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Governor Recognizes Lack of Safe Access to Medical Marijuana Patients in Washington

Daily Dose 2011-04-18 0 comments

After ACLU reminds Washington the feds have never prosecuted anyone for complying with state law, the Office of the Governor issued Medical Marijuana 411 a statement regarding her recent comments threatening to veto a bill that will allow for dispensaries.

By Sam Sabzehzar

Gov. Christine Gregoire speaking with a disabled during an event. (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

Washington is one of many states that allow for medical marijuana, but the people of Washington, who overwhelmingly approved the lift prohibition of the plant for medicinal purposed.

In fact, 84%* of Washington voters voted in favor of it when it passed and 83%** agree that the state, and not the feds, should regulate their own laws regarding marijuana to be used medicinally.

After mounting pressure by the federal government, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire’s decision to comment about the currently debated bill that will create a regulatory system for medical cannabis dispensaries caused quite a commotion when she told the Seattle Times In light of the Department of Justice’s guidance, it is clear that I cannot sign a bill that authorizes our state employees to license marijuana dispensaries when the department would prosecute those involved.”

In America, over a quarter of the states in the Union make allow for a medical patient to decide of cannabis therapeutics is right for them.  And for many of them who already rely on it, they hope that a system of safe access will not be hindered once the state decides to allow for it’s use.

After a slew of arrests and raids, patients and their providers mounted a loud campaign, calling for the State House and Senate to do something, SB 5073 is now being debated in the Legislature.

For medical marijuana patients in Washington, such hopes for safe access were yet again diminished to dust when Gov. Gregoire told the Seattle Times that “In light of the Department of Justice’s guidance, it is clear that I cannot sign a bill that authorizes our state employees to license marijuana dispensaries when the department would prosecute those involved.”

The former state Attorney General, Gov. Gregoire’s comments were in response to her inquiry to the feds on the legal implications of a state authorizing such use.

Over the weekend, ACLU Legislative Director Shankar Narayan sent a statement to state senators reminding them that other states have programs to help protect patients, including dispensing medical cannabis in a safe environment and the feds have never gone after a single state employee for complying with their own law.

Furthermore, even the California Supreme Court protected the rights of patients by forcing the County of San Diego to comply with state law.  A right that has protected at virtually every turn in every state.

The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed it a state issue and the California Supreme Court forced the city of Westminster to even return the confiscated medical marijuana after the city said they would be breaking federal law if they did.

Federal law does not always trump state law and in the city of Westminster, a patient was returned his medicine after the courts said that law enforcement must abide by the law and law was clearly on the side of patients.

Once again, the state is forcing patients to force the state to enforce their own laws and spend lots of tax dollars debating, while the results already reveal that the efficacy of the status quo is grossly ineffective.

Outraging patients, patient advocacy groups, and even the ACLU, who are urging the House and Senate to ignore the governor’s threat of veto, the Office of the Governor is not entirely sure how they will be proceeding should the will of the people prevail through their elected officials, as a Democracy should.

Communications Officer Scott Whiteaker sent a state by Gov. Gregoire:

“I am glad the Department of Justice has clarified its position on this difficult issue… However, I recognize there are problems with how people with serious illnesses obtain medical marijuana and will work with lawmakers to address these challenges in a way that does not conflict with federal enforcement policy.”

Knowing the pain and suffering patients endure every day, and then adding to that the removal of the most effective medicine for them, the governor has bought some time between her most recent comment and what she’s going to actually do.

There are a few bright lights in the Office of the Governor keeping the flames of hope alive for medical cannabis patients, and they certainly have helped her focus on the victims of a lack of safe access, but no matter how many patients struggle, and no matter how many get caught up in the legal system, it’s only a matter of time before the state provides an avenue for safe access to what the people and their elected officials have all voted to support.

*Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, statewide survey of 800 likely voters in the 2012 elections, conducted December 13-19, 2010, margin of error of +/- 3.40 at a 95 percent confidence level.

**Belden Russonello & Stewart Research and Communications, statewide survey of 1,200 registered voters conducted January 4-8, 2006, margin of error of +/-2.8%.