Sections signed into law:
Our worst fears were realized in the past two weeks as political grandstanding took precedence over patients and providers. Our governor expressed her unwillingness to approve for-profit dispensary language passed by the legislature, and threatened to veto that language. We believed the governor when she made this threat, and pushed for a conference committee between the House and the Senate, to craft language acceptable to the governor. Our colleagues and the legislature preferred the opposite path: to pass the legislation as written and challenge the governor to stand by her words.
The stakes were raised when the governor reacted to this political calculation by calling in the federal government. The CDC has been ringing the raid alarm for a month, and as part of that alarm, we brought out Americans for Safe Access to conduct "raid preparedness trainings" across the state. On Wednesday, a CDC board member offered the following prescient quote to the Seattle Weekly: "People think there's some 'green rush' happening and that's it's legal. Neither of those is true. It's all in people's heads and eventually it's going to come to a startling end." That "startling end" began for some in Spokane the next day, as the federal government executed raids against multiple medical cannabis dispensaries. Ironically, the raids began while the CDC was conducting raid training in Spokane.
Today, Governor Gregoire took the worst possible action and issued a sectional veto of the bill. She left in supposedly positive provisions that reiterate existing law, and she left in the language amending our existing "affirmative defense" so that it specifically will not apply to dispensary operators. Thus, as of the law's effective date, all "grey market" dispensary operators are left with no affirmative defense to cannabis distribution charges.
We are increasing the volume of our raid alarm rhetoric. We believe the possibility exists of an ongoing, large-scale federal investigation coordinated by the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan, similar to the one conducted in Montana for 18 months prior to the execution of 26 criminal search warrants last month. Be prepared.
Audio of Governor Gregoire's statement on medical cannabis bill. (Link to archive.org
UPDATE April 21, 2011, 3:30 p.m. -- Early this afternoon, the Washington State Senate voted 27-21 to concur, so SB 5073 as passed by the House on April 11 is now on the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire. Our only hope to secure real arrest protection for all authorized patients -- now, not later -- is for it to be included in the trailer bill legislators are preparing for introduction in the upcoming special session.
Protection from being terrorized by police should be afforded to all authorized patients, not withheld from some of them in an attempt to coerce them into registering their medical treatment decision with the state. Such manufacturing of incentive to use the future "voluntary registry" is shameful.
Voting Yea: Senators Baumgartner, Brown, Chase, Delvin, Eide, Fain, Fraser, Harper, Hatfield, Hill, Hobbs, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Litzow, McAuliffe, Murray, Nelson, Pflug, Prentice, Pridemore, Ranker, Regala, Rockefeller, Tom, White, and Zarelli
Voting Nay: Senators Baxter, Becker, Benton, Carrell, Conway, Ericksen, Hargrove, Haugen, Hewitt, Holmquist Newbry, Honeyford, Kastama, Kilmer, King, Morton, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Shin, Stevens, and Swecker
Excused: Senator Parlette
UPDATE April 21, 2011, 10:00 a.m. -- Time is short, and the stakes are high. We need as many people as possible to contact members of the Washington State Senate and urge them to oppose concurrence on SB 5073 and seek a conference committee. Please send a short email to this effect:
"Dear senators: Please vote no on concurring to the house changes for SB 5073, and seek a conference committee with the house. The current language is unacceptable and will dramatically weaken our state's medical cannabis law."
Send your email to: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Senate phone numbers: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rosters/Members.aspx?Chamber=S
WHY WE TAKE THIS POSITION
Our decision is based on the following logic and understandings. We have two options at this point: senate concurrence or non-concurrence. If the senate concurs, the bill goes to the governor, who can take one of four actions: veto, sectional veto, pass, or ignore (in which case it passes). If the governor chooses a sectional veto, she will likely make a small mess of the bill, which will give legislators reason to pass a correcting "trailer bill" in the special session. The same is true if she vetoes it wholly: we may have another shot in the special session. If she passes it, the current language becomes law.
If the senate does not concur, a conference committee may be called. This is not certain, but seems likely to us. At that point, six legislators have authority over the final language of the bill. The language that comes out of conference committee could actually be worse, but we can work to affect that process, to get arrest protection for unregistered patients back in. The language that comes out of the conference committee must be approved by both houses, which is also not guaranteed. After that, it goes to the governor, and we are left in the same position as if the senate had concurred: Gregoire may sectional veto or veto entirely.
