Last month, medical marijuana supporters were aghast when a legislative work group released its draft recommendation that the state repeal pot-growing rights for the sick and dying, slash possession limits, and force doctors to register cannabis patients in a state database. If enacted by the legislature, such a bill would all but eliminate Washington State's voter-enacted medical cannabis law.
But Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Queen Anne), the state's longest-serving pro-pot elected official, says patients need to speak up before the legislature meets in January, and a hearing the state is holding next week is critical to pushing back. "The liquor control board isn't doing anything by rule," she insists. "They're not coming out with a bill."
Kohl-Welles says she will likely introduce a bill that could explicitly protect the medical marijuana law, allow home growing by patients, and encourage recreational pot stores (the stores allowed by Initiative 502, which passed last year) to sell marijuana grown specifically for medical purposes, such as low-THC, high-CBD varieties. She says that her bill, which she expects can pass, will likely include language to "tighten up" regulations on health-care professionals who authorize medical cannabis—an issue many elected officials consider a loosey-goosey problem within the current medical marijuana industry.
It may also include a voluntary registry for patients who want to avoid the steep taxes on recreational cannabis. This could allay concerns that medical pot producers will unfairly compete with the new recreational system by selling untaxed, unregulated pot.
Kohl-Welles hopes to appease many factions in the often-divided medical cannabis community. Preparing people for the state hearing next week, she says, "It doesn't help to just hurl insults. It's helpful for people to provide constructive feedback."
More than 400 people are expected to pack a public hearing on the proposal to gut the medical marijuana law. It is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. at Worthington Center, 5300 Pacific Avenue in Olympia.