From Washington State to Washington, D.C., successful cannabis legalization campaigns have consistently promised voters that they would preserve the rights of medical marijuana patients even while opening up access to all responsible adult use. But while campaign leaders have kept their promises, government officials in Washington, Oregon and Colorado have embarked on dishonest — and sometimes secretive — plans to blatantly disregard the will of voters and restrict patient rights.
The cruelest and most egregious autocratic fiats have come from the Pacific Northwest, where state legislators have attempted to capitalize on the enactment of popular tax and regulate measures to practically eliminate patient access in Washington and Oregon. Last month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill which aims to force the state’s patient-run collective gardens into its I-502 adult use program, complete with its famously strict regulations,mandatory 3-tier licensing, and the highest cannabis excise taxes in the country. Under the law, collective gardens unable to meet such stringent rules in a timely manner will be shut down, and indeed the city of Seattle already has plans in the works to shutter 54 of its 99 collective garden storefronts in the wake of the new law.
Oregon is on the verge of an even crueler prohibition, as the state senate voted yesterday to approve Senate Bill 964, a crushing bill which would limit the number of plants each patient can grow to only six and — even more outrageously — would count drying and curing plants toward that total. Less absurd but potentially more harmful is another provision in SB 964 which would empower local governments to ban medical marijuana cultivation and access outright, forcing the state’s sickest patients to travel long distances just to access their (unreasonably limited) medicine supply. Worse, SB 964 was passed in flagrant defiance of principles of transparent government, first when the Senate president circumvented the objections of House members Ann Lininger, Peter Buckley and Ken Helm by taking the extraordinary step of moving the bill to a special “Measure 91 Implementation Committee” and then when the committee pushed the bill through without any public comment or debate. To call the body which did this the “Measure 91 Implementation Committee” is both disgusting and ironic, given that its actions directly violate the language of Measure 91 which specifically protects patient access. The Oregon Senate approved SB 964 by a vote of 29-1, with Sen. Floyd Prozanski casting the sole vote in opposition.