, or that she veto the whole thing, and here's why", and give just exactly these reasons you outline above.

Guess we all had good intentions. With hindsight, I give CDC much credit for seeing this writing on the wall from the beginning. Sorry I was a skeptic.
Posted by gloomy gus on May 3, 2011 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
Wow, I don't think I've ever seen the pooch screwed so thoroughly as this before.
Posted by Fnarf on May 3, 2011 at 4:45 PM · Report this
don't plan on seeing anything good come out of the washington state government wrt/ marijuana law reform. it is citizen initiatives/referendums or bust on this (and really any issue that doesn't align w/ corporate interests). 85% of the state supports medical marijuana & we are completely & totally ignored by our government. shittiest democracy in the industrialized world.
Posted by philosophy school dropout on May 3, 2011 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Wow, what a's like this was being done by a bunch of pot heads...
Posted by Oh wait, it was... on May 3, 2011 at 5:36 PM · Report this
"85% of the state supports medical marijuana"

Yes, but at least the same amount know that 'medical MJ' is a front for plain old pot heads so maybe we have other issues higher on the totem pole in this tough times that you guys getting your weed.
Posted by I'm sick! I have anxiety on May 3, 2011 at 5:38 PM · Report this
Cannabis Defense Coalition 7
@6: Anxiety is not a qualifying condition in Washington State.

@2: Gus, thanks for noticing. Multiple CDC members have put a great deal of effort into shepherding this bill along and into helping others understand it.
Posted by Cannabis Defense Coalition on May 3, 2011 at 6:05 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 8
What a fucking fiasco. Greagoire is a total letdown. Back in her Attorney General days, I was proud of her taking on big tobacco and insurance. Now she's become a shell of her former self.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 3, 2011 at 6:31 PM · Report this
rob! 9
She looks it, @8. And I don't mean that in a catty way. She's a hollow-eyed husk, and endlessly crabby. Even from 800 miles away I can tell she's thoroughly conflicted between what might have been her best intentions at one time, and concern over her political or consultant/lobbyist future. It's not a good place.

I hope everybody can put their egos aside, stop slamming each other, learn the lessons that need to be learned, and coordinate better next time. But I think @4 is pretty realistic about the way forward. So sorry Sen. Kohl-Welles worked so hard, only to reach this end. Even more sorry for the ill people whose lives just got more dicey.
Posted by rob! on May 3, 2011 at 8:39 PM · Report this
So basically because of this fiasco by the pot heads, sick people won't get their medicine? Nice job pot heads!
Posted by Maybe u should quit on May 3, 2011 at 10:04 PM · Report this
doesurmindglow 11

Pull it.
Posted by doesurmindglow on May 4, 2011 at 1:58 AM · Report this
Sounds familiar, in Montana the teahadist legislature just reduced the citizen passed initative that installed medical marijuana to almost nothing. And the Democratic Governor will let it become law.

During debate, the feds raided several grow opperations and generated a lot of scary press. And a federal prosecutor sent intimidation letters to state legislators hinting at legal action.

Our "representatives" won't represent the known will of the voters. This must now be reinstalled by initative of the voters, like the first time.

Vote out of office all pretenders who show such contempt for democracy and majority rule.
Posted by reggiewhitefish on May 5, 2011 at 3:13 PM · Report this

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