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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Rep. Chris Hurst, left, wouldn't even allow a committee vote on the home grow bill, HB 2629, sponsored by Rep. Cary Condotta (right), Rep. Brian Blake, and Rep. Jessyn Farrell [KING 5]
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Rep. Chris Hurst, left, wouldn’t even allow a committee vote on the home grow bill, HB 2629, sponsored by Rep. Cary Condotta (right), Rep. Brian Blake, and Rep. Jessyn Farrell
[KING 5]

Home grow is dead this year in the Washington Legislature.

On Tuesday, Rep. Christopher Hurst‘s Commerce and Gaming Committee of the Washington House held a public hearing on HB 2629, the Home Grow bill, sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake, Cary Condotta, and Jessyn Farrell.

Many of the activists in attendance were surprised — OK, shocked — when committee chair Hurst, a former narcotics cop, was polite, even solicitous and seemingly caring, with the patients and others who showed up to testify.

After all, this Hurst guy is the one who, in 2013, helpfully informed us that 99% of medical marijuana patients are “faking it.” In fact, from some of the rhetoric emanating from Hurst and from fellow Democrat, Gov. Jay Inslee, in 2013, you’d think that the entire medical-marijuana thing was a black-market enterprise. Just last year, Hurst recommended that law enforcement be allowed to auction off medical marijuana they’d stolen — I mean “seized” — from medical marijuana dispensaries.

Hurst said, just last year, that he considers most of the state’s medical providers part of the black market. “So-called medical today, for the most part is a joke,” he said. “We’re going to change all that.” Yeah, that definitely still seems to be his plan.

Rep. Chris Hurst: "" [KING 5]
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Rep. Chris Hurst:
“So-called medical marijuana today, for the most part, is a joke.”
[KING 5]

Now Hurst has effectively killed the 2016 bill by not even allowing his fellow committee members to vote on it, according to our reports from Olympia. So it now becomes painfully obvious — and I mean that in the most literal way possible — that Rep. Hurst hasn’t really changed his thinking at all since, back in 2013, he offered what he called a “pointed observation.”

Referring to U.S. Attorney of Western Washington Jenny Durkan’s remark that the medical marijuana market was “untenable,” Hurst said, “I think there isn’t an iota of difference between ‘untenable’ and ‘illegal.'”

Hurst (left) with fellow medical marijuana-hater Gov. Jay Inslee [Washington State House Republicans]
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Hurst (left) with fellow medical marijuana-hater Gov. Jay Inslee
[Washington State House Republicans]

“I think that if you are selling marijuana today it is just plain illegal,” Hurst claimed. “It doesn’t look like the dispensaries that we have operating are even on the periphery of something that is legitimate.”

Oh, but Hurst wasn’t done. He went on to admit that part of his reasoning lies in the competition that the medical marijuana dispensaries will represent for the state-licensed recreational pot stores.

“We have to really, really take a hard look and say: ‘Do we really want to be competing with an enterprise that is 99 and nine-tenths percent — maybe not nine-tenths but 99.2 percent — just a criminal enterprise?'”

So just like that, former narcotics cop Rep. Chris Hurst gets to designate an entire industry — an industry which has, for years, brought safe access to many suffering patients in Washington — a “criminal enterprise.”

What happened? Hurst, during Tuesday’s hearing, had disingenuously indicated to the assembled activists that passage of the new bill, HB 2629, out of his committee was almost a sure thing; with a chuckle, he’d added that success in the Washington Senate would be another matter. 

Washington State Rep. (and former narcotics cop) Christopher Hurst
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Washington State Rep. (and former narcotics cop)
Christopher Hurst

So, former police officer Chris Hurst — who was fronting all sincere and caring during his little sham hearing in Olympia on Tuesday — has personally killed the home grow bill. It would have allowed medical marijuana patients in the state to at least be able to provide themselves with medicine, now that the system of medicinal cannabis providers and dispensaries — which has worked in the state since voters approved medical marijuana back in 1998 — is being effectively shut down come July 1, with implementation of SB 5052.

It’s no secret that many I-502 merchants oppose home grow, and have no trouble silencing anyone who calls them out on it. Case in point: This reporter personally lost his writing gig with DOPE Magazine after making a Facebook post calling out the members of the Washington Cannabusiness Asssociation (WACA) for opposing home grow.

Now, when a magazine tells a writer, “Please don’t express those opinions in your articles,” (which they have every right to do), that’s perfectly OK. They pay the piper, they get to call the tune. BUT: When they say “We’re not using you anymore because our advertisers don’t like some opinions you’ve expressed in your private life, or on your Facebook account,” that’s getting way too damn pushy and sinister for me.

Last year, WACA director Vicki Christopherson told the Daily Beast that the organization “worked closely with Senator Rivers” in crafting SB 5052, the coup de grace which is ending medical marijuana as we’ve known it in Washington state, and that Rivers “took a lot of our suggestions,” reports Brendan Kiley at The Stranger.

“Recently, we as a company have received multiple complaints about strong opinions you have expressed,” DOPE publisher Evan Carter emailed me. “We enjoyed your features and the non-political content you provide, however, until we can get on the same page, it is in DOPE‘s best intertest to take a break for now, until things cool down and we can come to an amicable solution.” Here’s a hint, Evan: When it comes to safe access for patients, there is no “amicable solution” short of safe access for patients.

