A bill under consideration by lawmakers in Olympia would change the state's policy on medical marijuana, and cleanup some of the mess leftover from last year's partially vetoed pot legislation. So why does one of the state's leading cannabis advocacy groups oppose the proposal?
This time around, Kohl-Welles is trying to make her pitch more appealing to the Governor and conservatives in the legislature by suggesting that the issue of dispensaries (aka "non-profit patient co-operatives") be left up to individual cities and counties. If her bill is approved, sympathetic cities like Seattle and Tacoma could license and tax the establishments, while cities and towns with populations under 200,000 could ban the businesses.
Other notable provisions in Kohl-Welles' bill include creating a "secure confidential voluntary registration system" to keep track of patients, growers, and dispensaries, and an oddly specific requirement that medical pot be transported in a locked metal box that is bolted to the vehicle. Newspaper advertising by dispensaries would also be prohibited. (A full text pdf of the most recent version of the bill is available here.)
An internal email sent to CDC members on Tuesday (and later published on the organization's website), lists five of their "biggest concerns" about the bill. A non-profit activist group with roughly 100 members, they believe that Kohl-Welles proposal "will come at great cost to the Washington State medical cannabis community."
Their objections include the belief that the law would result in "dry counties" where medical pot is prohibited to the detriment of patients, and a suspicion that state law enforcement officers would share information in the patient registry with the feds.
"The voters of Washington State believe medical cannabis patients are not criminals, but our state government still wants patients to register as if they were," the CDC writes. "Bill sponsors claim that this registry will use computer technology to disallow federal access, but the whole system is designed to be used by our law enforcement, many of whom are federally deputized as members of drug task forces throughout the state."
The CDC also points to a section of the bill which removes "the most forgiving" of the so-called affirmative defense claims used in court when patients face criminal charges. The group has urged its members to contact their legislators and voice their opposition to the bill, and encouraged other medical pot patients across the state to do the same.
A Kohl-Welles spokesperson did not respond to a message inquiring about the CDC concerns. The bill is currently set to be reviewed by the Senate's rules committee, the panel that decides whether it will proceed to the Senate floor for a vote.