OLYMPIA—Washington was on the leading edge of cannabis legalization. While this industry was opened cautiously, it still has gaps and inequalities that need to be fixed. Rep. Shelley Kloba (D-Kenmore) has sponsored House Bill 1563 to provide equitable criminal and civil protections to qualifying patients and providers who have a valid authorization for the use of medical cannabis.
Once a patient has met with their healthcare provider and has satisfied the criteria required to get an authorization, they are allowed to purchase cannabis products and are allowed to grow up to four plants at home. If they chose, they may also meet with a medical cannabis consultant and get a recognition card that signifies that they are in the Department of Health cannabis patient database. “If there were two patients who qualified for an authorization, the one with the recognition card would get full arrest protection but the one without it would not have this level of protection. This is fundamentally unfair.” Kloba explained.
Washington begins with the assumption that a qualified patient not in the database is a criminal unless they can establish an affirmative defense and that leaves patients vulnerable: this bill protects patients. It ensures that qualifying patients and providers who have a valid authorization but have chosen not to be entered into the database are protected from being arrested, prosecuted, or subject to other criminal sanctions or civil consequences for certain violations of state law relating to the use and possession of cannabis. This bill prevents gardens from being destroyed, equipment from being seized, and legal costs from being incurred that can destroy lives. This bill passed off the House floor on March 3, 2023, 63-32 and will now advance to the Senate for consideration.