Pubdate: Sat, 30 Apr 2011
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Olympian
Author: Jordan Schrader, Staff Writer


Medical Marijuana: Governor Strikes Down Dispensary Licensing Plan

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday officially rejected the Legislature's
proposal to license medical-marijuana dispensaries, arguing that
assigning state employees that kind of regulation would open the
workers up to federal prosecution.

Few parts of the measure survived her veto pen. One major casualty:
proposed arrest protections for patients who join a state registry,
something Gregoire and even law enforcement groups support. The
governor said the parts of the bill she liked were too intertwined
with the parts that worried her.

"I will not subject my state employees to federal prosecution,
period," she said.

Gregoire heeded advice from the largest state-employee union and from
U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby, who warned that the
federal government could go after state employees under the bill.
Civil liberties advocates called for Gregoire to ignore what they said
were empty threats.

Such crackdowns haven't happened in other states with liberal
marijuana laws, advocates said. But Gregoire said the statements by
federal prosecutors in Washington and other states show the winds are
changing. The veto came a day after federal raids on dispensaries in

Voters in 1998 approved marijuana for medicinal purposes, but they
didn't say explicitly that dispensaries are legal or illegal. Local
governments have taken different approaches.

Tacoma had left them alone until recent months, when the city ordered
dispensaries to close - but put appeals on hold until the Legislature
could clarify the law.

That clarification looks like it's not coming unless lawmakers revive
the issue in their ongoing 30-day special session. Seattle Sen. Jeanne
Kohl-Welles, the main proponent of the changes, said she's optimistic
that can happen even though she acknowledged time constraints would
make it difficult.

It was "a little too early" Friday for Tacoma officials to know what
happens next following the partial veto, city spokesman Rob
McNair-Huff said.

The city had been scheduled to hold an informational meeting by phone
next week for the dispensaries' attorneys, McNair-Huff said. He said
at least 42 dispensaries have received letters.

One of them, Green Health, has operated since June at Fourth and
Tacoma avenues.

"If the city decides to take action against us," manager Jordan Baker
said, "they'll have to deal with some pretty dramatic court battles,
and they'll have to face a lot of patients that have no desire to be
threatened by going back onto the black market for their medicine."

Ezra Eickmeyer, lobbyist for the Washington Canna-bis Association,
said the industry group and its members have been preparing for
several years of city-by-city "political trench warfare" in the event
Olympia failed to act.

Gregoire took care to say that her veto "takes away absolutely nothing
from what that voter-passed initiative did."

But at least one part of Senate Bill 5073 that survived to make it
into law could undercut dispensaries' legal position.

The businesses have argued the voter initiative effectively authorizes
them by creating a category of "designated providers" to provide
marijuana to patients who can't grow their own. It limits providers to
handing out marijuana to "only one patient at any one time," but
dispensaries argue they can take a new patient as soon as the previous
one is out the door.

The new law appears to require a 15-day period between serving

To avoid losing protections, the industry wanted all or nothing.
Gregoire gave them neither.

"That was our greatest fear," Eickmeyer said after the governor's
veto, "and she just did it."

Among the other parts that survived to become law is authorization for
up to 10 patients to pool together to grow a collective marijuana
gardens containing up to 45 plants that yield up to 72 ounces of pot.

Gregoire threw advocates a bone with a promise to work with other
states to persuade the federal government to downgrade marijuana to a
legal category that would allow it to be prescribed by doctors and
obtained at pharmacies. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.