Washington: House Approves Bill To Gut Medical Marijuana Law


"Right now, you're taking everything away from them" ~ Rep. Cary Condotta

By Steve Elliott

Each time lawmakers scheduled and considered House Bill 2149 during the daytime, medical marijuana patients crowded the hearing rooms, protesting the changes they said would destroy safe access in the state. So the Washington state House waited until just before midnight Monday night to approve a measure gutting the state's medical cannabis law, claiming the move is necessary to "bring it into line" with the still-unimplemented legal recreational marijuana market created by Initiative 502.

HB 2149 passed shortly before midnight Monday on a 67-29 vote, reports Rachel La Corte at TDN.com. It now goes to the Washington Senate, which is already considering similar measures on how to "reconcile" the two marijuana systems, medical and recreational, which, ironically, voters were told would remain separate.

Changes under the bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody, include reducing the amount of marijuana patients can possess from 24 ounces to just 3 ounces; reducing the amount of plants patients can grow from 15 to just six plants, three of which may be flowering; entirely doing away with collective gardens, effectively eliminating dispensary access; and establishing a patient registry.

Rep. Cody claimed lawmakers are trying to "align" the systems, "but continue to make sure our legitimate medical marijuana patients have access."

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

Washington voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis back in 1998. But the passage of recreational legalization measure I-502 in 2012, which allowed the sale of marijuana to adults at state-licensed stores which are expected to open this summer, has left patients feeling very vulnerable when it comes to patient access.

Lawmakers have claimed the medical marijuana system would "undercut" the highly taxed recreational cannabis industry. Medical marijuana patients have crowded public hearings on the issue in both the Senate and the House in recent weeks, protesting the potential changes brought by Cody's bill. Derisively termed "the yellers and smellers" by sneering members of the Legislature, the patients' input was largely ignored.

Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee) said HB 2149 is premature, because the recreational marijuana system of I-502 isn't yet even up and running. He said that the impact on medical marijuana patients should be looked at more closely.

"Right now, you're taking everything away from them -- you can't give it back," Rep. Condotta said during the floor debate. "I'm a little concerned we're moving a little too quickly without a program to integrate."

After Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's recent ruling that local municipalities can ban marijuana stores in their jurisdictions, claims by the Liquor Control Board and other I-502 proponents that patients can rely on the recreational system of cannabis distribution are looking more and more unlikely. Large portions of the state are likely to be entirely without cannabis stores under I-502, including Native American lands. The Yakama tribe, for instance, has said cannabis will be banned on all of its tribal lands.

The Liquor Control Board in December gave its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it thinks the medical marijuana system should be "brought into compliance" with I-502. Cody's bill incorporates most of those recommendations.

According to activist Don Skakie of Real Legalization Washington, these are the legislators who voted Yes on HB 2149:

Representative Appleton, Bergquist, Buys, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Dunshee, Fagan, Farrell, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Freeman, Goodman, Green, Gregerson, Habib, Haigh, Hansen, Hargrove, Harris, Hayes, Hope, Hudgins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kirby, Klippert, Kochmar, Lytton, Moeller, Morrell, Morris, Moscoso, Nealey, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pettigrew, Riccelli, Roberts, Robinson, Rodne, Ross, Ryu, Santos, Sawyer, Schmick, Seaquist, Sells, Senn, Smith, Springer, Stanford, Stonier, Sullivan, Takko, Tarleton, Tharinger, Van De Wege, Walkinshaw, Warnick, Wylie, Mr. Speaker

These lawmakers voted No:

Representative Blake, Chandler, Christian, Condotta, Haler, Hawkins, Holy, G. Hunt, Kretz, Kristiansen, MacEwen, Magendanz, Manweller, Muri, Orcutt, Overstreet, Parker, Pike, Pollet, Reykdal, Scott, Shea, Short, Taylor, Vick, Walsh, Wilcox, Young, Zeiger

Excused: Representative Dahlquist, DeBolt

"Please contact the representatives who voted No and thank them for their support of patient rights in this state," Skakie said. "Special thanks to Reps. Condotta, Manweller and Short and all the other Republicans voting against this bill for showing leadership on this issue even though not all your party voted for patients' rights.

"Also, special thanks to the three Democrats that voted against their Democratic leadership on this issue: Reps. Blake, Pollet and Reykdal," Skakie said. "That took courage, and we will remember it when it comes time for re-elections."

According to Skakie, it's now time for Washington patients and supporters to contact their state Senators and tell them to kill 2159: