(Seattle Times) Gov. Chris Gregoire appears to be weighing either a partial veto or a full veto of a medical marijuana bill passed by the Legislature last week.
The governor at a news conference on Wednesday said “I’m looking at it only with what I can save. Not whether I will sign it.”
The measure would create a system for licensing storefront dispensaries and grow operations, and protect some patients from arrest.
The governor indicated she would not let the bill survive in its present form.
“I cannot and will not subject state employees to criminal prosecution at the federal level. I think that would be highly irresponsible on my part,” she told reporters.
She was referring to state employees who would collect fees or inspect and audit dispensaries and producers under the legislation.
The governor added “I don’t even know that I could implement the law” because two U.S. Attorneys have warned that state workers could be subject to prosecution.
“If I ask state employees to do it, I don’t know that they’d volunteer. I wouldn’t,” she said. “So I don’t expect any state employee to volunteer. Therefore I can’t implement it.”
Gregoire said there are some aspects of the bill she’d like to save, if possible, such as a patient registry. “I think we need a registry to prevent arrest of medical patients,” she said.
Why is it that the governors of New Mexico, Colorado, and Rhode Island aren’t afraid of their state workers facing prosecution? They all have state-sanctioned medical cannabis distribution systems run by state employees, yet none of them have faced a single federal prosecution over it?
Gregoire is playing the “feds might prosecute” card merely as political cover for a veto she wants to issue anyway. She doesn’t want to see a thriving medical cannabis industry that might raise funds for a political opponent more friendly to medical marijuana. She is constantly fending off Republican Dino Rossi and others in this very swing state and doesn’t want to appear “soft on drugs”.
With no legal dispensaries, the current “gray area” “I’m a caregiver for 100 patients a day one at a time for 30 seconds” dispensaries are going to continue. The feds and local law enforcement will raid them but rarely press any charges. Some will file lawsuits that tie up more taxpayer resources. A few of the operators will go to prison after filing many appeals. More wasted time, money, and lives as patients who desperately need access to the medicine they’re legally entitled to will be forced to deal with “gray areas”, “black markets”, and prices that are far too expensive for people on fixed incomes.
Meanwhile it looks as if she’s prepared to keep the voluntary registry system to protect patients from arrest. However, in order to keep political support for the medical marijuana card, opponents maintained the current affirmative defense status for recommendation letters rather than protect patients from arrest. Up to now, those letters offered no true protection for patients; they still have to get arrested and present their affirmative defense in court, but many jurisdictions would show compassion and not arrest patients with letters of recommendation for cannabis. This law won’t change that, but now with a voluntary card system, law enforcement may be more apt to arrest those with only a recommendation. One state legislator even said that if we protected patients who had a letter, what incentive would there be to get the voluntary card?
This once again underscores the need to move past medical marijuana and enact legalization of marijuana for all regardless of reason. Even in the pot-friendly Pacific Northwest, attempts to modify or improve medical cannabis laws frequently get hijacked by unfriendly committee chairs and law enforcement lobbyists. So long as police are forced to sort the patients from the criminals, people will be criminals until proven patients.