More than 300 patients and advocates from nearly every legislative district in Washington State are expected to convene in Olympia this Thursday to meet with their elected officials and urge them to protect patients' rights amidst current efforts to dismantle the state's 16-year-old medical marijuana law.
The Washington State chapter of medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is hosting a legislative briefing and Citizen Lobby Day to ensure that patients' voices are at the forefront as state policymakers debate the future of medical marijuana.
Thursday morning will be dedicated to educational and skills-building workshops with a presentation by State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles tentatively planned for 10:30am. Patients will also attend a public hearing on Senate Bill 5052, sponsored by State Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center). The day's activities will culminate with a legislative briefing and media availability at 12:15pm, followed by scheduled appointments with legislators in the afternoon.
What: Legislative briefing and Citizen Lobby Day to preserve and strengthen Washington State's 16-year-old medical marijuana law
When: Thursday, January 22nd - Educational workshops 8:30-11am / Legislative briefing and media availability 12:15pm / Legislative lobbying visits 1-5pm
Where: John A. Cherberg Building, Conference Room A/B/C, 304 15th Ave SW, Olympia
The 12:15pm legislative briefing will feature ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, Neuropathic Pain specialist Dr. Jake Felice, Dockside co-founder Oscar Velasco, Local United Food and Commercial Worker organizer Patrick MacKay, Patient caregiver Dale Rogers, and Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access organizer Patrick Seifert.
"Everyone agrees that statewide medical marijuana regulations are needed to preserve patient rights," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, who will speak to advocates, legislators and staff on Thursday. "We're going to Olympia to make sure that those most impacted will be at the table," continued Sherer. "The sensible answer lies in full implementation of two distinct programs that are designed to meet the vastly different needs of each population."
Patients advocates have long fought for licensing, regulation and state oversight of the medical marijuana program in Washington. In the absence of a strict regulatory framework, many dispensaries implemented their own standards to ensure product safety. Despite having no clear mechanism for legal licensing, medical marijuana businesses contributed more than $14 million to state coffers in Fiscal Year 2014, according to recently released data from the Department of Revenue.
"Under current proposals, existing medical distribution centers would be phased out in favor of the adult-use marketplace, which is plagued by inconsistent and inadequate supply, as well as unreasonably high taxes," said Sherer. "Throughout the I-502 implementation process, repeated assurances have been made that medical marijuana will not be negatively impacted and that safe, affordable access remains a priority. Now, it's time for policymakers to deliver on that promise."