Stakeholders speak out to defend state's 15-year-old law and urge legislators to preserve, strengthen patients rights
Seattle, WA -- Patient advocates and various stakeholders will hold a press conference today at 4pm at Saint Martin's University in Lacey to draw attention to this evening's statewide public hearing on the fate of Washington's 15-year-old medical marijuana law and to urge policymakers not to dismantle a program that works and is necessary for tens of thousands of patients.
What: Press conference on highlighting the need to preserve and strengthen Washington State's medical marijuana law (see list of speakers below)
When: Wednesday, November 13th at 4pm
Where: Saint Martin's University, Worthington Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. Lacey, WA 98503
Today's press conference will feature the following speakers, who will also be available for interviews throughout the day:
Kari Boiter, Qualifying Patient (moderator)
Dr. Vivian Blanco, MD, Family Physician
Dr. Dominic Corva, PhD, Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy
Paul Feldman, Qualifying Patient
Oscar Velasco-Schmitz, Co-owner, Dockside Cooperative
Sean Green, Helped Draft Spokane's Collective Garden Ordinance
Tonight's public hearing, which will take place from 6-9pm at Saint Martin's University Worthington Center in Lacey, Washington, comes just two weeks after medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) held a series of patient and provider stakeholder meetings late last month in Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, and Yakima. ASA compiled feedback from scores of patients, caregivers, collective cultivators, dispensary operators, and medical professionals and filed its own recommendations last week calling on state legislators to strengthen and preserve, not abandon, Washington's medical marijuana law.
The ASA-organized stakeholder meetings and tonight's public hearing are in response to last month's recommendations from the Liquor Control Board (LCB) and the Departments of Revenue and Health on the fate of the state's medical marijuana program. Earlier this year, the state legislature formed a working group to assess whether changes needed to be made to Washington's medical marijuana law in light of last year's passage of I-502, the state's new recreational marijuana law. The LCB is scheduled to submit final recommendations to the state legislature by January 1, 2014.
Patient advocates have become increasingly concerned by an apparent unwillingness to accommodate two parallel markets and a desire to roll the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana program into the emerging recreational marijuana program by making the medical-use law much more restrictive, the requirements unnecessarily onerous, and the costs far too prohibitive for patients. Among the concerns are recommendations for abolishing patient cultivation, outlawing medical marijuana-specific distribution, imposing new taxes on patients' medicine, reducing personal use amounts from a 60-day supply to a one-week supply, increasing restrictions on medical professionals, and requiring the mandatory registration of all qualified patients.
"Patients in Washington will not sit idly by to see the state dismantle its 15-year old medical marijuana program and attempt to roll them into a nascent recreational market," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The very real needs of medical marijuana patients cannot be adequately met by the recreational marijuana program and must be addressed by preserving and strengthening the law that currently exists," continued Sherer. "We're urging Governor Inslee and the state legislature not to abandon the tens of thousands of patients in Washington and continue to treat medical marijuana as a public health issue."
Medical marijuana has been authorized under Washington State law since 1998, however attempts were thwarted by the DOJ in 2011 to establish a licensing system for dispensaries and protections for patients from arrest and prosecution, something even recreational users are now entitled to. Earlier this year, patient advocates launched the "Health Before Happy Hour" campaign to urge passage of legislation based on Senate Bill 5073, the proposal previously sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles which was partially vetoed in 2011 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire.
ASA recommendations: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/wa_502_comments
Washington State Working Group recommendations: http://lcb.wa.gov/marijuana/mmj_draft_recommendations
"Health Before Happy Hour" campaign website: http://HealthBeforeHappyHour.org
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