The Washington Cannabis Association has announced its support for a historic and sweeping medical cannabis reform bill — S. 5073 — which is set to have its first legislative committee hearing Thursday in the State Senate’s Health and Long-Term Care Committee.
According to a January 20 press release from the group, the WCA “supports the bill with some modifications and recognizes that it could clean up our state’s medical cannabis law for the good of medical cannabis patients, their providers and law enforcement.”
Sponsored by State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles
(D-Queen Anne), S. 5073 [PDF]
would for the first time offer Washington medical marijuana patients true arrest protection and would offer legal protection to dispensaries and producers, while also regulating them under the authority of state agencies.
|Philip Dawdy, WCA: “This is great legislation”
”This is great legislation,” said Philip Dawdy, WCA’s media director and organizer. “While the bill does need a few modifications, we cannot thank Senator Kohl-Welles and the Legislature enough for taking on this much-needed, comprehensive set of reforms.”
“It’s time to bring medical cannabis into the 21st Century and this bill does that,” Dawdy said. “This bill will protect patients and offer them safe access to health care professional authorized medicine.”
According to WCA, the economic benefits of the bill are not to be overlooked.
“This bill will also help create thousands of jobs in Washington state at a time when they are badly needed,” Dawdy said. “It will also give law enforcement clear direction on handling medical cannabis patients and their providers, something law enforcement has been asking for for years.”
Washington’s medical marijuana law, I-692, was passed by voters in 1998, but its vague provisions have led to patients being arrested and prosecuted. Its language has been interpreted in different ways by law enforcement in different parts of the state.
For example, while patient collectives and medical marijuana dispensaries don’t get a second look in liberal Seattle and King County, similar operations are quickly squelched in the more conservative eastern portion of the state.
“It’s not fair and certainly violates the intent of Washington voters to have a law under which patients and providers are left alone in Seattle and Spokane but wind up busted and prosecuted in Thurston County and Kitsap County,” Dawdy said. “It’s time for those days to be over.”
The Washington Cannabis Association
is a trade association for all aspects of the medical cannabis industry in Washington state. The group says it more than 30 members, including dispensary owners and operators, medical marijuana producers, infused products manufacturers and the owners of medical marijuana authorization businesses.
According to the WCA, it provided input to Sen. Kohl-Welles in advance of the bill’s introduction to the Legislature last week.
“Our biggest concern beyond our proposed amendments is, frankly, that we’ve had a complete lack of response from law enforcement groups and the prosecutors’ association,” said Ezra Eickmeyer, WCA’s lobbyist and political director.
“We’ve been reaching out to them for months to work cooperatively and try to get their insight, but we’ve heard nothing,” Eickmeyer said Thursday. “We hope they’re in a cooperative spirit at today’s hearing. We want to make the bill work for everyone.”