In a move chided by most medical marijuana patients and just about every medical marijuana collective owner in the state, the Washington state House last night approved a bill that would eliminate medical pot shops as they currently exist and force patients into a heavily-taxed recreational system.
House Bill 2149 passed by a vote of 67 to 29 last night, has been billed as a way to help keep federal agents out of Washington as well as a way to help funnel more tax revenue through the recreational system. The measure also decreases the total amount of plants patients can grow at home from 15 down to six and drops possession limits from 24 ounces to three.
Washington state Rep. Eileen Cody, a democrat from West Seattle who wrote and sponsored the bill, says that the patient collectives operate under legal gray areas of state law and lack the government oversight needed to keep federal prosecutors at bay.
Cody has promised that patients would be able to avoid the sales tax on cannabis purchased in a legal storefront, but that move isn't in this bill (it's in another one) and completely ignores the other taxes on cannabis in Washington state that will likely drive prices as much as three times what they are currently.
The bill also creates a patient tracking system that keeps tabs on how much herb each patient purchases at a time, allowing patients to walk away with three ounces from a shop instead of the allotted one ounce per recreational customers.
I think that we can satisfy some of the patients," Cody said according to Forbes.com. "I don't think that all of the medical marijuana community will be happy."
Cody, apparently, is completely out of touch with reality (and/or possibly in the pockets of some big pot investors who could care less about patient rights?). This move completely screws patients.
"Our cowardly legislators voted to effectively end medical cannabis here," Steve Sarich, executive director of the Cannabis Action Network, said. "Patients are in shock. If the Senate votes to pass this bill, Washington will be the first state to end medical cannabis."
He went on to blame the state Democrats for failing to protect their constituents.
"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?"
And he's right. One of the few people to speak up with Republican state Rep. Cary Condotta.
"Right now, you're taking everything away from them -- you can't give it back," he said during the debate. "I'm a little concerned we're moving a little too quickly without a program to integrate."
The measure goes to the Senate, which has until mid-March to approve the bill.