On Friday, the Washington State Senate passed a bill (SB 5798) that would allow more medical professionals to authorize medical marijuana use (see the link for the actual bill). The bill would add physician assistants, naturopaths, and a few other positions to the current list of practitioners. Currently, only physicians are allowed to authorize medical marijuana. Similar bills in other states have been introduced in the past, via the initiative system, but they have always been voted down.
This bill is interesting because it was initiated by politicians, not voters, and it passed by a wide margin (37-11). The companion bill in the House is HB 2046, and if it also passes, a conference committee will amend the bills and pass it to the Governor’s office. Only time will tell if this bill will go all the way, but based off of the easy victory in the Senate, I would say passage is likely.
This would dramatically expand the amount of medical marijuana patients in Washington State. As it is now, only physicians can sign medical forms to recommend medical marijuana. Due to social stigmas, pressure from their peers, and personal biases, only a small percentage of physicians are willing to sign medical marijuana forms. If you increase the pool of people that can authorize medical marijuana, thousands of people will have better access to medicine. Kudos to Senators Kohl-Welles, McCaslin, Keiser, Pflug, and Kline for stepping up and sponsoring this bill! Hopefully other states follow Washington’s example!