Pubdate: Sat, 28 May 2011
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Olympian
Author: Rob Carson


After Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed large chunks of a bill intended to 
clarify the state's medical marijuana muddle, what remains of the law 
is in tatters, creating concerns and confusion for the state's dispensaries.

Definitions in the original law that medical marijuana supporters 
used to justify dispensaries were removed by legislators who thought 
they would be replacing them with a blueprint for a state-regulated 
supply and distribution system.

Old language referring to "designated providers" who provided 
cannabis to "only one patient at any one time" disappeared, taking 
one of the dispensaries' main claims for legitimacy with them.

Attorneys for dispensaries had argued that the phrase "at any one 
time" could mean as little as the few seconds it takes to hand over 
marijuana to a patient and did not necessarily mean a lasting 
personal commitment.

Section 404 of the new law, which was signed by the governor, puts an 
end to that argument.

It states that a designated provider "may not begin serving as a 
designated provider to a different qualifying patient until 15 days 
have elapsed from the date the last qualifying patient designated him 
or her to serve as a provider."

Surviving sections of the new law refer to "licensed producer," 
"licensed processor" and "licensed dispenser," but the governor 
vetoed the sections that defined and set forth how the entities would 
be established.

Gregoire explained her veto by saying that requiring state agencies 
to regulate the dispensaries put them at risk of federal prosecution 
- -- even though that has not been a priority for the current administration.

The federal government does not accept the concept of "medical marijuana."

"We're a little worried," said Nathan Harris, manager of Tacoma's 
Best Alternative Medicine.

Harris said he closely followed the legislative process this year, 
but still doesn't know what to expect.

"If the law says we have to close, we'll close," he said. "We're not 
trying to be a vigilante or anything. To tell the truth, I'm a 
little confused about what's going on right now."

In the lobby of Tacoma's Northwest Best, which plans to expand to 
Lacey and Seattle, marijuana patient Mac McCloud leaned back in a 
comfortable chair and chatted, having just received his latest supply 
of marijuana meds.

McCloud, 56, of Yelm, said he qualified as a medical marijuana 
patient because he hurt his knees working in the woods and suffers 
chronic pain.

All the convoluted legal arguments miss the point, he said.

He's been smoking marijuana for 40 years, he said, and doesn't see 
himself quitting anytime soon.

"People are going to smoke, no matter who sells it," McCloud said.

"If they close these dispensaries, the people that sell illegal drugs 
are going to be happy about it," he said. "The Mexican mafia will 
just make more money, because that's where most of these drugs are 
coming from."

"If we close them, I just think we're stepping on private business," 
he said. "We're not supposed to do that here. This is America."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom