Naturopaths, advanced registered nurse practitioners, and physician assistants will soon be added to the list of medical professionals who can legally authorize the use of medical marijuana in Washington state, if a bill passed by the state house yesterday is signed into law by the governor. A slightly different version of the bill passed in the state senate last month—with tweaks that must be reconciled in committee—but the measure looks likely to become law.

Advocates say that the bill, sponsored by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), will help get marijuana authorizations to more people who need the drug, including those with intractable pain, HIV, and cancer. In legislative hearings, proponents said measure would benefit rural patients, who have a hard time seeing a doctor, and poor patients that tend to use large medical clinics, who often see an ARNP instead of a physician. Advocates also said naturpaths had adequate medical training to recommend medical marijuana.

The state's medical marijuana law passed by voters in 1998 contained major flaws. Among them: no protection for arrest of patients with a doctor's authorization, only a defense in court; no provision for cooperative growing; and no mechanism to obtain medical marijuana for the people too sick to grow it themselves. The legislature has yet to rectify those problems.