As anticipated, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed SB 5073 into law today, but used her line-item veto powers to axe some key portions of the bill.
The bad news, unfortunately, is much more substantial.
Again citing her fear that state employees would be put at risk of federal prosecution--an argument that some respected legal minds have called B.S. on--the Governor cut provisions that would have legalized and regulated pot dispensaries. Currently, dispensaries are neither expressly permitted or forbidden under state law, and hundreds of businesses have exploited the loophole and opened up shop across the state. Yesterday, at the urging of federal prosecutors, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Spokane.
Gregoire also nixed a plan to create a confidential registry of all the state's medical-marijuana patients. The idea was that law enforcement would be able to check and see if someone has a prescription for pot before they were investigated and/or arrested. Gregoire also shot down an idea to allow "cannabis food processors" for manufacturing pot-infused products.
Most everyone in the Washington's medical-pot world saw this coming--especially after a state employees' union urged Gregoire to wield her veto powers--but it's still a bit of a bummer. The Cannabis Defense Coalition sent out a message this afternoon describing Gregoire's decision as "the worst possible outcome."
"Our worst fears were realized in the past two weeks as political grandstanding took precedence over patients and providers," the CDC writes.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn also issued a statement criticizing the partial veto.
"This bill would have provided us with a much-needed comprehensive state framework regulating the production, processing, and distribution of medical marijuana," McGinn said. "Today's actions leave us with the same problems that we currently face: too many patients have to take unnecessary risks to obtain their medicine, confusion for law enforcement, a proliferation of dispensaries across Seattle, and an inability to regulate dispensaries properly."
There's still a glimmer of hope for Washington pot advocates, though, as Gregoire said she wants work with the legislature to tweak the bill and create a patient registry. She also urged the federal government to re-classify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance (it's currently listed alongside heroin and other "hard" drugs as a Schedule I) to give doctors more leeway to prescribe the drug. But after the way the Governor gutted the bill this afternoon, that glimmer of hope is fading away faster than smoke in the wind.