Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, December 5, 2016

By Bob Young, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The future of the state’s medical-marijuana system remains in limbo after state lawmakers failed to adopt regulations for a market that Western Washington’s top federal prosecutor has called “not tenable.”

When the Legislature adjourned Thursday, attention quickly turned to U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and whether she would target existing growers and businesses in Washington’s largely unregulated medical system.

Durkan said Friday that all medical-marijuana dispensaries in the state are illegal and the feds would focus on those implicated in any of eight Department of Justice priorities laid out last year, such as money-laundering, taking pot across state lines and supplying minors.

She also noted, during an appearance on KUOW, that some Seattle high schools are reporting increased use of pot by students and suggested the availability of medical marijuana is one reason why.

Her comments were not comforting to some. “That doesn’t give patients much reassurance that we won’t be targets,” said Kari Boiter, state coordinator for the largest national medical-marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access.

But state lawmakers and a spokesman for Governor Jay Inslee said there is still time to fix the medical system before the feds might crack down in sweeping fashion. The Legislature is not scheduled to convene again until January.

No one should take the Legislature’s inaction “to mean Washington state is not going to regulate medical marijuana,” said David Postman, spokesman for Inslee. In an eleventh-hour effort, Inslee personally urged lawmakers Thursday night to come up with regulations.

But on the last night of the session, regulations were doomed by politics, other legislative priorities and lobbying by medical-marijuana interests that wanted to kill a rushed, scaled-down bill coming out of the House.

“Even with the help of the governor, it was too much to get beyond at the eleventh hour,” said Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center), sponsor of a bill with wide-ranging regulations that passed out of the Senate last week.

Rivers’ bill ran into opposition in the House from Republicans who wanted a cut of recreational pot taxes to go to cities and counties. Because her bill would have amended Initiative 502, which legalized recreational pot, it required a two-thirds supermajority.