Rapid increase of new laws in Washington State are causing great confusion

22/07/2011

in Cannabis

Wtih the influx of new modifcations on medicinal marijuana law, many people, including patients, doctors and growers are getting increasingly confused about what is actually legal in Washington State.

Original text from Seattle Times, here.

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s decision to veto key parts of a
bill regulating medical marijuana in Washington has left the state with
a patchwork system of oversight that is mystifying patients, providers
and the cities in which they live.

New medical marijuana rules are perhaps the most contentious – and
confusing – in a batch of new state laws set to take effect Friday.
Dozens of new laws approved by the Legislature will alter how the state
handles everything from public records to domestic partnerships to
drunken driving convictions.

Laura Healy, of Green Hope Patient Network in Shoreline, said she still
doesn’t know what her medical marijuana operation will look like under
the new law. She’s transitioning to a collective garden organization,
the format approved under Gregoire’s law, but has a variety of lingering
questions that will determine how many patients she can help and how
easy it will be to provide them with marijuana.

Lawyers are helping Healy assess her options.

“I don’t even think Gregoire understands what she put in (the law),”
Healy said. “She kind of left us with, `OK, now what?’ Now we’re trying
to figure it all out. And it’s a big mess.”

Complicating matters for Healy is that Shoreline officials voted
Wednesday to place a moratorium on medical marijuana operations. She
still hopes to have some sort of system on Friday but doesn’t know what
that will look like.

Several jurisdictions have been pressing ahead with moratoriums on the
collective gardens, triggering further confusion. Seattle, meanwhile,
voted this week to start taxing and licensing medical marijuana
operations like any other business, drawing praise from some activists
and the threat of a lawsuit from another who believes cities don’t have
the authority to regulate the industry.

The uncertainty comes after lawmakers worked for months on a plan that
would help clear up the state’s medical marijuana laws. The Legislature
approved a plan that would have created a system to regulate medical
marijuana dispensaries.

But Gregoire, citing fears that state workers could face federal
prosecution for participating in the licensing scheme, vetoed much of it.

The remaining parts of the law allow collective marijuana grows with up
to 45 plants, serving up to 10 patients. But some have noted that the
law is unclear how many collective gardens can be located on a single
tax parcel or whether the 10-patient rule can be stretched by having
patients only participate in the gardens for brief periods of time.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg has warned that Gregoire’s veto is
a big step backward.

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director at the ACLU of Washington, said
while the law leaves plenty of gray area, it also does provide at least
some help to patients. Instead of growing marijuana themselves or
finding a designated provider, the patients can now band together in the
collective gardens to share the costs, space and work to maintain them.

“It represents a small improvement,” Holcomb said.

Still, she’s leading the organization of a new initiative that would
legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state. Holcomb said
Gregoire’s veto added extra urgency to the idea.

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