When the Washington State Legislature passed the medical-marijuana reform bill SB 5073, pot advocates weren't exactly flooding the streets to cheer. It had several issues that no one liked--chief among them, a patient registry list that would require anyone who wanted to enjoy the patient protections in the law to add their names to.
That bill all but died when Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed the most important parts of it last month. Now a new bill is taking shape in Washington, and it appears to be even more unpopular than the last one.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is once again spearheading the work on the bill. It's been titled SB 5955, and its main thrust appears to be creating a statewide framework for legitimizing medical-marijuana dispensaries while not relying on any state employees to enforce or oversee the law.
Gregoire had vetoed the prior bill for the very reason that she (wrongly) believed that federal prosecutors would charge state workers for violating U.S. law in the process of doing their jobs.
The solution to this in the new bill is apparently to leave local jurisdictions to decide whether or not to legitimize and regulate dispensaries, and to employ their own workers at their own risk in performing such work.
This obviously creates the same catch-22 at a local level that Gregoire feared at a state level. Not that Gregoire's fears were founded in anything close to reality. But still.
What's more concerning for medical-marijuana advocates is, firstly, that the bill still has the name-registry requirement that no one wanted in the first place; and second, that leaving the myriad of local jurisdictions to come up with their own medical-pot laws will make the state's legal definition of what's allowed weed-wise even more confusing than it already is.
The Seattle Times reports:
"The point of this legislation was to end the conflict, not to ensure a whole new round of years of conflict," said Ezra Eickmeyer, political director of the Washington Cannabis Association.
Even Kohl-Welles herself seems less than enthused about the direction the legislation is heading.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a Democrat from Seattle who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said Gregoire had indicated general support for the new plan. She acknowledged that the legislation was not perfect but at least tried to balance the demands of advocates, law enforcement and the governor's office.
"It's not my preference that we're doing it this way, but we're having to do it this way," she said.
Long story short: Medical-marijuana reform in Washington appears to be continuing its frequent redefining of the phrase "You have to start somewhere."