Gregoire vetoes most of pot bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday officially rejected the Legislature’s proposal  to license medical-marijuana dispensaries, arguing that assigning state  employees that kind of regulation would open the workers up to federal  prosecution.  Few parts of the measure survived her veto pen. One major casualty: proposed  arrest protections for patients who join a state registry, something Gregoire  and even law enforcement groups support. The governor said the parts of the bill  she liked were too intertwined with the parts that worried her.  “I will not subject my state employees to federal prosecution, period,” she  said.  Gregoire heeded advice from the largest state-employee union and from U.S.  Attorneys Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby, who warned that the federal  government could go after state employees under the bill. Civil liberties  advocates called for Gregoire to ignore what they said were empty threats.

Such crackdowns haven’t happened in other states with liberal marijuana laws,  advocates said. But Gregoire said the statements by federal prosecutors in  Washington and other states show the winds are changing. The veto came a day  after federal raids on dispensaries in Spokane.  Voters in 1998 approved marijuana for medicinal purposes, but they didn’t say  explicitly that dispensaries are legal or illegal. Local governments have taken  different approaches.  Tacoma had left them alone until recent months, when the city ordered  dispensaries to close – but put appeals on hold until the Legislature could  clarify the law.  That clarification looks like it’s not coming unless lawmakers revive the  issue in their ongoing 30-day special session. Seattle Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles,  the main proponent of the changes, said she’s optimistic that can happen even  though she acknowledged time constraints would make it difficult.

It was “a little too early” Friday for Tacoma officials to know what happens  next following the partial veto, city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said.  The city had been scheduled to hold an informational meeting by phone next  week for the dispensaries’ attorneys, McNair-Huff said. He said at least 42  dispensaries have received letters.  One of them, Green Health, has operated since June at Fourth and Tacoma  avenues.  “If the city decides to take action against us,” manager Jordan Baker said, “they’ll have to deal with some pretty dramatic court battles, and they’ll have  to face a lot of patients that have no desire to be threatened by going back  onto the black market for their medicine.”  Ezra Eickmeyer, lobbyist for the Washington Canna-bis Association, said the  industry group and its members have been preparing for several years of  city-by-city “political trench warfare” in the event Olympia failed to act.

Gregoire took care to say that her veto “takes away absolutely nothing from  what that voter-passed initiative did.”  But at least one part of Senate Bill 5073 that survived to make it into law  could undercut dispensaries’ legal position.  The businesses have argued the voter initiative effectively authorizes them  by creating a category of “designated providers” to provide marijuana to  patients who can’t grow their own. It limits providers to handing out marijuana  to “only one patient at any one time,” but dispensaries argue they can take a  new patient as soon as the previous one is out the door.  The new law appears to require a 15-day period between serving patients.

To avoid losing protections, the industry wanted all or nothing. Gregoire  gave them neither.  “That was our greatest fear,” Eickmeyer said after the governor’s veto, “and  she just did it.”  Among the other parts that survived to become law is authorization for up to  10 patients to pool together to grow a collective marijuana gardens containing  up to 45 plants that yield up to 72 ounces of pot.  Gregoire threw advocates a bone with a promise to work with other states to  persuade the federal government to downgrade marijuana to a legal category that  would allow it to be prescribed by doctors and obtained at pharmacies.
via : The News Tribune

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