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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Today Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, introduced new legislation to provide clarity and a stronger legal framework to Washington’s existing medical marijuana laws.

    Senate Bill 5073 and House Bill 1100 would establish a regulatory system for the sale and purchase of medical marijuana for qualifying patients.

    Under the new bill, the Department of Agriculture would develop regulations through a public rule-making process for growing medical marijuana. And, patients would be permitted to purchase medical marijuana products from dispensers licensed by the Department of Health or by taking part in a regulated patient collective.

    “There is much ambiguity around our state’s current medical marijuana laws that is resulting in inconsistent enforcement throughout the state,” Kohl-Welles said. “Creating a statutory and regulatory structure for licensing growers and dispensaries will allow us to provide for an adequate, safe, consistent, and secure source of the medicine for qualifying patients, address public safety concerns and establish statewide uniformity in the implementation of the law.” Input from patients, providers, advocates, health professionals, government officials, legislators, law enforcement representatives and others has helped shape the changes included in the bill.

    Patients would be exempt from paying sales tax on medical marijuana products, but dispensaries and producers would be required to pay the state Business & Occupation tax. The legislation would protect legally compliant patients and growers from arrest, search, and prosecution for the use of medical cannabis. Law enforcement would also be required to consult a voluntary registry of patients before conducting warrantless searches or arrests. Registered patients would be protected against search and seizure unless existing evidence indicated criminal activity was being committed.

    Other provisions include protecting parental rights of medical marijuana patients and protections against the workplace discrimination of patients.

    Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, chair of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, applauds the intent and effort to correct the problems patients who use medical cannabis encounter. Keiser says she will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation next Thursday, January 20th at 1:30pm in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg Building.

    “Unfortunately, law abiding users who depend upon medical cannabis are often subject to discrimination,” Keiser said. “This bill works to remedy that situation while creating a strong legal framework to ensure public safety alongside improved service for medical users.”

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011
    By: The State Column



  1. Killa Weigha
    That line is a crock of shit. This will increase the price to equal to or higher than street prices, sadly. Taxes MUST be passed on to the patients in the form of higher prices. As a non-profit (sales=expenses) organization in compliance they must recoup ALL costs or lose money by definition. It's not all butterflies and rainbows as they would have you think. It might end up to be a good deal but it's certainly not guaranteed.
  2. CaptainTripps
    Legislature looks at changes to Washingtons medical marijuana law.

    State debates big changes to medical pot system
    Some state lawmakers are proposing major changes to Washington's voter-approved medical-marijuana system.

    OLYMPIA — A dozen years after voters approved Washington's medical-marijuana system, state lawmakers are debating major changes that would give patients greater protection from arrest and bring the supply chain out of a legal gray area.

    Patients and advocates packed Thursday's meeting of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, which was discussing a bill proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

    With a nod to federal policies that are now more tolerant of state medical-marijuana laws, Kohl-Welles' bill would make sweeping changes while attempting to keep the supply chain from resembling the more wide-open markets seen in California.

    "We don't want the big billboards. We don't want the neon lights in dispensaries," Kohl-Welles said.
    A major element of her bill would give patients protection from criminal arrest. Current law offers less protection, giving authorized medical-marijuana patients the ability to offer a defense in court if they're charged with possession.

    Patients and doctors could enter information into a voluntary, secure database that law enforcement could access to check someone's authorization.

    The bill also would address a conundrum in Washington's system: It's technically legal for a patient to possess pot, but the proper ways of getting the drug can be unclear.

    Current state law does not allow for marijuana sales, instead saying that patients must grow marijuana themselves or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. But growing marijuana can be expensive and difficult, particularly for very ill people.

    That has prompted many patients to form groups that grow pot collectively, contributing dues to help cover costs. In the Seattle area, some collectives also have distribution sites — called dispensaries — that serve thousands of members.

    Current state law is silent on such collectives, and prosecutors around the state have taken differing views of whether they're permissible. The state Health Department maintains they're not. At the same time, the state Revenue Department began seeking sales-tax revenue last month from dispensaries around the state.

