Washington: Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Licensing Measure

Olympia, WA: Democrat Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday vetoed sections of Senate Bill 5073, which sought to license and regulate the dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified persons, and would have enacted additional legal protections for patients who voluntarily participated in a statewide registry.

In her veto statement, Gov. Gregoire alleged that the licensing and registry provisions “would open public employees to federal prosecution.”

In recent weeks, United States Attorneys have sent letters to public officials in several states — including Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Rhode Island, and Vermont — indicating that the Department of Justice may take criminal or civil action against individuals, including state employees, who assist with or engage in the production or distribution of medical cannabis, even if such activities were in compliance with state law.

Governor Gregoire did sign into law provisions in SB 5073 reaffirming that qualified patients and their caregivers possess an ‘affirmative defense’ against state prosecution (Section 402 and 406). She also codified provisions of the measure that extend legal protections to patients or caregivers who participate in a ‘collective garden.’

Washington voters initially approved the state’s medical cannabis law by initiative in 1998. The measure provided limited legal protections for patients who possessed cannabis under a doctor’s supervision, but failed to address how much marijuana patients could legally possess or how they could obtain it. In 2008, lawmakers enacted Senate Bill 6032 specifying that patients could cultivate up to 15 cannabis plants and/or possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana for medical purposes. However, that law also failed to enact a regulated system governing marijuana distribution.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.