Washington House Overwhelmingly Approves Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

A Greener TodayA Greener TodayLast night the Washington House of Representatives approved a bill that would abolish medical marijuana dispensaries, a.k.a. "collective gardens," and impose new restrictions on patients who use cannabis for symptom relief. H.B. 2149, which passed by a vote of 67 to 29, would thereby eliminate some of the unregulated competition for the state-licensed pot stores that are expected to start opening this summer under I-502, the legalization initiative that Washington voters approved in November 2012. Supporters of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), hope that banning dispensaries will help maximize tax revenue and mollify the feds.

The bill requires patients to buy their cannabis from the same stores that serve recreational customers, which would be the only legal sellers of medical marijuana as of May 1, 2015, when the provision allowing collective gardens would be repealed. Patients could continue to grow marijuana for their own use, but the maximum number of plants would be reduced from 15 to six (three of them flowering). The ceiling on possession by patients would be cut from 24 ounces to three. The bill instructs the state Department of Health, together with the Washington State Liquor Control Board (which is charged with regulating marijuana growers, processors, and retailers), to produce a report by November 15, 2019, on the question of whether it is appropriate to continue allowing home cultivation. 

Cody's legislation would create a "patient recognition" system that would allow cardholders to buy up to three ounces at a time (as opposed to one ounce for recreational customers), avoid paying sales taxes (a privilege addressed in a separate bill), and claim immunity from arrest for possession or cultivation within the limits set by law. Currently there is no central record of qualified patients. Patients with doctor's recommendations have an affirmative defense against marijuana charges, meaning they can still be arrested, although not convicted. H.B. 2149 would eliminate that affirmative defense, effectively requiring qualified patients to register with the state if they want to be recognized as such.

"I think that we can satisfy some of the patients," Cody said after the vote. "I don't think that all of the medical marijuana community will be happy."

That might be an understatement. "Our cowardly legislators voted to effectively end medical cannabis here," says Steve Sarich, executive director of the Cannabis Action Coalition, who opposed I-502 partly because of the impact he expected it to have on medical consumers. "Patients are in shock.... If the Senate votes to pass this bill, Washington will be the first state to end medical cannabis." All but three of the 29 votes against Cody's bill came from Republicans. "The Democrats, who supported I-502, were behind this, along with the governor," Sarich says. "Who would have thought it would be the Republicans trying to protect the rights of patients?"

The bill now goes to the state Senate, which is considering several measures that address medical marijuana. The 2014 legislative session ends on March 13. 

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  • Jordan||

    All but three of the 29 votes against Cody's bill came from Republicans. "The Democrats, who supported I-502, were behind this, along with the governor,"

    You really didn't think the Dems give a shit about the little guy, did you? Increasing tax revenue and increasing government power are the only things the care about. Get in the way of either of those goals, and they will squash you without a second thought.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The GOP opposition is a very silvery lining to this otherwise abysmal vote.

  • Originaldukes||

    What kills me is this was a hard fought for law...and the "liquor board", who was thrown out by the people, now wants to throw out laws they have no idea about. They all need to be tossed on their asses for overstepping a law that WE THE PEOPLE voted for. WHO EXACTLY IS THE LIQUOR BOARD...10 PEOPLE WHO ARE DESPERATELY CLINGING FOR DEAR LIFE TO THEIR SHADY OVERPAID JOBS?

  • XM||

    There's a brand of pot called "night terror" and "power nap?"

  • SIV||

    "Night terror" sounds more fun.

  • dinkster||

    I've experienced night terrier.

  • Sigivald||

    "Our cowardly legislators voted to effectively end medical cannabis here," says Steve Sarich

    Who cares about "medical cannabis" when there's "just plain legal cannabis"?

    What's the point of a separate "medical" program whose entire point was to skirt prohibition when you can just buy the stuff retail?

    I'd rather see dope completely legal and without the regulatory crap WA put on it, but I don't care about the medical-pot special interest group complaining that they're not special anymore.

    (And what "rights of patients" does he think are under attack? I ain't seeing anything mentioned. It's obviously not "the right to acquire and use marijuana", since they not only get to do that, but get out of sales tax everyone else has to pay.

    Yes, a new 3 ounce cap on possession... but, again, the old one made sense in the context of prohibition, where supplies might be erratic or difficult.

    I'd have a lot more sympathy if he was pushing for everyone to have these "rights", not just approved "patients".)

  • Originaldukes||

    Cost. Plain and simple. You just DOUBLED the price of deathly ill patients medicine. Not to mention, people like to know what is used in the process, most prefer organic. These "commercial" pot houses are going to use harsh pesticides, chemical nutrients, and grow the strains that are highest producing...not highest cannabidiols. Please educate yourself before you lip off about a subject you obviously know NOTHING about. This is TRULY damaging to REAL patients. They will have to go back to gorilla growing because of ignorance like this.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sounds liek some pretty serious business dude. I like it.

    www.Anon-Works.com

  • Paul.||

    That might be an understatement. "Our cowardly legislators voted to effectively end medical cannabis here," says Steve Sarich, executive director of the Cannabis Action Network, who opposed I-502 partly because of the impact he expected it to have on medical consumers. "Patients are in shock.... If the Senate votes to pass this bill, Washington will be the first state to end medical cannabis."

    This dude was a rent-seeker, plain and simple. I see no evidence that simply making pot legal for over-the-counter use, like beer, or wine, or whiskey reduces patients' access to their 'medicine'. Sarich was simply trying to hold onto market segment that received special dispensation because previously, marijuana for recreational use was illegal.

  • Originaldukes||

    You cant possibly see why...because you can't possibly understand anything about what is happening here. Gregoire fought hard to give patients access to AFFORDABLE medicine...these "pot shops" are going to charge patients $50 an eighth!!! that's double what they pay now, without the tax! People like me knew exactly what this was about...the GOVERNMENT getting their greedy claws on the MONEY...because that's what GOVERNMENT does. They could care less about patients. Not to mention, they put such little thought to this process they passed that they skipped Botany 101, and passed a law that says you can only have three plants in flower at a time...if you grow outdoors, you CANNOT only flower three plants at a time in the Pacific Northwest! there is no switch on the sun geniuses...you only have one grow season! DOH!!!!

  • Originaldukes||

    Sooooo...did any of these legislators take botany in school? You cannot possibly only have three plants in flower stage, if you grow outdoors.There is no "switch" on the sun. DOH!

  • Originaldukes||

    LET THE GORILLA GROWING BEGIN AGAIN!!! This state is so screwed up...you just drove people back to illegal growing. IGNORANCE...sheer ignorance.

  • Waterfall67b||

    If a substance is taken by informed adults for non-medical or recreational purposes, the medical side effects are irrelevant.

    Anyone should be allowed to grow marijuana even as anyone is allowed to brew beer, ferment wine, and go snow skiing.

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