State should improve protections for medical marijuana patients and suppliers
The Seattle Times editorial board reiterates its support for Senate Bill 5073, to expand the protection for medical marijuana users and their suppliers.
THE medical-marijuana bill in Olympia should be passed, because existing law does not protect legitimate patients or their suppliers from arrest, jail and prosecution.
This page supports full legalization, taxing and regulation of cannabis for sale to adults. The Legislature also has a bill to do that, but it is not likely to pass this year. The medical bill — the modified version of Senate Bill 5073 — has passed the Senate 29-20 on a bipartisan vote and is now in the House.
There is an urgent reason to pass it. On Monday, federal agents raided greenhouses and dispensaries across Montana, confiscating plants, processed cannabis, computers, firearms, cellphones, vehicle titles and cash.
The Obama administration's policy has been not to enforce federal law on users who comply with state law in the 15 states that allow medical cannabis. Montana is one of those states — but its law does not protect the dispensaries.
Neither does Washington's. And there are dispensaries all over the state.
The two states do have a political difference: The Montana Legislature is moving to repeal its medical cannabis law and Washington's is not. Still, the raids are not comforting.
The bill in Olympia, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, would license growers, processors and dispensers of medical cannabis and set up state regulation of drug strength, packaging and labeling. It would also set up a voluntary registry of users with state ID cards that would give protection from arrest.
There are some problems with the bill. In specifying that a physician cannot "offer to examine a patient solely or primarily for the purpose of authorizing the medical use of cannabis," the bill interferes with the practice of medicine. In banning all advertising for state-licensed dispensaries, it runs afoul of the First Amendment.
These problems should be fixed and the bill passed. The news from Montana shows how urgently it is needed.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.