Legislators Amend Washington State Medi-Pot Law

Olympia, WA: Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 6032 into law last week, amending the state’s nearly nine-year-old medical cannabis measure. Fifty-nine percent of state voters initially approved the law in 1998, which enacts statewide legal protections for patients who use cannabis under the supervision of their physician.

The amended law, which takes effect on July 22, 2007, mandates the state Department of Health to “adopt rules defining the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be a sixty-day supply for qualifying patients.” The Department is instructed to report its findings to the legislature by July 1, 2008.

Currently, patients may legally possess or cultivate up to a sixty-day supply of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Lawmakers have never clarified how much cannabis legally constitutes a “sixty-day” supply, instead leaving the issue to be interpreted subjectively by local law enforcement.

As amended, patients who possess larger quantities of cannabis than those approved by the Department will continue to receive legal protection under the law if they present evidence indicating that they require such amounts to adequately treat their qualifying medical condition.

Senate Bill 6032 also affirms changes previously recommended by the state’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission to expand the state’s list of qualifying conditions to include Crohn’s disease, hepatitis c, and any “diseases, including anorexia, which results in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms, and/or spasticity, when these symptoms are unrelieved by standard treatments or medications.”

The new law also limits the ability of police to seize medicinal cannabis that is “determined … [to be] possessed lawfully [by an authorized patients] under the … law.”

Though SB 6032 was approved overwhelmingly by the legislature, Washington’s medical marijuana patient community was strongly divided over the proposal – with many patient groups actively opposing the bill.

Full text of Washington’s amended medical cannabis law is available online at: http://www.leg.wa.gov/pub/billinfo/2007-08/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/6032-S.PL.pdf.