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Fears of crackdown on medical marijuana stores

Robert Mangum, right, assists member Nate Murray in purchasing medical marijuana products at the Green Hope Patient Network, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, in Shoreline, Wash.

Marijuana dispensaries say their legal situation is actually getting worse now that Governor Chris Gregoire has vetoed most of the medical marijuana bill.  The legal gray area they’ve been using since 1999 as a justification for opening co-ops and storefront shops will be eliminated when the law takes effect in July. 

It may not matter in cities such as Seattle that have said they're not interested in prosecuting medical marijuana cases. But other cities across Washington have indicated they want to shut down some of the dispensaries, including Tacoma, Federal Way, and Shoreline according to a report by Jonathan Martin in The Seattle Times.

"It's inevitable," said Dennis Coughlin, president of nonprofit Cannabis Outreach Services in Lacey. "At some point, in the fairly near future, there's going to be a concerted effort statewide" to close dispensaries.

A number of storefront shops have opened this year, in anticipation of a revised law that would have created a formal licensing procedure. Some of these are for-profit, as opposed to the small scale co-ops that have persisted for a decade.

The situation is increasing pressure on state lawmakers to craft a new marijuana bill, in the final days of its special legislative session. More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers are asking Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna for a second opinion about whether the bill they passed earlier (SB-5073) would have left state employees vulnerable to arrest by federal agents.  That was the reason given by Governor Gregoire for her veto.

Because the special session is devoted only to budget issues, Democrats would need support from Republican leaders to bring up a replacement marijuana proposal.

Police chiefs and county sheriff's are happy about the governor's veto. Don Pierce, executive director of the group';s state association told Martin at the Seattle Times:

"I think the proponents [of marijuana] swung for the fences, and there was just too much stuff in the bill."'


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