    Kohl-Welles' bill would make medical-marijuana supplies vastly more mainstream, calling on various state agencies to license producers, processors and sellers.

    Dispensaries would have to be operated as nonprofits, and patients would not be subject to sales tax. Producers and processors, however, would have to pay the state's business-and-occupation tax under the bill. Collective gardens would be allowed, with restrictions.

    Supporters of the bill offered personal stories of their experience with medical marijuana and the hassles they sometimes face in the current system. Tacoma Deputy Mayor Lauren Walker said her husband, Baptist minister Marcus Walker, has found great relief while battling melanoma.
    "Picture this: Local minister and deputy mayor arrested for having marijuana in their possession," she told the committee. "I don't want to go there."

    It was unclear Thursday whether there was major organized opposition to the measure, or what its chances were of becoming law in some form as lawmakers prepare to work on a major budget deficit.

    Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said she hoped any concerns from law enforcement would be addressed in the bill. Parlette offered recommendations from a sheriff in her district, including the idea that authorized patients register with local sheriffs and submit to inspections to ensure the law is being followed.

    "If somebody legally is permitted to possess medical marijuana, then in my opinion, I don't know why they would object to all of these verifications," said Parlette, a pharmacist by trade. "Law enforcement needs to know who legally has the permission."

    In a letter to the legislative committee, Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes said he applauded removing medical marijuana from being "suspended in this legal gray area," although he proposed applying sales tax to medical-marijuana sales.

    "Washington's current system ... is neither clear nor comprehensive, and too often leaves patients, providers, producers, police and prosecutors in the dark about what is allowed and what is not," Holmes wrote.

    By Curt Woodward
    The Associated Press

    Seattle Times staff reporter Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.


    captaintripps added 56 Minutes and 53 Seconds later...

    Washington struggles with use of medical marijuana

    Despite more than a decade of experience with marijuana as medicine, Washington's relationship with cannabis and the community seeking to expand its use remains a troubled one.

    When Elliott Cain lived in California, staff at a marijuana dispensary there recommended a mild brand of marijuana that they said was effective at treating anxiety.

    Cain, who had a doctor's authorization to use marijuana as medicine, found it did just that, tamping down his anxiety without zonking him out.
    But when he moved to Washington, medical marijuana was no longer an option. The only legal drugs he could access were prescription medicines that interfered with his sleep.

    Cain wanted to know why it is legal to use medical marijuana to treat anxiety in California, but not OK in Washington where patients with other conditions such as cancer and HIV have had legal access to pot for more than a decade.

    Cain posed his question to a special state panel that evaluates requests to add medical conditions to the list of those that can be treated with marijuana. The panel's answer: There is no rigorous scientific evidence that marijuana is effective in treating anxiety.

    But the answer also has as much to do with politics as science. Despite more than a decade of experience with marijuana as medicine, Washington's relationship with cannabis and the community seeking to expand its use remains a troubled one.

    For years, patients have complained that ambiguities in the state's 1998 medical- marijuana law have made obtaining and possessing cannabis difficult, even scary. And while at least one state lawmaker is proposing to make it easier and safer for patients to obtain cannabis, no one has yet proposed a better way for the state board to decide which illnesses can legally be treated with marijuana.

    In California, doctors can recommend pot for any debilitating illness for which it provides relief. Other states, including Washington, allow marijuana to be used as medicine only for specific medical conditions. Those conditions typically include diseases such as cancer and HIV, and other "terminal or debilitating" illnesses.

    The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission has added only four medical conditions since 1999. To be added, new conditions must be approved by that board in consultation with the state's Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery.

    For that to happen, someone has to petition the commission to add a specific condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Members from each board schedule a joint hearing, review scientific literature, invite expert testimony, and take public testimony. A condition can be added only if a majority of the medical commission approve.

    On paper, the process is a model of objectivity. But in reality, the board's decisions are as political as they are scientific, a symptom of the lack of clinical studies involving pot. Even some of the people who serve on the medical-marijuana panel are exasperated with the process.

