Legislature passes, sends governor bill overhauling medical marijuana market in state
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature has approved an overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana market, sending to Gov. Jay Inslee a bill seeking to eliminate unregulated dispensary sales now that the state’s recreational market is in place.
The Senate on Tuesday concurred with changes made to the bill in the House last week, and then voted 41-8 to pass it out of the chamber and on to the governor for his expected signature.
Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 5052, would create a database of patients.
Changes made in the House version include making voluntary the patient registry that was mandatory under the Senate version. However, unregistered patients wouldn’t be allowed to possess the same amounts of marijuana or enjoy similar tax breaks that registered patients would.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes issued the following statements upon passage of the bill.
“Passage of Senate Bill 5052 is a positive step forward. Seattle now has clear guidance from the State as the City of Seattle develops its own regulatory framework to maintain a safe and legal marijuana market in our city,” Murray said.
“It is important to note that more needs to be done in future legislation to protect the privacy and rights of medical marijuana patient.”
Holmes said, “This legislation restructures the I-502 licensing system to accommodate medical marijuana providers, phases out unlicensed marijuana dispensaries, and gives medical marijuana patients access to legal, tested, regulated, and labeled marijuana products.
“I’m pleased to see the legislature strike a fair balance between strengthening I-502’s pioneering effort to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana and protecting patients’ access to medicinal products and ability to home grow,” Holmes said.
However, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she could not vote for the legislation.
“Although there are some parts of this bill I can support, I have to vote no on behalf of medical marijuana patients throughout our state. My no vote is a vote for the patients,” she said.
“There is no doubt that there is an illicit medical marijuana market which is a detriment to our state’s attempt to legalize marijuana for all people. However, there are also dedicated and trusted dispensaries throughout the state that play by the rules, have obtained a local business license, pay taxes and provide a safe and reliable source of medicine for patients…
“I am deeply concerned that this bill requires local governments to enforce medical marijuana store closures, without providing sufficient funding to assist them in doing so…
“I am seriously concerned about what is going to happen to patients in rural areas in the short term.
“I am still concerned that this bill contains a patient registry system, albeit voluntary. Nevertheless, the wording of this bill leads to a confusing system where some patients will be able to possess and/or grow more marijuana than others. This will make it challenging for law enforcement to decipher who is operating legally and who is not. It also punishes patients who do not want to be on a list for privacy concerns.”