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State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' proposal to overhaul Washington's medical-marijuana system, SB 5073 , just barely made it through the House Ways and Means

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Medical-Marijuana Bill Ekes Out of Committee on Path to Final Vote

Medical Pot Logo.jpg
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State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' proposal to overhaul Washington's medical-marijuana system, SB 5073, just barely made it through the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday, passing with a 14-13 vote. Arrest protection for patients and providers was restored via amendments, but inmates and employees of drug-testing businesses are still out of luck.

Approval by the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxation and revenue-raising measures, means SB 5073 must clear just one final hurdle before heading to the floor for consideration by the full House chamber: a vote by the House Rules Committee, a panel of 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Two Democrats--Rep. Zach Hudgins (Tukwila) and Rep. Larry Sequist (Gig Harbor)--opposed the bill in the Ways and Means Committee vote.

The Ways and Means committee analyzed the potential impact of SB 5073 on the state budget and concluded that it will result in a "minimal workload" increase statewide. The committee forecasts that if the measure becomes law, "there will be approximately 25 new felony charges filed annually statewide in superior court," though they note that there is "no data available to accurately predict" whether that will actually be the case.

Interestingly, the committee analysts also downplayed the Department of Health's previous assertion that a sales tax on medical marijuana will increase revenue for the state. "An increase in the number of dispensaries may not result an increase in sales," the Ways and Means committee writes. "Due to this uncertainty, the revenue impact of this legislation is indeterminate."

Owing to a trio of amendments, pot patients and their designated providers cannot be "arrested, prosecuted, or subject to other criminal sanctions or civil consequences under state law based solely on their medical use of cannabis," if the bill becomes law.

However, employees governed by "drug-free workplace" policies are left unprotected, as the bill now says the state cannot require businesses to make special accommodations for medical-marijuana patients. Prison inmates and parolees who want access to prescription pot--a contentious issue in the past--are also still getting the shaft. The text of the bill now explicitly states that the measure does not "create the right to any accommodation of any medical use of cannabis in any correctional facility or jail."

Perhaps the lawmakers believe that if medical-marijuana patients are protected from arrest, they don't need the right to continue receiving their medication if they go to jail. Flawless logic, right?

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