A local twist on medical marijuana

LEGISLATURE: Cities, counties would decide

May 4, 2011 

Medical pot providers stage farmers market in Tacoma

A medical marijuana patient exchanges a plant for a donation at the Conquering Lion in Tacoma in 2010.


The blueprint for a new medical-marijuana proposal is circulating in the Legislature.

Cities and counties are pushing lawmakers to come up with a legal scheme that would be acceptable to Gov. Chris Gregoire after she rejected most of a bill that reached her desk last week.

The developing proposal would leave key decisions up to those same local governments.

Seattle Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles took the lead in developing the new ideas and is offering them to Gregoire’s office.

The governor nixed the idea of state-licensed, for-profit dispensaries over worries that state employees might face prosecution. So Kohl-Welles wants to allow “nonprofit patient cooperatives,” she said, “that could operate like a dispensary, but there would be no state regulation.”

Under Kohl-Welles’ new scheme, local governments would have some authority over the cooperatives through zoning and business licensing.

The nonprofit businesses would grow marijuana, subject to limits on collective gardens that Gregoire created by signing part of the previous bill into law. They could charge for the pot, but only enough to cover the cost of their operations.

Another part of the proposal would create a registry of patients maintained by the state Department of Health, an idea Gregoire supports.

Registered patients would get protections from arrest. If the sellers who run the collectives wanted protection, they, too, would have to join the registry.

Before any of the ideas can be considered, legislative leaders would have to agree to expand the scope of the special session that is supposed to be devoted to the budget and a few other topics.

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826

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