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Medical marijuana activists and a Seattle attorney are teaming up to draft legislation that would expand arrest protection for medical marijuana patients, and clean up

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Arrest Protection Law for Medical Marijuana Patients Coming Down the Pipe

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Medical marijuana activists and a Seattle attorney are teaming up to draft legislation that would expand arrest protection for medical marijuana patients, and clean up the mess created by Governor Gregoire's partial veto of SB 5073 last year.

The forthcoming proposal is primarily the work of attorney Aaron Pelley, a specialist in medical cannabis cases, firebrand activist Steve Sarich's Cannabis Action Coalition, and the Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC).

CDC spokesman says the current state law regarding medical pot is so vague that police still have the power to arrest or hassle patients who are technically in compliance with a doctor's authorization to grow, smoke and/or carry weed.

"Specifically for patients in Washington State, arrest protection is necessary to minimize fear," Livingston says. "In this state, you can always be harassed by law enforcement. That basic inequity is very problematic."

Pelley says the details of the legislation are still being worked out, but much of the language will likely be taken verbatim from portions of SB 5073 vetoed last year by the Governor. In April 2011, the state legislature passed a sweeping overhaul of Washington's medical marijuana law, but Gregoire, fearing a crackdown on state employees from federal prosecutors, nullified several sections of the bill. That left medical patients in something of a legal gray area, as key terms (i.e. what constitutes a plant) in the surviving sections of the law were left undefined or unaddressed.

"It used to be a plant was a plant in any stage of growth," Pelley explains. "Now we don't even know. Is it a seedling that is sprouting, or something with roots, or some sort of root ball? All these things had clarity under the previous bill. We're asking for clarity back by doing a housecleaning."

The proposal will not likely address the two most controversial aspects of the partially vetoed law: dispensaries and a patient registry. In its original form, SB 5073 would have required oversight of medical marijuana growers by the state Department of Agriculture, but that too will likely be omitted by the authors to make the legislation more palatable for ambivalent politicians.

"My hope is to simply propose everything that was there originally," Pelley says. "In other words, what the legislature intended is what we're proposing. Short of the fact that we're not proposing a registry, it is all language that was in the previous bill."

The group is currently putting the finishing touches on their proposal, and seeking input from the medical marijuana community via public meetings. The next meeting begins at 10 a.m. this Sunday, June 10, 2012, at Access 4 Washington, 2735 1st Avenue South in Seattle.

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