New Bill Sparks Medical Marijuana Debate

New Bill Sparks Medical Marijuana Debate »Play Video
TRI-CITIES -- Washington lawmakers say a new bill would help protect medical marijuana patients and providers from arrest.
But some patients say it could make things much worse for them.

Chet Biggerstaff was involved in an on-the-job accident. He went through several surgeries and was on several medications...but he says medical marijuana saved his life.

"Before I found cannabis, I was writing my will, letters to family, I was ready to go. None of the medication they had me on touched it...nothing," says Biggerstaff.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington for more than a decade, but some say the law isn't clear enough. Now lawmakers have introduced a new bill intended to clear things up.

That includes a new licensing system for medical marijuana providers and dispensaries. If passed, the new law could go into effect this summer, but the new licenses wouldn't be available until July 2012.

This has patients like Chet worried about getting their medicine.
"That will destroy all access for the vast majority of patients in this state for at least a year, and that's totally unacceptable."

The bill is co-sponsored by a representative of our area: former police officer and State Senator Jerome Delvin. He says during the year before the new licensing system, some providers would be allowed to operate if they were already registered as a non-profit or taxed by the state government.

Delvin also pushed for the bill to include registration for users. Supporters say the bill would make things easier on medical marijuana patients. If they got stopped by police, they could show their registration card.

Those opposed say registration could violate their medical privacy.
"How would the news media and the people of this state feel if the government of this state announced they were going to go out and register all AIDS patients? How would people feel about that?" asks Biggerstaff.

State Senator Delvin says he won't support the bill if it doesn't set up a registration system. His argument is that the system will help clearly define the legal rights of patients, but Biggerstaff says the government registry could end up violating their natural rights. "It is absolutely ludicrous to think the government has the power or the right to tell people what they can put in their bodies."

The bill is still a work in progress. Both sides will weigh in during hearings this Thursday.