Christopher Hurst: The Legislator Gunning for Medical Marijuana

At a Hempfest panel last month, Hilary Bricken, Seattle’s go-to lawyer for new marijuana entrepreneurs, told the crowd to look out for one man: Christopher Hurst, a Demoratic legislator from Enumclaw and retired police commander who once served on a narcotics task force.

“This guy is gunning for medical marijuana,” Bricken said. She got that right.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal, and a set of tight regulations are being drawn up by the Liquor Control Board, a lot of officials are asking what should be done about the unregulated medical marijuana market. Hurst’s opinion, as made evident by comments at a House committee work session this week: shut it down.

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee held the Tuesday work session to update legislators on both Initiative 502 implementation and work the LCB is doing on recommended regulations for the medical pot market. Midway through the session, Hurst said he wanted to make a “pointed observation” about U.S. Attorney of Western Washington Jenny Durkan’s recent remark that the illicit marijuana market was “untenable.”

“I think there isn’t an iota of difference between ‘untenable’ and illegal,’” he said. “I think that if you are selling marijuana today it is just plain illegal. It doesn’t look like the dispensaries that we have operating are even on the periphery of something that is legitimate.”

He went on, suggesting that part of his rationale lies in the competition that will be facing the state-regulated and heavily-taxed recreational market if medical marijuana is allowed to continue. He asked: “We have to really, really take a hard look and say: ‘Do we really want to be competing with an enterprise that is 99 and 9/10th percent—maybe not 9/10th but 99.2 percent—just a criminal enterprise?’"

Despite throwing patients a bone-- “not to say there is not a legitimate use for medical marijuana,” he added--his clear answer was no.

The legislature is expected to take up the issue in the next session. LCB executive Rick Garza told the work session that his agency’s recommendations should come out in late November—about the same time that the board is scheduled to start accepting license applications for the recreational market.

 
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