Governor’s Partial Veto of Medical Marijuana Bill ESSB 5073

On Friday, April 29, 2011, Governor Gregoire exercised her partial veto powers, vetoing the portions of ESSB 5073 that would direct state employees of the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture to authorize and license commercial businesses that produce, process, or dispense cannabis.  Consequently, most of the surviving provisions of the bill afford increased protection for qualifying patients and their designated providers to grow cannabis for a patient’s use or to participate in collective gardens. 

Of importance for Washington cities and towns, the Governor approved Section 1102 of ESSB 5073.  Section 1102 provides that cities and towns may adopt and enforce any of the following pertaining to the production, processing, or dispensing of cannabis or cannabis products within their jurisdiction: zoning requirements, business licensing requirements, health and safety requirements, and business taxes.  Section 1102 further provides that nothing in the act is intended to limit the authority of cities and towns to impose zoning requirements or other conditions upon licensed dispensers, so long as such requirements do not preclude the possibility of siting licensed dispensers within the jurisdiction.  The Governor specifically stated in her veto message that she approved Section 1102 with the understanding that the provision that local governments’ zoning requirements cannot “preclude the possibility of siting licensed dispensers within the jurisdiction” was without meaning in light of the vetoes of other sections providing for licensed dispensers.  Consequently, the bill still provides local governments with the authority to establish land use regulations relating to collective gardens and, presumably, other producers, processors, and dispensaries if they were to be allowed under state law in the future.

 Also of interest to Washington cities and towns is that the Governor signed Section 404 of ESSB 5073.  Section 404 provides that, although a person may stop serving as a designated provider to a particular qualifying patient at any time, that person may not begin serving as a designated provider to a different qualifying patient until fifteen days have elapsed from the date the last qualifying patient designated him or her to serve as a provider.  This Section promises to make it far more difficult for existing medical marijuana dispensaries to comply with state law.

 The Governor made clear in her veto message that she remains open to legislation to exempt qualifying patients and their designated providers from state criminal penalties when they join in nonprofit cooperative organizations to share responsibility for producing, processing, and dispensing cannabis for medical use.  The Legislature may consider alternative bills during its Special Session, which convened on April 26.  OMW will continue to post updates on this blog if any activity on the cannabis bill occurs during the Special Session.

A link to the Governor’s veto message is provided here.

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