“Defending Our Patients Everywhere,” the magazine’s original slogan, has become a sad parody; it’s no wonder the rag has now quietly changed it to “Defending Our Plant Everywhere,” but they’re not even doing that much, if they’re unwilling to re-establish the “wall between editorial and advertising,”  by standing up to the 502 profiteers (who are, not coincidentally, their biggest advertisers) and to defend home grow.

Leaving aside, for now, questions about the sociopathic nature of Rep. Hurst pretending to be all reasonable, caring and nice, only to turn around and, yet again, stab the medical marijuana community in the back after leading them to believe they finally had an ally, Hurst’s action means that after July 1, lots of medical marijuana patients and providers are going to be dangerously vulnerable.

They will be vulnerable on both the basis of safe access, and on the basis of their legal standing. The system of 15 plants, 24 ounces which has worked for years will, at one fell swoop, be discarded for a profit-based system of forcing medicinal cannabis patients through expensive, recreational-focused I-502 marijuana stores.

The prices at these I-502 stores typically run at least double those in the medical marijuana dispensaries which will be shut down July 1 (you see, since the recreational shops couldn’t beat the medical dispensaries on either price or quality, they had the competition outlawed).

Why wouldn’t Hurst allow his own committee to vote on HB 2629? Why did he even hold the committee hearing at all? Why did he allow patient activists — many of whom suffer great hardship in coming to Olympia — to seemingly waste their time, money and energy by coming?

Distressingly enough, likely because “We didn’t pay to play,” according to patient activist John Novak.

“It takes campaign contributions during the previous election cycle if you want a bill passed through committee heads,” Novak told Toke Signals Saturday afternoon.

John Novak, 420Leaks.com: "" [John Novak/Facebook]
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John Novak, 420Leaks.com:
“We didn’t pay to play. It takes campaign contributions during the previous election cycle if you want a bill passed through committee heads.”
[John Novak/Facebook]

Incidentally, Hurst did receive $950 from a group calling itself the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments (CORE), representing I-502 recreational marijuana store owners.

“The committee members all had good things to say about the people giving testimony,” Novak said. “Our points were right on the mark. We were told that if it was up to the committee, it would pass, no problem.

“However, when push came to shove, the bill was left on the floor and the industry bill moved on (delivery services),” Novak said. “We were then informed Thursday that the bill was not going to get out of committee, that Rep. Hurst would not give it any more consideration, but ‘maybe next year,'” Novak said.

“There is a chance that some portions of the bill may get added onto another bill, but that would mean one of the big industry lobby firms taking it on,” Novak told us. “And that costs money. So far, industry has shown no interest.”

Here’s my testimony in favor of HB 2629, the home grow bill:

Finding A Way Forward: I-1419

The thing is, when you have people in a corner, health-wise, they tend to fight hard, because their lives are on the line. That’s exactly what Washington state’s medicinal cannabis community is doing.

An initiative called The Washington State Cannabis Patient Reform Act, I-1419, is now gathering signatures for the November ballot. Petitions are now being printed, according to organizers.

This measure would allow unlicensed collective gardens, which were outlawed by SB 5052. It would release offenders incarcerated for nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes, and it would create a separate board to license and regulate medicinal cannabis producers and dispensers.

I-1419 would prohibit state assistance with certain federal marijuana investigations, add criminal defenses, and adopt or repeal other cannabis-related laws.

The Act:

· Permits the legal private consumption of cannabis by adults of 21 years old or older, and medical patients.

· Challenges the Scheduling classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic

· Protects employees from job loss prohibiting cannabis from being tested as an illicit substance, only if it is not specifically stated differently in the employment contract.

· Protects organ transplant patients from cannabis consumption being the sole disqualifying factor for transplant eligibility.

· Removes nonviolent cannabis offenses from criminal record, and releases incarcerated nonviolent cannabis inmates. No victim, no crime.

· Creates a Recreational Cannabis board replacing the Liquor Control Board’s involvement with cannabis, required to engage in the lawful process of open meetings to consider public input as an agency representation for the public and by the public.

· Drops Recreational Cannabis taxes per tier to a maximum of 10 percent per producer, processor, and retailer. The Board is directed to examine the 37 percent excise tax, and provide a product that is price competitive to eliminate the criminal market.

· Creates a medical board to oversee medical cannabis specific issues, responsible for evaluating all angles of patient health, protection and over all well being.

· Removes Medical Cannabis Patient Registry until Federal Rescheduling.

· Restores private patient gardens with permitted possession of original DOH standard 60-day supply of 100-square-foot plant canopy and 35 ounces per patient.

· Legal 6-plant home grows for adults 21 years old or older, with the board directed to increase possession limits.

· Established arrest protections and an affirmative defense for Medical Cannabis Patients, Providers, and HealthCare Professionals who recommend cannabis.

· Establishes access and protection for Cannabis Refugees.

· Medical Cannabis protection of property forfeitures and seizures of property.

· Protects local banks to allow “green friendly” accounts.

· Requires video impairment for cannabis related DUIDs.

· Requires the protection of the state Attorney General to vigorously defend this initiative as the will of the People.

See Full Text Initiative Measure No. 1419

 

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