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Washington Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #682)
Drug War Issues

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire Friday vetoed large parts of a medical marijuana bill that would have created a state-wide patient and provider registry and a state-licensed and regulated dispensary system, citing the potential threat to state workers who could be prosecuted under federal law. Gregoire's partial veto eliminated the dispensary and registry provisions, leaving little left of Senate Bill 4073 but a reiteration of existing affirmative defenses for patients and providers.

Gregoire chooses militarization over regulation
In her veto statement, Gov. Gregoire said that the dispensary licensing and regulation provisions "would direct employees of the state departments of Health and Agriculture to authorize and license commercial businesses that produce, process or dispense cannabis. These sections would open public employees to federal prosecution, and the United States Attorneys have made it clear that state law would not provide these individuals safe harbor from federal prosecution. No state employee should be required to violate federal criminal law in order to fulfill duties under state law. For these reasons, I have vetoed" the relevant sections.

She also vetoed language that would require owners of housing to allow medical marijuana use on their property because it "put them in potential conflict with federal law." And she vetoed reciprocity language allowing nonresidents to use while in Washington because it "would not require these other state or territorial laws to meet the same standards for health care professional authorization required by Washington law."

Gregoire's veto pen also killed language that would have allowed people on probation or parole to use medical marijuana with a court's approval. "The correction agency or department responsible for the person's supervision is in the best position to evaluate an individual's circumstances and medical use of cannabis," she explained.

Gregoire said she vetoed the statewide patient and provider registration provisions because "they are intertwined with requirements for registration of licensed commercial producers, possessors, and dispensers of cannabis" and would thus leave state employees still facing the threat of federal prosecution.

"I am not vetoing Sections 402 or 406, which establish affirmative defenses for a qualifying patient or designated provider who is not registered with the registry," which she vetoed. That and provisions allowing for scientific study of medical marijuana, protecting the parental rights of patients, and barring discrimination in housing or organ transplants are about all that's left of what was supposed to be Washington's dispensary bill.

Gregoire signaled in mid-month that she was leery of federal prosecution of state employees, citing letters from the state's two US attorneys warning that state employees who licensed or regulated large-scale commercial marijuana operations would not be immune from prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) said she was disappointed but not surprised by Gregoire's action. "I think the potential for federal arrest and prosecution of state employees is extremely improbable," Kohl-Welles told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after the governor's partial veto. "I think that the patients are the most important consideration."

Kohl-Welles said she was working on a new bill for the legislature's current special session, one that would not involve state employees. "Gregoire does not want to have state workers included at all," Kohl-Welles said. "We have to find out what can be done without their involvement."

The ACLU of Washington sent Gregoire a letter Thursday urging her to sign the bill unaltered and suggesting her fear for state employees was unwarranted. "The federal government has never prosecuted state employees involved in implementing a state-adopted medical marijuana law, and it will not do so in Washington," the letter said. "Empty threats by the federal government should not be used as justifîcation for refusing to sign legislation that will aid suffering residents, as well as local governments, of Washington."

But that's just what Gov. Gregoire did with the veto pen last Friday.

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.


kickback (not verified)

Gary Johnson 2012.  The " establishment`s "  worst nightmare come true. [or] More police state and $10/gal. gas may be better though. What do you buy Cannabis with when U.S. currency is worthless?

Sat, 04/30/2011 - 2:42am Permalink
Anon (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

"What do you buy Cannabis with when U.S. currency is worthless?"

Don't you think if shit hit the fan and these stupid Federal Reserve notes became just worthless piles of paper, that a bag of cannabis would be valuable enough to trade for something else?  I say start a 'printing press.'

Sat, 04/30/2011 - 9:31am Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

Differences in local laws and perceptions bottleneck the distribution of medical marijuana.  A greater problem is a lack of national guidelines.  A set of procedures and considerations, based on the successful implementation of medical dispensaries in California and elsewhere, could save time and lessen the aggravation for dispensaries, legislators and courts facing many of the same legal distribution dilemmas in their own territories.

