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Senator Introduces Bill To Expand Wash. Marijuana Law

Staff Reporter
01/11/2011

People who are authorized to use medical marijuana usually get it from a dispensary.

Kyashna–tocha: "Chemo patients, not only do they want pain relief, they want to have an increased appetite, and they do not want to be couch–locked stoned–out. They want to take every moment of their life and be there."

But those dispensaries are still illegal in Washington state. A state legislator wants to change that. KUOW's Meghan Walker has the story.



TRANSCRIPT

Green Buddha is a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. It's in a quiet neighborhood. They operate out of a storefront with curtains drawn and no signage. The owner is Muraco Kyashna–tocha.

Kyashna–tocha: "We normally have a pile of things here called snickerdoodles, and our snickerdoodles, I believe, are now famous."

The snickerdoodles Kyashna–tocha refers to are marijuana cookies for her customers. Green Buddha sells everything from cookies to marijuana–infused butter to sacks of cannabis for patients. That's after the patients have their doctor fax over their authorization.

Sampling in the store is prohibited, but the air is thick with the smell of marijuana buds. It's warm and cozy inside, and Kyashna–tocha wants to keep it that way.

Kyashna–tocha: "I want to appeal to grandma. I want our place to feel very safe. I want folks who are coming in who are going through chemo or have MS. One of my staff has cerebral palsy, and another one's in a wheelchair. I want them to feel very safe in here."

Safe or not, dispensaries are still technically illegal in Washington state. Philip Dawdy is with the Washington Cannabis Association. He says the current law prohibiting dispensaries is unrealistic.

Dawdy: "The law never explicitly spoke to the status of medical marijuana co–ops or dispensaries if you prefer. So it was operating on this, pretty much, mythological assumption that marijuana's very easy to grow, anyone can do it. And that somebody who gets cancer today is going to run home and buy $10,000 worth of lights and equipment, and have enough usable medicine for themselves the next day. That's just not how life works."

The dispensary debate is on the menu for this year's legislative session. State senator Jeanne Kohl–Welles from Seattle plans to introduce a bill this week that would clarify and expand on current marijuana law. It would prevent officers from arresting authorized patients who possess less than 15 plants or 24 ounces of dried marijuana.

The bill would also establish a state registry for patients who have a doctor's authorization. Collective marijuana gardens would also be legal. Kohl–Welles says it's time for the state to protect cannabis dispensaries.

Kohl–Welles: "We need to have legislation because we have too much ambiguity in the law. It's not helpful to patients. It's not helpful to providers. It's not helpful to medical health care professionals. It's not helpful to law enforcement. We know that there's a lot going on with dispensaries. They should be regulated. Patients should have a secure, safe, reliable and well–regulated source of obtaining the medicine that helps them."

Dispensaries in King County seem safe, for now. Prosecutor Dan Satterburg has chosen to ignore the issue, as long as the co–ops follow current regulations.

The Seattle Police Department agrees with the prosecutor, saying they too hope to see marijuana law reform.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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