The non-concurrence path poses greater risk that the bill will die before it reaches the governor. It also leaves us multiple chances to "roll the dice" and try to reach a more comfortable position before we gamble on the "big game" at the governor's desk. We believe we have a real opportunity to get our preferred language back in conference committee. If the language is even worse, we have opportunities to kill it at the house, senate or governor's desk. If the language is better, we risk the house or senate voting against it, in which case we are done for the year -- and more realistically, we are done until 2013.
The risk of a no vote in the house or senate seems acceptable to us. When presented with final, unmodifiable language, both houses will be forced to make a decision: either one supports medical cannabis, or one does not support medical cannabis. We expect the house vote to be more difficult, perhaps along party lines with a few democrats like Hurst voting no. On a side note, and not informing our decision, we like the idea of forcing legislators like Hurst to show their "true colors" on a recorded vote.
Also on the non-concurrence path, we risk the conference committee "watering down" the legislation, specifically in regard to state licensing of dispensaries, which is one of the most "powerful" parts of the bill. Having a state-licensed, legal and entrenched medical cannabis business system is a very positive development in our ultimate challenge to this federally-inspired war against our people. That said, we believe that our existing medical cannabis law is, for all of its flaws, functional. Patients can access authorizing health care professionals and they can access medical cannabis with minimal issues. There is a technical problem in that no dispensary is legal, but that is not a practical problem. Nearly all of them have an affirmative defense to cannabis charges currently, and while some of the less thoughtful or intelligent have been convicted, many more have been acquitted by juries of their peers. In short, the current affirmative defense -- gone if the senate concurs -- works to effectively allow dispensaries.
The main problem with our law, in our opinion, has always been law enforcement culture in our state. We do not think this legislation will change that. With or without this bill, we will need to battle numerous local police agencies in the future and demand their respect for patients and our voter-approved law. The fear of federal raids is similar: the feds may execute DEA raids if this bill does not pass, but in either case we fully expect and are planning for that contingency. More likely, the feds will continue to execute raids in our state through the "black hand" of the multijurisdictional drug task forces and the local law enforcement they employ. This is the reality now, and we do not see this bill changing that. That change will come, we believe, through our current tactic of engaging in battle with law enforcement agencies who go after medical cannabis patients, convincing patients and providers to refuse plea bargains, providing court support and costing local jurisdictions money and face when they engage in such behavior.
If this bill does not get to the governor's desk, we risk a public perception that the feds threatened us and we became paralyzed, refusing to do anything. This could negatively affect our future legislative prospects, and it could also negatively affect the prospects for a future cannabis initiative -- if we don't stand up to the feds now, voters may be unwilling to stand up to the feds at the ballot box. This is an acceptable risk to us, and we also think the opposite may be true: if the public perceives that our legislature caved to the federal government, voters may be willing to take matters into their own hands. Indeed this is the usual logic behind successful initiative campaigns: the people must act because the legislature failed to act. And public perception seems more malleable to us than the future codified law will be if the senate concurs on SB 5073.
Finally, there is the issue of "reigning in" on the so-called "green rush" that has sprouted in our state in the last two years. Bolder dispensary operators, bolder advertising and the "lowest common denominator" have created some degree of backlash against medical cannabis in our state. Allowing it to continue unchecked risks a much greater, more general backlash, which could dramatically affect our law in the future, as well as prospects for a future cannabis initiative. This is a concern that we share. At the same time, the "green rush" seems to be slowing somewhat -- dispensaries do sprout up, but they also routinely fail. Three years ago it was indeed easy to make a buck in the medical cannabis industry, but the same is not true today. The price of cannabis has dropped dramatically in our state and medical cannabis businesses are more and more like any other business: they must be decently-run, operate on small profit margins, and provide a level of service, products and safety that patients with plenty of options would voluntarily choose. Fools factoring robbery as a cost of doing business, lying charlatans focused on profits, and wolves looking to diversify their nefarious businesses are finding the industry less hospitable these days, and we think that will continue. The advertising concerns remain for us, and we think something will need to be done to convince dispensaries and newspapers like the Little Nickel to tone it down for the greater good.
For these reasons we are seeking a conference committee between the senate and the house, and requesting a no vote on senate concurrence with SB 5073. Our board of directors takes this position with deeply-held, humble intent. We remain in support of the bill with amendments.
