Washington: Medical Marijuana Referendum 76 Won't Be On Ballot
By Steve Elliott
Voters won't get the chance this fall to have their say on whether the Washington should keep changes made by the Legislature this spring to the state's medical marijuana laws.
Organizers of a petition drive to place a referendum on November's ballot reported they won't be turning in signatures by the deadline this week.
"I regret to report that the Referendum 76 effort has fallen short of the number of signatures gathered to qualify for the November ballot," organizer Don Skakie posted on the R76 NO Facebook page on Tuesday. "This was made known to the Elections Office yesterday afternoon and has appeared in the press already.
"While things are bad for patients, the struggle continues," Skakie said. "Please support Real Legalization through Initiative 739 for home growing, collecting signatures through December 31, 2015."
The secretary of state's office on Monday confirmed that the referendum had fallen short, reports Jim Camden at The Spokesman-Review.
R-76 would have challenged changes in Washington's medical marijuana law, putting medicinal cannabis under the regulation of the Liquor Control Board, currently in charge of recreational marijuana industry.
Medical marijuana dispensaries and growers will have to be licensed; the Catch-22 is that no licenses are currently available, and the path to legality for the shops is murky at best.
The new law, SB 5052, also sets up a registry system for patients (who will be allowd to grow six plants, if registered, but only four if not) and imposes a tax system on medical cannabis similar to the recreational marijuana system.
Patients opposed the new rules at numerous hearings during the 2015 legislative session, saying they won't have access to the strains of cannabis that control or relieve their medical conditions, and that they will be unable to afford the heavily taxed, highly priced medical marijuana available in recreational "502 stores."
A quick visit to Kush Mart in Everett, followed by a corresponding visit to a medical marijuana dispensary down the street, more than confirmed these concerns. Cannabis infused edibles at Kush Mart ran $60 for 60 grams of THC (divided, due to onerous state rules, into ten ridiculously small 10-milligram "portions"), while a brownie at the dispensary cost just $10 and had 250 milligrams of THC. Even wealthy patients could spend themselves into the poorhouse at $1 a milligram.
A group of patient advocates calling itself the Medical Cannabis Patients Political Action Committee on Monday announced it would work to "improve the present laws for the benefit of patients." A separate activist group, Sensible Washington, said it will try to overturn the new law through court challenges; it is raising money on the Internet to help cover legal costs.