Kohl-Welles introduces ‘Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Act’

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, is filing legislation this week to align the currently unregulated medical marijuana system and that of the regulated recreational marijuana system.

In addition to addressing the two conflicting systems, the bill streamlines the newly enacted I-502 system and contains provisions for patient access, public safety and law enforcement efficiency.

“My colleague on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ann Rivers, is also working hard on this issue and her legislation has many commonalities with mine,” said Kohl-Welles. “I anticipate that we will find a way to pass legislation that combines the best of both of our proposals.

“The main intent of my bill is to simplify and unify the two systems so that complex gray areas and dangerous illicit markets will eventually cease to exist.”

The bill would phase out collective gardens and unregulated dispensaries. In addition, Kohl-Welles’ bill recognizes that many dispensaries provide exemplary service to authorized patients, and as such her bill directs the state Liquor Control Board to increase the number of licensees through adopting a competitive, merit- and experience-based licensing application system. This approach would not rely on a patient registry system and would eventually phase out the need for medical authorizations.

The Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Act addresses the two conflicting marijuana systems using the regulatory structure created under Initiative Measure No. 502 and modifies that regulatory structure by:

Establishing medical grade marijuana products and providing for the sale of low-THC, high CBD products tax free for certain qualifying medical marijuana patients.
Creating a waiver process through the state Department of Health so that marijuana patients whose medical needs require more than six plants or who are under the age of 21 have access to medical grade marijuana. This would also allow patients who require high THC products to purchase those products without paying sales tax.
Permitting all individuals ages 21 or older, not just medical users, to grow marijuana for their own personal use.
these people may grow only six plants or fewer, per domicile and may donate up to one ounce of usable marijuana to another person without compensation.
Establishing a medical marijuana endorsement to the marijuana retailer license to allow retailers to hold themselves out as knowledgeable in the medical use of marijuana.
Establishing a marijuana research license.
Addressing local government issues around locating facilities by allowing local governments to adjust the buffer zones between licensees and certain facilities such as day care facilities and recreational centers.
Developing safe delivery methods for marijuana by establishing delivery and distribution licenses.

"There is an urgency to the task of reforming the law so that the only place to buy marijuana, whether for medical needs or general adult use, is at a state-licensed marijuana retailer," said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. "I am grateful to the senators who are willing to pursue a fix to the law to begin to reduce the proliferation of unlicensed and untaxed marijuana sellers in our communities.”

Seattle City Attorney Peter Homes said, “I continue to believe that Sen. Kohl-Welles has come up with the best possible solution to simultaneously address patient concerns, ensure I-502 licensee viability, and provide law enforcement clarity--thus leveraging smaller government to produce far greater public safety. We've turned our backs on prohibition, and need to realize the full benefits of the voters' demand for legal, regulated and taxed marijuana.”

In addition to support from law enforcement and elected officials, Kohl-Welles’ proposal was the result of input from a wide variety of citizens, stakeholders, health care workers, entrepreneurs, patients and their families.

"The ACLU of Washington especially appreciates Sen. Kohl-Welles' proposal to allow all adults to grow a small amount of marijuana for personal use,” said Alison Holcomb, former drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington and I-502 author. “This would finally provide patients protection from arrest without requiring them to waive their right to privacy and register with the state”

“Kohl-Welles' visionary approach provides an elegant solution which will improve patient safety and protect and enhance patient rights,” said Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, Green Buddha Patient Cooperative director. “This compassionate bill will reduce the price of medicine and other patient costs, addressing a very fundamental patient concern.”

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