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Gov. Christine Gregoire effectively neutered the Medical Use of Cannabis Act on Friday -- using her partial veto powers to do away with


What's Next for Medical Marijuana in Washington?

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Gov. Christine Gregoire effectively neutered the Medical Use of Cannabis Act on Friday -- using her partial veto powers to do away with provisions that would have established patient arrest protections and regulations for dispensaries -- but the politicians and activists pushing for medical marijuana reform still have a few cards left to play. Here's what's next for the state's prescription pot movement:

-Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles says she is going to introduce another medical marijuana bill during the state legislature's "special session."

Typically, Washington lawmakers only convene for the 105-day regular session, which ended last week. But with the $5 billion budget deficit still left to address, they will continue to meet for another 30 days or until the budget is resolved. Kohl-Welles is hoping her peers will also find time to vote on a last-minute medical marijuana bill, which her staff is now in the process of drafting. She hopes the bill will be introduced sometime this week.

In an email to Seattle Weekly, Kohl-Welles explains that the new bill will deal specifically with the key portions of SB 5073 that were vetoed by Gregoire: patient arrest protections and dispensary regulations.

"The details are still being ironed out at this point," Kohl-Welles writes, "However, based on the governor's remarks regarding her partial veto, it seems likely that the new proposal would include a system of nonprofit dispensaries and that state employees would not be included in any regulatory scheme in a way that would put them at risk of federal arrest."

The Senator from Ballard adds that even though her original bill was "pared down" by the Governor, the fact that it was approved by both the House and Senate proves that a majority of state lawmakers now take medical marijuana seriously.

"The Legislature is catching up with public opinion on the medical marijuana issue," Kohl-Welles writes. "The debate with regard to medical marijuana is no longer a question of whether it provides legitimate medicinal benefits, but rather what regulatory framework makes the most sense so that qualifying patients are guaranteed a safe and reliable access to their medicine, while public safety is preserved."

-Sensible Washington is still gathering signatures for I-1149, a ballot initiative that would remove "all criminal penalties for possession, use, manufacture or delivery of cannabis among adults" and direct the Legislature to create a taxation and regulatory system for pot sales.

The measure needs 241,153 signatures to be added to the November 2011 ballot, and, according to the Sensible Washington website, they are about halfway there, with more than 17,000* signatures collected as of April 28. Check out the organization's website for more details.

-Medical marijuana patients and activists are protesting today in Seattle and Spokane

The protest in Seattle is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. in front of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building on 2nd Avenue in downtown. The demonstration is being organized by Steve Sarich of Cannacare and the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, and is a direct response to last week's dispensary raids in Spokane.

According to a press release sent out by the two groups, they also plan on asking the State Board of Pharmacy to recognize the medical value of pot:

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Gregoire said after wielding her veto powers that change "must first come at the federal level," in reference to marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no accepted medical use. Of course, the chances of that reclassification happening anytime soon are roughly the same as President Obama firing up a joint in the middle of his next State of the Union address.

*Updated May 3, 2011 - a misplaced comma had the original figure at 170,000 signatures.

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