    "It should be done in a different manner," said Dr. Catherine Hunter, a Covington gynecologist who served on two panels that evaluated two medical-marijuana petitions despite what she said was her lack of expertise on the subject. "Medical decisions shouldn't be made in a political arena," she said.

    The boards' main responsibility is to establish and enforce licensing qualifications and police medical professionals.

    Donn Moyer, spokesman for the state Department of Health under which both boards operate, said board members generally feel they lack the expertise to evaluate claims of efficacy, and because they're making recommendations on a drug that is still illegal in America.

    "It appears to me they're uncomfortable in the role of deciding whether someone should have an illegal drug," he said. "It's an awkward place for people to be."

    Most of the evidence presented to the panel members comes in the form of anecdotes from patients or family members who say it helps them or their loved ones lead more normal, productive lives. Panel members have decried the lack of rigorous studies, even as they recognize that the drug's illegal status has made it difficult to conduct the type of clinical trials that would provide more conclusive evidence of efficacy.

    Without a large body of evidence, authorities in the 15 states and the District of Columbia that have approved medical marijuana tend to hew to a conservative line, lest they open the doors to more widespread use, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

    "It's intellectual dishonesty," St. Pierre said. "Their fear is of having these catchall diseases where so many people would potentially qualify. They've winnowed it down to fairly specific ones, and are rue to see the types of disease types where anyone can make the claim." They tend to steer away from issues involving pain and mental health.

    People hoping to gain legal access to cannabis by expanding the list of conditions in Washington state are in for an uphill climb against a medical establishment that has yet to embrace the concept of pot as medicine.
    The executive director of the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association, for example, lodged objections to a patient's request to add depression, social phobia and bipolar disorder to the list of approved conditions in November 2009.

    The director, quoting a psychiatrist, wrote in an e-mail to the board that the request was "just a ploy for marijuana addicts to use more marijuana."
    Dr. George Heye, a medical consultant for the state Health Department, said the prevalence of depression and anxiety, and the availability of other effective treatments definitely comes into play when the commission makes decisions.

    "The law requires hearings, and you have to make decisions on your best judgment: Is it safe or too risky?" Heye explained. "Depression is very common, and it is a backdoor way of thinking it would be legalized. But the whole issue of legalization is not part of the discussion."
    Heye said most decisions come down to competing opinions, and the opinions of medical people tend to carry greater weight because they represent a broader patient experience.

    "I guess it depends on what the expert says, what other people in the panel happen to know or what they heard from people in the audience or people offering testimony at the hearing," said Heye.
    Heye acknowledged problems with the process, calling it "piecemeal." But, he said, "The law was written, and we have to live with it. "

    Although the hearing process seems open-ended on paper, in practice it can seem more like theater where the outcome has all but been decided.
    For example, when the board held a hearing to consider depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder in December 2009, they invited as their only expert witness Dr. Andrew Saxon, a well-regarded psychiatrist whose experience consists largely of treating and studying people with addictions.

    Saxon serves as director of the Addictions Treatment Center at VA Puget Sound Health Care System and of the University of Washington's addiction psychiatry residency program.
    Saxon was recommended to the commission by Dr. Mick Oreskovich, who at the time ran a rehabilitation program for physicians and who expressed a dim view of the proponents in an e-mail to the commission. He wrote, "I find the attitude of those who propose the expanding use of marijuana to treat an increasing number of disorders to be cavalier, irresponsible and dangerous."

    Saxon was of like mind. When the commission asked him to serve as its expert at the hearing to add depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety to the list, he replied in an e-mail that he thought adding those conditions was "a horribly bad idea."

    In his testimony before the commission, he said there was no evidence that marijuana was effective in treating those mental conditions, and some evidence that it could be harmful. He suggested that the patients who told the commission that marijuana improved their lives could be drug addicts.

