Washington governor Chris Gregoire vetoed some bits of a law relating to medical marijuana following federal threats. She did this saying that she would not want state employees to face prosecution under federal law.
Gregoire said that she worried that if Washington started licensing dispensaries dealing in medical marijuana and other growing operations, though legal in the state, it is not legal under federal law, then state employees would be at risk.
“I will not subject my state employees to federal prosecution — period,” said Gregoire.
Senate Bill 5073 is the legislation that would create state-regulated systems for the dispensaries, growing gardens and patient registries. The governor received a letter from Jenny Durkan and Mike Orsmby, United States attorneys for the state of Washington, who wrote that since the use of marijuana is still a crime under federal laws, anyone assisting others to use it could be prosecuted, even state employees.
The letter stated that possessing, growing, and distributing the plant, except where it is used for purposes of research authorized by the government, would be a contravention of the law, even if state laws permit these activities. State employees therefore, according to Durkan and Ormsby, are not immune and would be found liable in line with the Controlled Substance Act.
The federal government is determined to show its stand on the issue and has raided dispensaries in Spokane.
Gregoire said that she could not disregard the two attorneys and federal law if there is a chance that employees of the state could be prosecuted, and wondered what to tell such an employee if they were ever prosecuted. Gregoire had also been asked by a union representing many state employees to take the veto action.
Rob White, a user of medical marijuana, who is now a paraplegic as a result of a shooting incident in a robbery about fifteen years ago, is in favor of dispensaries being state controlled, as well as better protection for people against threat of arrest.
White said that for people like him who are ailing and dying, they should not live with the fear of being arrested because they have used something illegal, but that makes their life more bearable.
In 1998, Washington approved a bill that made it legal for a patient to designate their caregivers to grow the marijuana for them, or grow it themselves. Sale of the plant is outlawed, but the state has seen many marijuana dispensaries established.
Gregoire has approved bits of the law relating to grow operations run by patient cooperatives. This will allow patients who qualify, to grow the plant together in gardens with the maximum number of plants grown set at 99 plants. She says that the bill will still be worked on.