By Molly Rosebach
House lawmakers approved a bill Monday to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and give greater legal protection to patients with a prescription for cannabis.
The bill, originally sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, aims to bring medical marijuana dispensaries out of the legal gray area in which they operate under current law.
It establishes a licensing process for cannabis producers and sets up regulations for dispensaries, including a provision that they must be located at least 500 feet away from a school.
Supporters say the measure will help patients who suffer from chronic pain and other conditions by allowing them easier access to the drug and giving them more security in their legal status.
The bill creates arrest protection for physicians who prescribe medical marijuana and for the patients who use it in compliance with possession limitations: Patients may own no more than 15 plants and 24 ounces of medical cannabis and must have proof of their registration as a legal medical user.
Under the bill, groups of patients would also be allowed to collaborate on community gardens, which could have up to 99 plants. Only qualified patients would be allowed to use the marijuana grown in these gardens.
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