Washington Bill to Shutdown Dispensaries Passes House Committee

Legislation to shutdown medical cannabis dispensaries, to establish a patient registry and to reduce the amount of cannabis patients can possess and cultivate has been approved washington-flagby Washington State’s House Committee on Health Care and Wellness.

Senate Bill 5052 has already been approved by the state’s Senate, and will be sent to Governor Jay Inslee if approved by the full House of Representatives. Inslee has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The proposal would reduce the amount of cannabis a patient can possess from 24 ounces to 3, and reduce the amount of plants they can cultivate from 15 to 6. All dispensaries would be shutdown, and recreational cannabis outlets would be able to apply for a medical cannabis endorsement from the state.

Senate Bill 5052 would also establish a registry that patients must become a part of if they want legal protection. Opponents of the measure argue that this is a clear HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violation.

The measure was amended to alter the proposed mandatory patient registry to a voluntary one (except for minors, who will still be required to be listed on the registry), but further restrictions and limitations will be applied to patients who choose to opt out of the registry, such as a reduction of possession limits from 3 ounces to 1, the reduction of plants they are allowed to cultivate from 6 to 4, a reduction of tax-exemptions offered on cannabis products, and the arrest protection granted to patients who do participate in the registry is replaced with a simple affirmative defense. Other amendments adopted include adding PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) to the list of qualifying medical conditions to become a patient, and requiring all medical patient authorizations to be renewed yearly, or every 6 months for minors.

Sensible Washington, a nonprofit political committee working since 2010 to end cannabis prohibition and the drug war in Washington State, calls the proposal “unwanted” and “regressive”. The group urges lawmakers to oppose the measure, or to at least amend it so that dispensaries can become licensed with the state, patients aren’t required to join a registry to receive equal protection and possess/cultivation limits remain unaltered.

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