Legislature's inaction leaves medical pot system in legal haze

The Seattle TimesMarch 16, 2014 

A vendor points out the variety of marijuana for sale at the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market, for sales of medical marijuana products, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Voters in Washington state last fall passed Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and calls for the creation of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores.

AP PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON

The future of the state’s medical-marijuana system remains in limbo after state lawmakers failed to adopt regulations for a market that Western Washington’s top federal prosecutor has called “not tenable.”

When the Legislature adjourned Thursday, attention quickly turned to U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and whether she would target existing growers and businesses in Washington’s largely unregulated medical system.

Durkan said Friday that all medical-marijuana dispensaries in the state are illegal and the feds would focus on those implicated in any of eight Department of Justice (DOJ) priorities laid out last year, such as money-laundering, taking pot across state lines and supplying minors.

She also noted, during an appearance on KUOW, that some Seattle high schools are reporting increased use of pot by students and suggested the availability of medical marijuana is one reason why.

Her comments were not comforting to some. “That doesn’t give patients much reassurance that we won’t be targets,” said Kari Boiter, state coordinator for the largest national medical-marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access.

But state lawmakers and a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said there is still time to fix the medical system before the feds might crack down in sweeping fashion. The Legislature is not scheduled to convene again until January.

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