WA Senate LAW - Committee Meeting
(February 8, 2022) - HB 1105 - Public Hearing

HB 1105 - Medical Cannabis - Law Enforcement

A bill to grant all medical cannabis patients protection from arrest received almost entirely positive testimony, along with complaints about homegrowing and cannabis scheduling policy.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday February 8th Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee (WA Senate LAW) Committee Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Four people discussed the benefits the bill provided to medical patients and designated providers, and another four dozen signed in ‘pro’ on the measure.
    • Steven Field, Medical cannabis patient and the Cannabis Alliance member (audio - 2m, video
      • Field said he’d been living with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis for “almost 30 years,” suffering “a major setback and ha[ving] a stroke” in 2019, recovery from which kept him from completing “the simplest of tasks.” Having exhausted other treatment options, he’d found that cannabis “helped me the most,” and believed patients had enough difficulty in their lives without “the worried fear of intrusive regulatory or criminal law encounters which can affect our health.” Field was not comfortable “releasing information into the state registry” nor being criminalized for “the simple act of growing and using a plant.” He encouraged committee members to demonstrate compassion and support “in the form of common sense legislation” that would help medical patients “throughout the state.”
    • Lisa Buchanan, Registered Nurse and Dockside Cannabis Medical Consultant (audio - 2m, video
    • Mary Brown, Founder of SMJ Consulting at Advanced Integrative Medical Science (AIMS) Institute (audio - 2m, video
      • Brown testified that the patients at the institute used medical cannabis “both in conjunction with allopathic treatments as well as with naturopathic treatments,” rather than “simply to get high.” She said her organization was supporting the bill on “behalf of patients who often are really at the end of their options” in addition to being “inundated with the day-to-day issues of living with a terminal illness, and often, reauthorizing their medical authorization is very difficult for them.”
    • John Kingsbury, Cannabis Alliance Patient Committee Chair (audio - 1m, video, written comments)
      • Kingsbury began his remarks noting “the medical struggles I’ve gone through during the past 20 years” encouraged him to explore the medical dimensions of cannabis following the “toll that pharmaceuticals were taking on my health and quality of life.” He commented that the bill had “progressed quickly with strong support,” which he attributed to its language speaking to “common sense and basic human decency.” Kingsbury added that the legislation offered no reprieve from legal sanctions for “those who are not following the law” and the justification for keeping some patient activity illegal wasn’t tenable, “especially for well-vetted patients who already have challenging lives.”
      • Field, Buchanan, and Kingsbury were among those who testified in favor of HB 1105 at its first hearing in February 2021.
    • Signed in but not testifying (48)
  • One speaker stood against the bill to express law enforcement concerns around home growing, and another was ‘other’ believing the patient registry was mostly unneeded. 
    • Taylor Elkins-Gardner, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) Deputy Policy Director and Lobbyist (audio - 2m, video
      • Gardner reported that WASPC was opposed to the legislation even as they recognized medical cannabis use was “considered lawful.” Drawing on the “strong regulatory scheme” envisioned in cannabis legalization in 2012, the organization wanted a matching regulatory scheme applied to patient home growing of cannabis.
      • Feeling there was “no shortage” of legal cannabis—for which patients could pay a 37% excise tax—Gardner explained that WASPC members had “concerns over any legislation that potentially increases risks to public safety.”
        • SB 5004, “Providing a tax exemption for medical marijuana patients,” was proposed and passed by the senate and a house policy committee in 2021. In 2022, the bill was again passed by the senate on January 19th and, at publication time, had been referred back to the Washington State House Finance Committee (WA House FIN).
      • Should legislators move ahead with the bill, Gardner recommended “safeguards around the home grow provisions.” Her examples were “a total plant limit for home,” a “reduced plant limit per person,” barring outdoor cultivation or visibility, penalties for persons under 21 having access to a medical cannabis garden, and requiring written permission if a patient didn’t own the property where they were growing. Gardner asserted these additional requirements would protect “children in the homes, but also the home growers themselves.”
      • Senator Keith Wagoner asked about outreach to the bill sponsor on changing the bill. Gardner said she hadn’t engaged with lawmakers on the topic beyond her testimony (audio - 1m, video). 
      • Vice Chair Yasmin Trudeau inquired whether there was an actual “issue with homegrown that you all have identified.” Gardner responded that “various officers and agencies” believed allowing the public “to find out about” cannabis cultivation at homes resulted in “opportunities for people to take advantage of that.” She noted that some adults growing cannabis for themselves had reported being “victims” of robbery after another person learned about their garden. Gardner tried to compare medical homegrows to cash-only cannabis retail operations which were “also subject to these victimizations.” Kingsbury spoke up to share his confusion about Gardner’s remarks, saying “this is not a home grow bill” and that growing rights for patients would not be altered by it (audio - 2m, video). 
    • John Worthington, American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC, audio - 2m, video
      • Worthington’s position of ‘other’ was because he opposed the bill as written but “would support it with amendments.” He didn’t want “regular flower to be on the registry, I would only allow [patients engaged in] the derivatives process” to be registered with the state. Worthington claimed cannabis hadn’t been proven to be “as dangerous as” other Schedule I drugs and that “all these years law enforcement, and other folks, have been able to have a different rule promulgation process” that kept tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a Schedule I substance. “I’m trying to gear the policy towards a…realistic rescheduling,” he stated, and didn’t think adults, patient or otherwise, cultivating cannabis plants needed the attention of the state, except if they engaged in producing “derivatives.”
      • Senator Patty Kuderer asked for clarity around his AAMC affiliation (audio - <1m, video).
    • Valerie King signed in as opposed to HB 1105, but chose not to testify.
    • At publication time, HB 1105 was scheduled for an executive session in WA Senate LAW on February 17th.

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