    In an e-mail to Heye after the hearing, Saxon wrote, "I have no idea, of course, what the people who testified looked like, but their descriptions of their own lives did not make a good advertisement for the use of marijuana to treat mental illness. In fact, it was rather heartbreaking, and their plight made it very difficult for me emotionally to play the villain."

    Saxon reiterated that view in an interview Wednesday, saying, "I really don't believe the state should be supporting the idea that marijuana is helpful for those conditions where there is no evidence."

    Saxon said his clinical experience treating people with addictions, and the informal review he did of scientific literature made him an appropriate person to serve as expert witness at the hearing. He said he was gratified that the commission's decision to deny marijuana as a treatment for those conditions mirrored his own views.

    It was the second time the commission rejected bipolar disorder and anxiety and the third time since 2000 that it voted against adding depression to the list. "I don't know what the best process is," Saxon said. "I can understand why the population wants to get its concerns addressed, but at some point, the state has to have the authority to make responsible decisions. It's a matter of philosophy where you want to draw that line."

    By Susan Kelleher

    Seattle Times staff reporter

    Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com

  3. talltom
    Re: Legislature looks at changes to Washingtons medical marijuana law.

    Medical pot bill gets Washington state Senate hearing

    The Legislature on Thursday began debate on one of the most high-profile measures it will consider this session, a bill giving greater legal protection to medical marijuana users.

    Retired police officers and city politicians - some with direct experience of a loved one suffering from cancer - testified in favor. Senate Bill 5073 is sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

    "I believe this bill is really important to the people of Washington state," Kohl-Welles said during a hearing of the Senate Health Committee. "Pain and suffering are not partisan issues. They transcend political party."

    She said her best friend died of cancer when she was 50 and her sister-in-law died from the disease when she was 33. Both were advised by their doctors to use marijuana to make it easier to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. "They tried it and it worked...they had some comfort at the end of their work," Kohl-Welles said.

    The bill would provide patients and providers who qualify with "arrest protection" if they don't have more than 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of marijuana (the current legal limit), have documentation showing that they qualify to use medical marijuana and that providers aren't using their product themselves. Click here for more.

    Chrism Girygiel
    Seattle Blog
    January 20, 2011

  4. CaptainTripps
    Proposed law a sensible approach to medical marijuana
    The Seattle Times editorial board supports the Medical Use of Cannabis Act, sponsored by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

    THE Medical Use of Cannabis Act, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, deserves support in the Legislature.

    Washington was one of the early states to allow the use of the cannabis plant, including smokable marijuana, as treatment for pain, the side effects of chemotherapy and certain other medical conditions. The people voted for the law in 1998 by near-landslide margins. This page supported medical cannabis then and still does.

    However, current law provides no protection from arrest and prosecution. It provides only a defense once a user has been put on trial. The result has been that in some places the police mostly leave medical users alone, and in others they treat them like criminals.

    Senate Bill 5073 offers arrest protection. It sets up a registry of medical users. Before making a marijuana-related arrest, police must check if the suspects are registered users. If they are, they cannot be arrested or have their property searched unless there is evidence of an actual crime under state law.

    The bill sets up state licensing of growers, processors and dispensers. It gives the Department of Agriculture authority over growers and processors, and to establish standards for quality, packaging, labeling, record-keeping and inspections. The Department of Health is given authority over distributors, including security and record-keeping. Dispensers would pay business taxes but not charge sales tax.

    The bill includes some limits. For example, it does not allow cannabis to be used in public, or on the job, or to be advertised on television, radio or billboards.

    The bill has been written carefully, with 12 years of experience behind it, and generally this page supports it. One section is troubling. In most cases, the bill protects medical users from being fired for off-the-job use, which is the same protection the law gives employees who use prescription drugs. However the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that a similar law there was invalid, because it conflicted with federal law. That section may have to be removed.

    The Legislature needs to move carefully. But the goal — to get the legitimate growers, processors and distributors into the open, so that the industry pays taxes and is not run by criminals — is well worth pursuing

    Originally published January 24, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Page modified January 25, 2011 at 9:46 AM http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorialsopinion/2014027471_edit25cannabis.html

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