Pubdate: Wed, 23 Mar 2011
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Olympian
Referenced: Senate Bill 5073
Bookmark: (Washington)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Washington voters approved the medicinal use of marijuana through an 
initiative in 1998. But ever since then, users and growers have been 
caught in a legal limbo - caught between the voter-approved 
initiative and federal drug laws that make no exception for the 
medicinal use of cannabis.

Much more clarity is needed in Washington law and that's precisely 
what Senate Bill 5073 does.

The bill licenses growers of marijuana and the people who process and 
dispense the drug for medicinal use. It outlines the process for 
acquiring cannabis for medicinal use and requires those in the 
business of growing and dispensing marijuana be licensed. The state 
Department of Health would be required to keep a registry where 
health care professionals could register qualifying patients.

The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 29-20 and awaits 
passage in the state House of Representatives. Lawmakers there should 
send this bill to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature into law.

After a feisty campaign in 1998, Washington voters made it clear that 
they wanted patients to be able to use marijuana. There was great 
debate, with proponents saying seriously ill cancer patients could 
find relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea by smoking a small 
amount of marijuana. Critics said supporters were simply trying to 
find a way to use an illegal substance.

In the end, those advocating on behalf of patients carried the election.

Initiative 692 asked a simple question: "Shall the medical use of 
marijuana for certain terminal or debilitating conditions be 
permitted, and physicians authorized to advise patients about medical 
use of marijuana?

More than 1.1 million Washington voters approved the measure - 58.97 
percent. The measure found favor with Thurston County voters, too, 
passing here with 42,677 voters in support, and 35,020 opposed.

The Legislature has twice tinkered with the initiative law, trying to 
bring more clarity. But recently, there have been an increasing 
number of conflicts between marijuana users/growers and law 
enforcement. More clarity in the law is definitely needed.

Under the bill under consideration this session, qualifying patients 
and their designated providers would not be subject to arrest if they 
possess no more than 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of cannabis.

As noted in the staff report on SB 5073 they must be registered with 
the Department of Health; post a copy of their authorization next to 
cannabis at their residence; and, in the case of designated 
providers, not have converted cannabis for personal use.

The bill says that health care professionals must have a documented 
relationship with the patient, complete a physical examination of the 
patient, document the terminal or debilitating medical condition in 
the patient's medical record, and inform the patient of other options 
for treating the medical condition.

The physician's practice cannot consist primarily of authorizing the 
medical use of cannabis, nor can the doctor advertise cannabis.

The bill creates three types of business licenses: for producers, 
processors and cannabis dispensaries.

Again, licensees are prohibited from advertising cannabis and any 
licensee who sells to unauthorized people is subject to a class C 
felony. With the state licensing and taxing the sale of medicinal 
marijuana, officials expect the program to generate an additional $3 
million a year in revenue for the state.

The Department of Health will establish a secure registration system 
in which health care professionals may register qualifying patients.

Participation in the registry is voluntary for qualifying patients 
and their designated providers. Law enforcement officers must be able 
to consult the registry to verify whether a person or an address is registered.

The legislation also allows the University of Washington and 
Washington State University to conduct scientific research on the 
safety of administering cannabis as part of a medical treatment and 
the universities develop guidelines for the appropriate 
administration of cannabis.

The bill has undergone numerous revisions both in committee and with 
amendments on the Senate floor. It's not perfect. The ban on 
advertising for state-licensed dispensaries certainly has free speech 

We agree with proponents of this bill who say that today many 
medicinal marijuana patients are simply confused as to whether they 
are following existing laws. Senate Bill 5073 brings clarity to 
today's confused system. The legislation creates certainty for 
growers, processors, those who dispense cannabis and for patients and 
physicians, too.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake