|Graphic: A Greener Country|
Washington state patients who qualify for medical marijuana will be able to get legal recommendations for it from a wider range of health care professionals under a bill that appears headed to Governor Christine Gregoire’s desk.
Under Senate Bill 5798, it won’t be just doctors who can get sick people access to pot, reports Mark Rahner at The Seattle Times.
The bill widens the list of licensed medical professionals who can recommend marijuana to include physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners and naturopathic physicians, according to one of its sponsors, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle).
“The reason is that, especially in rural areas of the state and away from Puget Sound, because of long distances, many people do not see M.D.’s,” Kohl-Welles said. “They see nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who have prescriptive authority.”
|Senate Democrats WA|
|State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles introduced SB 5719, which expands the number of healthcare professionals who can authorize medical marijuana|
A representative of Kohl-Welles said the bill passed in the House Wednesday night “with little debate.”
The House added two amendments on how medical marijuana recommendations should be written, so the bill will first go back to the Senate for approval, then on to Gov. Gregoire for her signature.
A governor’s spokesman said Thursday it was too early to say what might happen, because the revisions still need to be approved by the Senate.
The final marijuana-related bill in the Legislature this year, SB 5798 passed after some others were defeated. One, sponsored by Kohl-Welles, would have reduced penalties for possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana by adults to a civil fine. Another, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), would have legalized pot and allowed its sale in state-run liquor stores to persons 21 or older.
Polls conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show the majority of Washingtonians are dissatisfied with current marijuana laws and favor reducing penalties for possession.
“The public is out ahead of elected officials,” said ACLU spokesman Doug Honig. “There’s a concern among some elected officials that they’ll be accused of being soft on drugs and soft on crime if they support something like this.”
Kohl-Welles, who has a Ph.D. in sociology of education and an M.A. in sociology, agreed: “The Legislature tends to lag behind social change… And I think the issues regarding marijuana are still fairly traditional in our state Legislature. If ‘marijuana’ is on a bill they’re uncomfortable with the bill and maybe fear it may be used against them in an election campaign.”