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The Washington State Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee has ap- proved a bill aimed at clarifying Washing- ton’s law on the medical use of cannabis. The bipartisan measure was introduced by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jerome Delvin, R- Richland.

“I came to this issue after members of the law enforcement community told me how frustrated they are by what is going on un- der the current system,” said Delvin, who served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Edu- cation Offi cer in the Richland Police De- partment. “The voters have said they want medical marijuana to be available to those suffering from painful medical conditions, but law enforcement has not been given clear direction about how to enforce the law while respecting the rights of medical- marijuana users.”

“What we have is an underground system, unclear rules, and general frustration on the part of all involved; we need to bring it out in the light.”

Senate Bill 5073 would allow patients to purchase medical-marijuana products from licensed dispensaries by taking part in a regulated patient collective, or by continu- ing to receive it from a designated provider. The Department of Agriculture would cre- ate a licensing system for the growing of medical marijuana and the Department of Health would do the same for dispensaries.

The legislation would also protect legally compliant patients and growers from ar- rest, search, and prosecution for the use of medical cannabis. Law-enforcement of- fi cers would have a voluntary registry of patients to consult before conducting war- rantless searches or arrests.

Cannabis News for March 2011

“Law enforcement needs clarity,” said Del- vin. “This patient registry created by this bill would provide assurance to the law- enforcement community that a person is authorized to use medical marijuana and not just a recreational drug abuser.”

The Senate health committee adopted a series of key amendments to the bill before giving it a “do pass” recommendation.

Delvin called the committee’s amendments a big improvement in the bill.

“I am pretty happy with the changes to the bill,” said Delvin. “While I don’t agree with everything in it, I believe the changes made it a much tighter and cleaner bill, and many of the early concerns have been addressed.”

The bill now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.


California State Senator Mark Leno (D- San Francisco) has introduced legislation that would prevent California employ- ers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients. Senate Bill 129 would not change current law, which prohibits employees from using medical marijuana at the workplace. According to Senator Leno, his bill “simply establishes a medical cannabis patient’s right to work.” SB 129 would reverse a 2008 California Supreme Court ruling that granted employers the right to fi re or refuse to hire workers with a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana. Advocates have estimated that more than 400,000 medical marijuana pa- tients live in California.

“The people who voted for Proposition 215 never intended to force law-abiding patients out of a job,” said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group and sponsors of

24 WEST COAST CANNABIS More Than A Lifestyle

the legislation.”Like anyone else, patients just want to be productive members of society,” continued Duncan. “Why must hundreds of thousands of Californians be denied their civil rights, and be forced to live with the risk of losing their job due to their choice of medication?”

ASA was also the sponsor of a similar bill, AB 2279, which was introduced in 2008 by then-State Assemblymember Mark Leno, less than a week after the California Su- preme Court ruling in Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications. AB 2279, which had strong support from a broad coalition of disability rights, labor, medical and legal groups, passed both houses but was ulti- mately vetoed by Governor Schwarzeneg- ger. Senator Leno and ASA will be work- ing together over the next few weeks to shore up even greater support for the new legislation.

“This bill is not about being under the in- fl uence while at work,” said Senator Leno in a previous statement. “That’s against the law, and will remain so.” The bill leaves in- tact existing state law that prohibits medical marijuana consumption at the workplace or during working hours and exempts from the law “safety-sensitive” positions such as health care providers, school bus drivers, and operators of heavy equipment, in order to protect employers from liability and to ensure public safety.

The California Supreme Court ruling stems from a lawsuit fi led by Gary Ross who was fi red in 2001 from his systems en- gineering job at RagingWire Telecommu- nications for testing positive for marijuana. Ross, a disabled medical marijuana patient in his mid-40s, was injured while in the Air Force and uses marijuana to treat chronic back pain from his injury. After losing in the court of appeal, Ross appealed, with the help of ASA, to the California Supreme Court. In rendering its decision, the court overlooked amicus “friend of the court”

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