State Supreme Court decision underscores importance of Rivers’ Cannabis Patient Protection Act

In the days and years leading up to the recent passage of Senate Bill 5052 Sen. Ann Rivers was the subject of angry emails, death threats, even a published caricature depicting her with fangs – all over what critics said was her lack of concern for medical-marijuana patients.

Rivers’ Cannabis Patient Protection Act aligns the wholly-unregulated medical-marijuana industry with the tightly-constrained recreational marijuana market approved by voters through Initiative 502 in 2012.

“The moment I introduced this legislation almost three years ago, my office phones lit up. Those who had been making their living – and a very good living at that – preying on those who relied on medical marijuana for relief, as well as providing children with unfettered access to marijuana, mounted a vicious campaign to paint me as the anti-patient lawmaker,” said Rivers, R-La Center.

The value of Rivers’ years of work to legitimate medical-marijuana patients was confirmed Thursday when the state Supreme Court issued its decision in State of Washington v. William Michael Reis. In that case the defendant, identified as Mr. Reis, was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance after a search of his home produced evidence of a marijuana-grow operation. Reis’ defense had claimed the operation was for growing medical marijuana and the search warrant was invalid based on Washington’s medical marijuana law.

The Supreme Court determined that Washington’s medical-marijuana law “does not support the conclusion that the medical use of marijuana is not a crime.” The court went on to state that under current law, patients would only be protected from arrest if they joined a medical-marijuana registry. However, an effort to establish such a registry was vetoed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2011. As a result registration was impossible, leaving Reis and other medical-marijuana patients with only an affirmative defense.

Rivers’ SB 5052 will establish the registry referred to by the Supreme Court. Patients and providers who sign up with the medical-marijuana authorization database will be protected from arrest as long as they are otherwise in compliance with Washington’s medical-marijuana law. The database is required to be in place by July 1, 2016. From then on patients and providers who register will be able to grow cannabis for their medical use without fearing arrest. Those who choose not to participate in the registry will not be afforded that protection.

“Despite the loud cries of those who did not actually represent the true patient, the Senate majority, the House majority and the governor did the right thing, as has been illuminated brilliantly by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“My goals all along were for legitimate patients to have a safe, clean and adequate supply of their product, to keep our children from having easy access to marijuana and to eliminate the black and gray markets that pose a threat to Washington,” said Rivers.