Our nation can expect absolutely no help whatsoever from the ONDCP/DEA mafia in setting specific dispensary rules.  Prohibitionists are simply interested in busting people and ripping them off.  They seize dispensary products and take cash whenever some vague opportunity arises that appears framable through some abstract conflict involving state or local law.  There may also be cases where they act out a tribal ritual abuse.  Whichever the case, one thing is clear from the continuing dispensary busts: ‘accommodation’ is not a word that exists in their vocabulary.

That leaves the national guidelines matter to decent citizens and activists.  This situation has benefits.  One benefit is the anti-prohibitionists hold an infinitely superior moral position involving the health and wellbeing of American citizens, and are therefore better qualified to write the law than the typical zombie prohibitionist.


Sat, 04/30/2011 - 12:32pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Giordano (not verified)

You all probably know the feds raided a number of dispensaries in Spokane, WA on Thursday (4/28).  Well it appears they returned EVERYTHING to those dispensaries on Friday (4/29).  Haven't seen any official story on this, someone I know very well heard about it at the local dispensary, he'd arrived at their door just as they were celebrating the news.

Sat, 04/30/2011 - 3:57pm Permalink
darkcycle (not verified)

Washington State's governor isn't vetoing this for Washington State. She's vetoing this for Washington D.C. Gregoire  is angling for an appointment in the Obama Admin's second term. She will do whatever the headman in Washington says 'till after the second term appointments have come down.

I hear the Washington insiders have him the odds on favorite to win that next election, but I'm wondering who they think is gonna vote for him at this point. None of the Dems I know.

Too bad, this was a mostly good bill, I supported most of the provisions. The State registry, which she LEFT IN was the worst part of the entire bill. To deny patients the protection from arrest unless they provide the State with confidential medical records is wrong. When I fill my 'script for morphine sulfate, I don't have to give my medical information to the State and get on a database (which I don't have to add, can be misused) to avoid arrest. My name and my Doctor's name is on the bottle, and for those purposes that's enough.

Sat, 04/30/2011 - 12:53pm Permalink
Anonymous Dog (not verified)

Maybe this would be a good time to start, a peaceful march for the legalization of marijuana, in the fine state of Washington ! No wait ! That would mean the SWAT teams would get some target practice. The good old day's can get you killed these day's not to mention your dog.

Sat, 04/30/2011 - 9:13pm Permalink
gypski (not verified)

And she vetoed reciprocity language allowing nonresidents to use while in Washington because it "would not require these other state or territorial laws to meet the same standards for health care professional authorization required by Washington law."

Does her wackiness mean to imply that doctors in Washington state are more qualified then doctors in neighboring states with medical cannabis laws?  Are not medical standards consistent through out the country, or do some state's allow quackery,? The same quackery we are allowing the governor to attempt to two step and double talk her way out of a bad situation. 

Sign I-1149, help do what neither the governor nor the state and federal legislators will do, legalize for adults.  Then let the chips fall where they truly should lay.

Legalize, not terrorize. 

Sun, 05/01/2011 - 12:55pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

They go on and on about freedom, but where are they when the basic human right to use the best available medicine is being suppressed? They only care about their own freedom, including their freedom to order their fellow citizens around and their freedom to refuse to discuss the subject, and of course their precious, precious freedom to use America's drug, which isn't a drug at all because they say it's not.

Sun, 05/01/2011 - 1:02pm Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

They go on and on about freedom, but where are they when the basic human right to use the best available medicine is being suppressed? They only care about their own freedom, including their freedom to order their fellow citizens around and their freedom to refuse to discuss the subject, and of course their precious, precious freedom to use America's drug, which isn't a drug at all because they say it's not.

Sun, 05/01/2011 - 1:02pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

The warning of Federal arrests charges was a direct aim at the voter ballot initiative set for November this year to Legalize Cannabis. If this is her response to medicinal cannabis, what do you think her response will be to outright legal cannabis? The voters of Washington should begin a recall of this woman. Replace her with someone that has their interest`s in mind and not D.C.`s . She is an obvious follower and not a leader.

Mon, 05/02/2011 - 12:04am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

However, there is nothing she can do about a voter passed initiative.  And there is nothing the legislature may do about a voter passed initiative for two whole years.  By then, there will be no way to put the genie of re-legalized cannabis back into the jar, the truth of freedom and the lack of any serious problems with legal cannabis over those two years will make restoring prohibition impossible.

