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UPDATED Thursday at 3:30 p.m. with comments from Kohl-Welles and a comprehensive list of the amendments to her bill.
SB 5073, the overhaul of Washington's medical-marijuana law proposed by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, received a hearing today in the senate's Health and Long-Term Care Committee. In attempt to undermine the legislation, opponents of the bill proposed several amendments, including measures that could eliminate housing and arrest protections for pot patients.
The Cannabis Defense Coalition sounded the alarm earlier this afternoon, sending out an e-mail alert that urged the group's members to contact the senators responsible for the amendments.
The changes include a "striker" amendment from committee chair Sen. Karen Keiser that changes the entire text of the bill and:
*Removes the section relating to employment protection.
* Modifies housing protections to allow prohibitions against smoking of cannabis.
* [Limits] the Department of Agriculture's role in testing and inspection of medical
* Requires patients to pay retail sales tax on medical cannabis.
* Requires license suspension if licensee is in default of a federal or state-guaranteed student loan.
* Removes civil penalties for law enforcement who illegally access and distribute information from the state-run patient registry.
Other amendments that got the activists fired up include a proposal from Sen. Mike Carrell that would require health-care professionals who want to prescribe marijuana to complete a physical examination of their patient, inform them of other treatment options, and try medicine other than weed to treat their condition.
Sen. Randi Becker added a line stating that patients would only qualify for arrest protection if they "voluntarily" register with the state, and Sen. Steve Conway suggested removing "state preemption" for medical-marijuana laws, meaning cities and counties could adopt their own laws for zoning, licensing requirements, and taxes for pot.
The bill was approved 7-2 by the Health and Long-Term Care Committee and now heads to the Ways and Means Committee for another hearing.
The changes are hardly set in stone--they can be amended or removed in subsequent hearings--but it's certainly a sobering (no pun intended) look at how far this bill has to go before it becomes law.
Daily Weekly has a call out to Kohl-Welles seeking comment on the amendments, and we'll post an update as soon as we hear back.
UPDATE: Here are some official statements from Kohl-Welles about the various amendments to her bill.
On whether she thinks the bill will receive broader support with the included amendments: "Yes, I do; however, I believe that there will be some real concerns with some of the amendments within some of the groups supporting the bill. I will be working to clarify some of the amendments that are a bit confusing and that may have unintentional consequences."
On the amendments that removed certain protections for patients: "I am disappointed the section [about employment protection] had to be removed, but I understand the concerns some employers had with it. The original language mirrored what's in [the] statute providing protections to employees who use prescription drugs off-worksite."
On housing protections for patients: "I understand the rationale for this amendment, but I think it is still problematic. Medical cannabis is a medicine that is used by those authorized by their medical-health professional and who have allowable medical conditions. Using drugs or alcohol are not the same thing."
On the requirement that dispensaries confirm patient qualification with the health-care professional: "I support this amendment."
On requirements for license suspension if the licensee is found in noncompliance with child support or defaults on federally funded loans: "This was required under federal law, so I accepted it."
A Kohl-Welles spokeswoman also passed along this comprehensive list of the amendments to the bill, as approved by the Health and Long-Term Care Committee:SB 5073 Amendments
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