House Republican Cary Condotta reported that the state of Washington reported that the state will assign “a task force” to determine the various issues involved with merging “the medical marijuana system with the recreational marijuana marketplace that may be arriving in the near future. Unfortunately for proponents of the movement, Senate Bill 5887, created to add licensing and regulations to Washington’s mainly unregulated medical marijuana market, “died in the House” late this past Thursday because of what is being called “a partisan revenue dispute” that remained in dispute at the close of the 2-month 2014 legislative session.
Kari Boiter, the Washington coordinator for the national medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access expressed her disappointment saying: “We were hoping to be working on implementation at this point as opposed to working from square one again.”
In November 2012, Washington voters green-lighted Initiative 502. The initiative was written to control the sales of recreational marijuana similar to the way the state regulates liquor sales. Washington’s regulation of the use of medical marijuana, however, only requires that a patient have a note from a physician. Senate Bill 6542, which would have convened a special group to research how to for a more cohesive medical and recreational regulatory system also died Thursday as the legislative session ended.
Boiter is worried that this could signal an unwelcome intervention by the federal government on a system that she says the federal government already believes to be indefensible. In an August 2013 memo from the United States Justice Department the USJD stated it wouldn’t fight the legalization of marijuana in states that establish “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests.”
Nevertheless, the federal government has also made it clear that Washington state must sow it is attempting to better its present medical marijuana regulatory system. Because of this Washington cities such as Seattle have already informed medical marijuana dispensaries that unless they become licensed by the state they will have to close their doors by 2015. This could, according to Boiter, cut off medical marijuana patients from the medicine they require.
Meanwhile, Condotta suggests that those interested in the issue should take action and put together their own task force. Condotta was not overly concerned about the threat of federal intervention concluding that they “have bigger fish to fry”.
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