Mon, 05/02/2011 - 1:58am Permalink
Rural WA (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

Initiatives and referenda are not subject to veto by the Governor in the state of Washington. I-1149's strategy is to only remove state marijuana penalties for adults which means there will be no conflict with federal law and no overlap of state law with federal law so state law enforcement officers can't be used as proxy enforcers of federal marijuana laws through enforcement of state marijuana laws. IMO that is the most effective strategy for a Washington state initiative to repeal marijuana prohibition.

What influence the Governor will exert on the legislature and what the legislature, with its traditional lack of respect for initiatives, will do is a concern. However if the Marijuana Reform Act Initiative passes the legislature is likely to be restrained about undermining an initiative that is so controversial and symbolic a crucially large number of voters may  be "single issue" voters in the 2012 legislative elections if they feel betrayed. That is a benefit of I-1149 being an election "off year" initiative.

That said I-1149 is not set for the ballot yet and complacency is a threat to its qualification. Sensible Washington's website is certainly underreporting the number of signatures gathered so far because petitions aren't being turned in promptly but equally certainly a very large number of signatures still need to be gathered in the remaining eight to nine weeks or so we have until the deadline. I don't know how representative this is but in the 10 days since I last turned in petitions I've filled 20 more petitions and until I have somewhere local to turn them in or June arrives I'm not worrying about turning them in weekly. I'm concentrating on gathering valid signatures and checking out the least expensive options to mail or ship petitions which I suspect will be something like a Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box  (12" by 12" by 5 1/2") filled to capacity. Volunteers don't get paid anything for gathering signatures or reimbursed for expenses. Many of us who are working at gathering large volumes of valid signatures have the time to do this because we are retired, underemployed or unemployed and need to count our pennies.

 Recalling the Governor is unrealistic. See Article I, Sections 33 and 34 of the Washington Constitution ( ) for the requirements. The idea she would be replaced by someone better if she was recalled seems even less realistic to me. Also the attempt would divert effort from I-1149 when the record-breaking rain and cold this year is apparently changing to weather where the ability to gather signatures is extremely better. People aren't very inclined to stand in the rain to sign an initiative and it has not been easy to keep the petitions from getting soaked and ruined when signature gathering outdoors.

Qualifying I-1149 for the ballot is an attainable goal. Work for that now (along with some voter education to prepare for the election). Gather valid signatures. Donate money or any other resources you can to help qualify the initiative. Gather valid signatures. Recruit more businesses that will host the initiative. Gather valid signatures. Seek endorsements if you can. Gather valid signatures. Don't just go for the big events. Integrate signature gathering into your daily life. Keep a petiton board in your car trunk at all times so it will be available whenever you spot an opportunity to gather signatures. Have petitions, voter registrations forms, Voting Rights Restoration pamphlets and spare pens in the trunk along with the petition board. Even two or three signatures a day while out shopping, going to the post office, walking in the park, visiting a Farmers Market, talking to friends and neighbors or whatever will add up to hundreds before the deadline. Add a few events and you can get hundreds more signatures. Don't sit back waiting for other people to do all the work or expect I-1149 to magically qualify itself for the ballot. If you want it, help make it happen. Be a leader. Gather valid signatures and recruit people to help gather signatures. Even people who can or will only gather a few signatures from friends or family but will do that and give it back to you or mail the petition in to Sensible Washington are good to "recruit". Those signatures add up.

Mon, 05/02/2011 - 3:39am Permalink
gypski (not verified)

In reply to by Rural WA (not verified)

Very well put.  I can have initiatives printed for $2.70 for every 5.  Its OOP, an I'm getting more printed.  Just make sure they are 11x17 and printed on both sides.  Let's show our solidarity and make this get on the ballot and end the terrorism over cannabis.  Legalize not terrorize.

Mon, 05/02/2011 - 5:30pm Permalink

It's not surprising that state regulators have never been prosecuted by the feds re their jobs, because there's nothing in federal law that makes their actions illegal!


Not only that, but federal law exempts state & local officers enforcing their own laws on a federally controlled substance from having to register with the federal DEA to manufacture, distribute, or possess that controlled substance.  So it's not just the regulators, but every gov't employee down to police actually handling the goods who are immune from prosecution as long as they're doing their jobs.

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 3:11pm Permalink

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