A legislative proposal that that would all but repeal our voter-approved medical cannabis law cleared the Senate Health Care committee today. HB 2149 would:
- Drastically reduce the amount of medical cannabis that patients may possess and grow,
- Repeal their right to grow together in small groups,
- Create a mandatory government registry for pot patients, and
- Repeal all three "affirmative defenses" in the medical pot law that patients may raise if they are prosecuted.
This dreadful bill was originally scheduled for a public hearing, but that was canceled Wednesday, leading many medical cannabis advocates to breathe a sigh of relief. This morning's executive action on the bill was unannounced, involved no discussion, occurred 86 minutes into the meeting and took thirty seconds. See it here:
Now HB 2149 heads to the Senate Ways and Means committee. If it clears that hurdle, it will move to Senate Rules where it can be called to the Senate floor. In short, this thing is inching ever closer to the governor's waiting pen. Shit is getting real, pot people.
I received some criticism for calling out the ACLU of Washington as giving their blessing to this travesty written by Seattle democrats. The ACLU says they aren't behind this bill and have taken no position on it. But that's weak rhetoric. The 800-pound gorilla of cannabis legalization can't remain neutral on a bill that seeks to gut the medical cannabis law in order to make the recreational pot law they spearheaded more palatable to the federal government.
Last year when The Stranger obtained records showing state regulators would recommend repealing most of our medical cannabis law, the ACLU vowed to steadfastly defend 1) the right of patients to home grow their own pot, and 2) the statutory affirmative defense that prosecuted patients may raise at trial.
"The ACLU opposes elimination of home growing and the affirmative defense," said ACLU Criminal Justice Director and I-502 sponsor Alison Holcomb.
In restricting patient grows from 15 to 3 blooming plants, I will accept that the bill "protects" patient home growing rights—sort of. But it's a hard sell to suggest this bill protects the affirmative defense, because it completely repeals all three affirmative defenses written into the medical marijuana law.
The ACLU says those patient legal defenses can be replaced by mandatory registration in a government database for patients who want protection from arrest and prosecution. And for those unwilling to register, the state Supreme Court recently ruled in State v. Kurtz that patients may raise a "common law" medical marijuana defense, and that option will remain.
But none of that protects the statutory affirmative defense, which is how most patients defend against pot charges at trial. Plus, not to rain on the common law defense parade, but despite his Supreme Court victory, defendant William Kurtz is being retried by the Thurston County Prosecutor. Feel free to ask Kurtz about the convenience of the common law defense.
This is no time to repeal legal defenses for prosecuted patients, regardless of veiled threats from the federal government over the "untenable" medical cannabis system in Washington State. It is not the time to throw out the rights of pot-growing patients because short-sighted Seattle democrats think they can soothe our saber-rattling U.S. Attorneys.
Contact the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000 and ask your state senator to oppose HB 2149. You can also contact Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Andy Hill at email@example.com. Tell him a taxpayer-funded registry for cannabis patients is a waste of our limited resources.