Republican Sen. Ann Rivers and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles offered competing pot plans. Today, Rivers passed the state senate.
Republican senator Ann Rivers and Democratic senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles offered competing pot plans. Today, Rivers's passed the state senate.

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The Republican-controlled Washington State Senate has passed a Republican-sponsored bill to combine the medical and recreational marijuana markets. It would also require medical cannabis users to enter their names into a registry; allow patients to grow up to six plants at home (they're currently allowed 15); and allow cooperative grows of up to four people if they are at least 15 miles from a retail store and everyone participating is in the registry.

“Let’s not forget what’s at stake here for public safety,” said the sponsor of the bill, Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center), in a statement. “Right now in Washington we have thousands of dispensaries operating with no oversight. This bill is a reasonable approach to ensure patients are protected and have access to the best and safest cannabis products available.”

But this is a bill that was opposed by patient advocates, Alison Holcomb, who authored our state's recreational marijuana law, and Seattle senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who offered a competing bill earlier in the session but wasn't given a hearing until today.

I wrote more about both of those plans here, and about the problems with a patient registry here. As the Daily Beast reported this month, other than Republicans, Rivers's bill is supported by a small group of marijuana entrepreneurs bankrolled by a former Microsoft executive.

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Kohl-Welles suggested amendments to the Rivers bill to allow cooperatives closer to retail stores, add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use, and replace the registry with her idea to give patients Department of Health waivers to allow them to buy pot tax-free. But her amendments were all rejected.

"With the passage of this legislation, all patients have to look forward to is a bureaucratic, invasive, and complex patient registry system," Kohl-Welles said in a statement.

The bill will now move on to the house, where Democrats have the upper hand but are mired in a mess of their own pot bills.

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