Medical Marijuana Bill Appears Dead in Olympia

A proposal to legalize medical marijuana dispensary-like operations appears to have died in Olympia.

Its demise ends yet another effort to clearly define the legal status of the storefront operations ubiquitous in Seattle and Tacoma.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she had enough votes in the state Senate to pass the proposal, but it did not survive the deadline for bills to advance because of time constraints in the short session and because of opposition from some Republican lawmakers and a handful of cities.

“The bottom line is, it was very difficult to reach a full consensus,” said Kohl-Welles, medical marijuana’s champion in Olympia. “There wasn’t as much momentum and interest as there was last year.”

The bill, SB 6265, would legalize nonprofit dispensers and — for the first time in the state’s 14-year history with medical marijuana — would create a volunteer patient registry. Washington is only medical marijuana state — among 16 states and the District of Columbia — that has no registry.

A landmark effort last year to legalize, regulate and tax medical marijuana dispensers, growers and processors was gutted by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s unexpected partial veto. The remaining bill allowed patients to create collective gardens, which dispensers, employing a broad interpretation of “garden”, have used as legal justification for storefront operations.

Seattle, Tacoma and about five other cities have allowed the storefronts, but most cities have either denied business licenses or enacted moratoriums on collective gardens. Seattle, where the mayor and city attorney both advocate marijuana legalization, is now awash in dispensaries. Kohl-Welles said she has heard there are 105 operating in the city.

SB 6265 could be revived as part of the budget process, but Kohl-Welles believes that is unlikely, leaving the law unchanged for at least a year.

The result, said Philip Dawdy of the medical marijuana group Washington Alternative Medicine Alliance, will likely be “black holes” in Eastern and Southwestern Washington.

“It’s a bad situation for patients,” he said. “There’s been a lot of patients in Eastern Washington forced onto the black market or forced to drive to Seattle or Tacoma.”

It will also likely turn advocates attention to Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana possession and set up a regulation and taxation scheme similar to alcohol.

– Article originally from: Seattle Times.