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Washington House Passes Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #679)

A medical marijuana bill that would legalize dispensaries and provide patients with new protections from arrest passed the House on a 54-43 vote Monday afternoon. The Senate passed a slightly different version of the bill last month, so the bill now must go to a conference committee to hash out differences before heading to the desk of Gov. Christine Gregoire (D).

medical marijuana (courtesy Coaster420 and
Gregoire has not said definitely whether she would sign the bill. "At this point, I have concerns about it," she told the Seattle Times Monday. She did not elaborate.

The bill, Senate Bill 5703, would license dispensaries, commercial growers, and cannabis edibles manufacturers, who would pay both sales and business taxes. The state Department of Revenue estimated that the measure would generate $920,000 in taxes for the state next year, with that figure rising to $6 million a year by 2017.

More than a hundred dispensaries have already opened in the state, but because the voter-approved 1998 medical marijuana law does not explicitly allow them, they are currently operating in a murky legal area. Some dispensary operators have been arrested and successfully prosecuted.

"We owe it to the state to be compassionate in these times," said bill sponsor Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle) during debate Monday, recalling a relative whose end of life suffering was eased by using medical marijuana.

But Republican legislators were less concerned with compassion than control. They unsuccessfully offered amendments that would have kept dispensaries 1,000 feet from schools and that would have barred patients from growing their own. They also articulated standard drug war rhetoric.

"It's sad we're moving in this direction," said Rep. Jim McCune (R-Graham). "I think of the safety of citizens of the state of Washington as we are moving another mind-altering drug into the system."

The Senate must address several changes made in the House. The House version sets a quota of one dispensary for every 20,000 residents, and the two versions of the bill also differ on how large patient collective gardens can be. And while both versions seek to more tightly regulate medical clinics that specialize in medical marijuana recommendations, the House bill bans them outright.

The bill has been supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Washington, and the newly-formed Washington Cannabis Association, among others.

But note everybody was happy with the version of the bill passed by the House. In an email to members, one activist group complained that bill had been "gutted" in the House, citing restrictions on patients, physicians, and dispensaries in the House bill. But even that group said it was committed to working with legislators and other activists to achieve the best bill possible.

Medical marijuana dispensary and patient protection legislation is not quite a done deal in Olympia, but it's getting very close.Let's hope they get it right.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


sicntired (not verified)

I thought we had agreed that it was going to be cannabis from now on?I wonder what this will do to our biggest business in BC now that there is legal access and should soon be no more of this raid this one and leave that one,makes you wonder what "A" did wrong or what "B" did right?Washington is the drop off point for a large % of BC bud,the green in our so called green economy.Whatever will our 131 known gangs do with all that bud they've been swapping for cocaine pound for pound?If our election goes sour and Stephen Harper gets his long awaited majority they'll probably get together with their Republican buddies and start on a wall on our border.I got an e mail from pardons Canada yesterday informing me that I would have to apply for some kind of exemption from a ban on people with criminal records using DOMESTIC flights.It seems that Mr.Harper has signed off on a deal with Homeland security to share 22 pertinent pieces of information on Canadians taking flights within our borders.Seems I could be yanked off a flight completely within our borders if Homeland doesn't like my past.The DEA office down town was a kick in the face and the kidnapping of Marc Emery was really bad form but this is beyond the pale.I won an all expenses trip to Cancun and I thought I could fly there as we wouldn't be landing in the US.Boy was I wrong.$2100 in the toilet.Don't you just love the way that 9/11 just keeps on giving and nothing good,not even remotely.Here's hoping that this will take some of the heat off of the border.We used to be friends but since 2001 it's pretty ugly.Glad to see Washington looks like they may inject a little sanity into one part of the equation.I really can't see a Democrat refusing to sign a medical marijuana bill,can you?

Tue, 04/12/2011 - 10:43pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by sicntired (not verified)

Well, I wouldn't put it past Gregoire to refuse to sign.  After all she's got her head so far up Obama's ass it's a wonder we can even see her feet, and he's not at all likely to support ANY move to legalize cannabis in ANY form, including as medicine, no matter how much scientific proof is offered.

Wed, 04/13/2011 - 4:21am Permalink
darkcycle (not verified)

Washington State needs to pass the Senate version of the Bill. Oddly enough, the Senate version is the least onerous of the two, with fewer of the arbitrary restrictions. They did a good job there, and the House should  pass that version. Gregiore will sign, if only to try to derail's  initiative bid. Soon, with luck, we'll have dispensaries legally operating under State law. YEA WA.

Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:39pm Permalink

The feds are clearly poised to go after the Washington dispensaries. That in itself is bad but they are also going after the landlords of the property where where the dispensaries are housed and threatening  confiscation of the property This will put a serious damper on the least until this issue is settled.

Wed, 04/13/2011 - 5:55pm Permalink
darkcycle (not verified)

Feds would love to go after all the dispensaries. Eventually, when enough honest businessmen have been rounded up, and when enough rich speculators have lost their money, the pressure will get overwhelming to end these raids. I think it tells a tale that the risk of arrest and imprisonment has barely made a dent in the number of entrepreneurs entering the field. As I speak there are around two hundred dispensaries already operating here in Wa. And the Feds lack the man power and the resources to go after all but a fraction. In California the raids have amounted to little more than harassment. The big tent is up and the show is going on.

Thu, 04/14/2011 - 12:32pm Permalink
DevilDog2019 (not verified)

Wait till we legalize it and sell it in our liquor stores. I will love to see the DEA come in and arrest WA  State Employees selling it. To quote Paul Revere "The Feds are coming, The Feds are coming!"

Thu, 04/14/2011 - 9:16pm Permalink
Rural WA (not verified)

This article is ready for an update.

I've seen no confirmation of a veto but Gov. Gregoire doesn't need to veto this bill to kill it. She has to return it with objections if she doesn't sign the bill but it doesn't have the 2/3 support in both houses of the legislature required to pass it over her objections so the result of not signing will effectively be a full veto. Not signing is better than the damage she could do with line-item vetoes. My advice to people who want real reform is to sign I-1149, gather signatures for I-1149 and support it in any other ways possible. Go to and become a volunteer now. I-1149 is not a bunch of unrealistic, complex, discriminatory regulations, it doesn't conflict with federal law in any way and the governor can't veto an initiative.

SECTION 12 VETO POWERS. Every act which shall have passed the legislature shall be, before it becomes a law, presented to the governor. If he approves, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, which house shall enter the objections at large upon the journal and proceed to reconsider. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of the members present shall agree to pass the bill it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of the members present, it shall become a law; but in all such cases the vote of both houses shall be determined by the yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting for or against the bill shall be entered upon the journal of each house respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the governor within five days, Sundays excepted, after it shall be presented to him, it shall become a law without his signature, unless the general adjournment shall prevent its return, in which case it shall become a law unless the governor, within twenty days next after the adjournment, Sundays excepted, shall file such bill with his objections thereto, in the office of secretary of state, who shall lay the same before the legislature at its next session in like manner as if it had been returned by the governor: Provided, That within forty-five days next after the adjournment, Sundays excepted, the legislature may, upon petition by a two-thirds majority or more of the membership of each house, reconvene in extraordinary session, not to exceed five days duration, solely to reconsider any bills vetoed. If any bill presented to the governor contain several sections or appropriation items, he may object to one or more sections or appropriation items while approving other portions of the bill: Provided, That he may not object to less than an entire section, except that if the section contain one or more appropriation items he may object to any such appropriation item or items. In case of objection he shall append to the bill, at the time of signing it, a statement of the section or sections, appropriation item or items to which he objects and the reasons therefor; and the section or sections, appropriation item or items so objected to shall not take effect unless passed over the governor's objection, as hereinbefore provided. The provisions of Article II, section 12 insofar as they are inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed.  

Sat, 04/16/2011 - 9:30am Permalink

When are we going to get on the same page.  Politicians think they can personal profit by keeping drugs black market and those in control, shame, I know who you are, NEVER have I seen more strung out, drug addicted, red eyed politicians in all my life as I see in political office today.  Can CA gov even keep his red eyes open? How many have secret accounts in Austria?

Sun, 04/17/2011 - 12:03pm Permalink
Farmer (not verified)

IL is waiting on the House but if approved there is rumor of its dispersement by State sponsered dispenseries. I think this will prove to be more socially acceptable. I can't foresee any Federal raids on a State facility. I think we'll have to see more states jump on board for legalization and possibly see the USDA spearhead production through licensed producers. As long as the pharmacutal companies don't obtain primary distribution rights, especially given the Union's turmoil on the public option.
Mon, 04/18/2011 - 8:47pm Permalink

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