This past Monday I moderated the Cannabis Defense Coalition’s monthly public meeting for February. Here’s a short rundown of what’s been happening locally with drug law reform:
– The CDC is opposing the medical marijuana bill currently in the state Senate (SB 6265). The bill was introduced in response to the mess caused by Governor Gregoire’s veto last year. After that bill took effect, a number of smaller communities across the state were under the false impression that they could ban the 10-person collective gardens that the law allowed. And larger communities like Seattle and Tacoma were upset that dispensaries weren’t legitimized enough to start regulating them adequately.
This bill found a way to split that difference. It would allow for “non-profit patient cooperatives” that are by default legal in any county or city with more than 200,000 people, but by default illegal in any county or city with less than 200,000 people. It also allows a jurisdiction to limit the number of people in a collective garden to 3.
The CDC is concerned that access to medical marijuana will once again become extremely difficult for rural patients in the state, but that’s not their only concern. As Steve Elliott points out, the bill would also create a patient registry, a non-starter for CDC members who have major concerns about the government maintaining a list of people who are breaking federal law. This is compounded by the fact that the federal government has also been actively trying to eliminate the gun-ownership rights of medical marijuana patients.
Not mentioned by the CDC, the “Save 502” clause was removed, meaning that if a 5ng/ml limit passes along with I-502 this year, there will be no protection for patients who test above the limit for medical reasons.
– As for New Approach Washington’s I-502, it has qualified for the November ballot. Due to its DUI language, it’s still expected that a large number of medical marijuana patients will vote against the bill, and some plan to actively campaign against it. During Monday’s meeting, there was discussion about Washington State Police initiating training for how to handle marijuana DUI cases. There was also a claim that the number of marijuana DUI arrests have been going up recently, but haven’t seen any actual numbers to back that up yet.
The topic of marijuana DUI continues to be an extremely difficult political hurdle for legalization advocates. What happens in 2012 will likely dictate how future initiatives handle the topic.
– While Sensible Washington has opted out of trying to run its own statewide marijuana legalization initiative in 2012, they’ve announced that they’ll be working as part of a broad effort to pass local initiatives in various communities around the state. These initiatives will be similar to the “lowest law enforcement priority” initiatives that have already passed in Tacoma and Seattle, but will also make it illegal for local and state police to work with the federal government in the enforcement of medical marijuana laws.
– Finally, while the success of the gay marriage bill doesn’t have a direct impact on drug policy, it might have an interesting indirect one. If a referendum on the gay marriage bill is filed and makes the ballot, you could see an increase in the fundamentalist vote in November, something that might not bode well for I-502.