Washington's Senate has joined the House in support of a bill that would ban medical cannabis dispensaries. The Northwest state legalized marijuana in 2012.
On Feb. 17, the House approved HB 2149 by a 67-29 margin. The bill, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Eileen Cody, reduces the number of plants a patient or caregiver can grow (from 15 to six) and the amount of dry marijuana one can possess (24 ounces to three). Patients would not be required to pay sales tax and can claim immunity if arrested.
On Mar. 8, the Senate voted in favor of SB 5887 by a 34-15 margin. The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ann Rivers, provides an option for patients to possess more marijuana (eight ounces) and grow more plants (15). It also allows for use of concentrates and liquids. The Liquor Control Board would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board.
The two legislative bodies now need to work out the differences between the two bills before it's approved and sent to Democratic Gov. Inslee.
Licensed stores selling to recreational users and patients alike (as is currently the case in Colorado) should be up and running by this summer. The bills will prevent competition from unregulated dispensaries.
"Those who predicted I-502 (the 2012 legalization ballot) would be a catastrophe for medical patients have been vindicated," says Seattle Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak. "The federal government is riding roughshod over the state legislature and the governor's office to 'clean up the Wild West of medical marijuana in Washington State. I think that may be the single biggest factor. Then there is the widely held perception among mainstream people and politicians that medical marijuana is mostly a farce and an excuse for healthy people to gain access to pot, and for others to profit off its untaxed, unregulated sales, using medical marijuana as a front for backdoor dealings, out-of-state transactions, etc." McPeak also thinks that some in the MMJ community "poisoned the well" with "personal attacks, denigrations, name calling and public displays of emotion that may have backfired and turned off many legislators."
Medical marijuana has been legal in Waashington since 1998.