Washington Legislature must resolve legal muddle over medical marijuana
The Seattle Times editorial board supports the efforts of state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles to pass a new medical-marijuana bill.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE Legislature is about to get another medical-marijuana bill. It is a necessary bill.
The medical-cannabis regime in Washington — "cannabis" is the official name now — was left in chaos last year by the Obama administration's threat to prosecute state employees who licensed any cannabis business.
The Obama people didn't say they would arrest state employees, and they haven't done it elsewhere. But their threat was enough for Gov. Chris Gregoire to veto much of the bill.
What survived was "collective gardens" — small grows by patients and their providers. But dispensaries — the shops — were in limbo.
Spokane, which on this issue is located somewhere in cultural Idaho, shut its dispensaries down with raids by police. We are told dispensaries remain open in Mukilteo, Shoreline, Seattle, Issaquah, Kent, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Lacey, Olympia and Castle Rock.
That is not enough. Cannabis has proven medical value, and some of the patients who want it live east of the mountains. They ought to be able to buy it. (We believe all people over 21 ought to be able to buy it, but that is another matter.)
The new bill, by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, allows nonprofit (but taxable) cannabis dispensaries by local option. For counties of more than 200,000 — Whatcom, Snohomish, Kitsap, King, Pierce, Thurston, Clark, Yakima and Spokane — the bill would allow dispensaries unless a local jurisdiction opted out. In the other 30 counties, jurisdictions would be out unless they opted in.
The bill also sets up a voluntary statewide registry to give patients protection from arrest, which was vetoed in last year's bill. It also says a conviction for driving under the influence requires actual impairment, not only a blood test, because traces of cannabis may stay in the blood for days.
Gregoire's office has seen the draft bill and a representative says that in its present form the governor probably could sign it. That would be a step forward on a long road.