State House Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

SPOKANE, Wash. - Those who sell medical marijuana in Washington may soon get more legal protection. A bill passed the state house Monday, regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and, for the first time, actually acknowledging them as legal.

This would be the first time that the word dispensary is even uttered in state legislation.

Weylin Colebank, who owns a medical marijuana dispensary in North Spokane, applauds the bill.

"This tells me exactly what I have to do. What I can do, what I can't do. Before, I didn't know," he said.

There are roughly 40 marijuana dispensaries in Spokane but there has been significant debate about whether they're legal. The Spokane Police Department has shut down dispensaries in the past and just last week, the U.S. Attorney's office warned dispensaries: shut down or we will shut you down.

"No one knows whether they'll get arrested or not," Colebank said.

But SB 5073 legitimizes the dispensaries and regulates them.

It would not allow dispensaries to operate within 500 feet of schools and it would only allow one dispensary for every 20,000 people in the state of Washington, meaning there would be 336 in the state and 23 in Spokane County.

"And basically it makes it so there's no gray areas no more. Right now there's tons of gray areas," Colebank said.

The bill still needs to be debated in the Senate and signed by the governor.

If it becomes law it clarifies things on the state level. However, the U.S. Attorney's Office says that distributing marijuana would still be against federal law.