UPDATE April 13, 2011 -- SB 5073 passed the House by a vote of 54 to 43 Monday, but not before representatives adopted an amendment from Rep. Christopher Hurst that removes arrest and search protection for authorized patients who choose not to notify the state of their medical treatment decisions and disqualifies parolees and people on probation from any medicinal use of cannabis.
Effects of Rep. Hurst's amendment:
Only one representative, Roger Goodman, spoke in opposition to the amendment.
The bill will now move on to concurrence, a process whereby a small group of senators and representatives attempt to reconcile the differences between the version of the bill the Senate passed and that which the House passed.
The current House version of the bill would do lots of good, but not without causing some serious problems and leaving others unsolved. Of primary concern to our membership is the lack of protection from arrest and from unwarranted search for qualifying patients and designated providers (unless they register in a future Department-of-Health-run registry, which will only exist if the state allocates money for the project and DOH implements it, which is completely out of line with their track record on medical cannabis).
We analyzed the latest version and published our findings in a handy four-column chart, detailing the current and potential future conditions surrounding 28 issues of interest to medical cannabis patients and designated providers, health care professionals, cannabis researchers, growers, processors, dispensers, parolees, and military personnel. Download a PDF for printing or view it online.
As described internally (see pages 38-39 of the striker bill), changes since the last version include:
UPDATE March 7, 2011 -- Senate Bill 5073 passed the Senate last week, was introduced in the House and referred to the Health Care and Wellness Committee. The committee is expected to vote on the bill soon.
In its current state, the bill is set to gut our voter-approved medical cannabis law. If you care about this, please contact committee members by phone and urge them to do three things:
1. Provide real arrest protection -- now, not later! This bill provides arrest protection only to patients in a government database -- which is years away from completion. Ridiculous! Fix: Combine sections 401 and 402 so patients who present valid documentation to law enforcement are protected from arrest.
2. Stop attacking doctors! Section 301 of the bill places several chilling restrictions on health care professionals that authorize the medical use of cannabis. Fix: Section 301, strike everything from 2a onward.
3. Don't outlaw collective growing! Under current law, patients can grow together. Don't limit collective grows to three patients. Fix: Section 403, increase the number of patients and plants allowed in a collective grow.
UPDATE March 2, 2011 -- SB 5073 passed the Washington State Senate on a 29-20 vote. Several amendments were adopted. Most concerning was an amendment by the pot-doctor-fearing Senator Carrell to forbid health care professionals from having practices that appear to be primarily for the authorization of medical cannabis.
Other amendments include:
UPDATE February 21, 2011 -- The medical cannabis bill -- in its current ghastly form -- is set for a hearing this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. It is critical that interested and affected parties contact members of the Washington State Senate Ways and Means Committee to ask for amendments to the bill.
Ways and Means Committee Members
Talking points and amendment requests
UPDATE February 9, 2011 -- The medical cannabis bill was introduced as SB 5073. On February 9, the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee adopted several amendments to the bill, most of them bad.
The amendments can be found here. Once the PDF loads, scroll down on the left to SB 5073. You'll see the "striker" which replaces the bill entirely, and seven adopted amendments. The striker, proposed by committee chair Senator Karen Keiser (360-786-7664, firstname.lastname@example.org), includes many changes:
Senator Mike Carrell (360-786-7654, email@example.com) offered several amendments which were adopted:
Senator Randi Becker (360-786-7602, firstname.lastname@example.org) gutted the arrest protection provision of the bill:
Senator Conway (360-786-7656, email@example.com) removed state preemption from the bill
Though the amended version hasn't made it online yet, the bill may be seen here.
UPDATE January 3, 2011 -- The CDC has released its bill markup and comments relating to the draft medical cannabis legislation planned for the 2011 Washington State legislative session. This product is a result of our December 22 bill review night, which was attended by twenty-one CDC members and community activists.
UPDATE December 20, 2010 -- Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles has released draft nine of her proposed medical cannabis bill. She is seeking community feedback.
UPDATE October 27, 2010 -- To help our membership and the entire cannabis community make sense of the draft legislation proposed by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, we have created a color-coded guide to the bill. We have tried to pull out details of note or of concern to us or other community members.
Text highlighted in red is of particular concern. Yellow highlight indicates things worth noting or discussing. Green highlights are good or acceptable language. This color-coding is a judgment call, and may not represent everyone's opinion on the language, but we have tried to do a thoughtful job pulling out all points worthy of discussion, debate and further understanding.
Friday, October 16, 2010 -- Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles has released the latest draft of her 2011 medical cannabis bill. Below are the documents. More info to come.