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How Secure Is A Patient Registry, When Washington Can’t Even Keep Law Enforcement Info Confidential?

Several bills introduced in the 2014 session of the Washington Legislature would have effectively killed medical marijuana in the state, but none of them passed. Each of the MMJ-killer bills died when the session ended Thursday night. At one time, it seemed almost a slam dunk that at least one of these execrable pieces of legislation — which would greatly reduce patient plant and possession limits and shut down all dispensaries in the state — would pass.

What happened?

According to inside information obtained by Toke Signals, a clash over taxes wasn’t the only reason the Washington Legislature’s medical marijuana-killer bills died in the session that ended Thursday night.

Arthur West: "When the government takes information, it's only as secure as the weakest link in the chain, and there are some pretty weak links in the chain"[Washington State Wire]

Arthur West:
“When the government takes information, it’s only as secure as the weakest link in the chain, and there are some pretty weak links in the chain”
[Washington State Wire]

Another reason the bills — which were supposedly meant to bring medical marijuana “into compliance” with recreational legalization measure I-502, approved by state voters in November 2012, died in the 2014 Legislature — was  a confidentiality breach from the state.

This breach highlighted the vulnerability of the highly sensitive info which would be contained in a medical marijuana patient registry, which helped change lawmakers’ minds, according to the Seattle-based Cannabis Action Coalition.

It all started with a public records request from Olympia activist Arthur West back on March 28, 2013. West had requested “all records concerning the application for and issue of secret licenses or license plates January of 2011 to present.” The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) complied with the request, sending installments in April, May (two installments), June (two installments), July, August (two installments), September, October, November and December 2013, and February 2014.

But then something really interesting happened — something that would change the course of medical marijuana legislation in Washington, according to John Novak of the CAC. In an installment of records sent in March — on March 12, 2014 — the DOL sent West unredacted records of the “confidential” list of all law enforcement by license plate numbers, including personal information like names and home addresses.

Toke Signals obtained all the emails, and can definitively confirm that this March 12 email  contains unredacted personal info regarding law enforcement officers.

Screenshot 2014-03-15 11.00.09

All state and federal law enforcement in the state are included — the list is a de facto “registry,” much like the one law enforcement wanted of patients. All of the personal information that was supposed to be highly confidential and very secure was accidentally leaked in the emails.

John Novak, Cannabis Action Coalition

John Novak, Cannabis Action Coalition:
“They got the message loud and clear”

This, of course, highlighted the extreme vulnerability of a medical marijuana patient registry and the sensitive information contained therein. After all, how hard would it be for federal law enforcement to get ahold of such a registry, if a private citizen was “accidentally” given confidential information on every law enforcement officer in the state?

“So we emailed it to every single state Representative and state Senator, and I told them that this is exactly why we fear a registry,” Novak told Toke Signals Saturday morning. “They got the message loud and clear.”

Arthur West is more circumspect about the impact of the unredacted email sent to him, but he grants that it assured the bills’ doom. “My understanding is that the decision was pretty much made by then, but it certainly kept them from backsliding once the Governor started leaning on them,” he told us.

“When the government takes information, it’s only as secure as the weakest link in the chain, and there are some pretty weak links in the chain,” West told us Saturday morning. “Government information is not secure; that’s just the reality of life. You’ve got government officials watching it, and they’re not always the highest paid or the most alert.

“How secure is a registry going to be if someone can request public records and get the confidential license plates of DEA, FBI and DOJ agents?” West asked.

“This wasn’t an instance of hacking,” West pointed out. “This is just a citizen filing a records request. If someone really wanted this information, they would go to more extreme measures, and they would get it.”

Is Ezra For It Or Against It?

Ezra Eickmeyer, Washington Cannabis Association: "Where do you get your information?"

Ezra Eickmeyer,
Washington Cannabis Association:
“Did we play a big role in killing it in the House, hell yes.”

Marijuana businessman Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association sold classes — oh, wait, not “sold classes,” Ezra tells us he “held free informational meetings” at which admits he he “recruited money to pay for lobbyists to support the original version of 5887.” This guy, in other words, took donations for advice on how medical-marijuana providers and patients could avoid the bad effects I-502 would have upon the MMJ community, then actually lobbied for the bills, including SB 5887, which would effectively kill medical marijuana in the state by way of “folding in” medical marijuana into 502 — talk about playing both sides! (And oh, how very convenient for Ezra that the rules he advocated in 5887 would likely line his pockets — a fascinating coincidence!)

Eickmeyer takes at least partial credit for killing the very bills for which he testified in favor. (This reporter personally heard Eickmeyer testify for 5887 at a Senate committee hearing this session.)

“We supported 6542 to the end, but we went back and forth on 5887,” Eickmeyer told Toke Signals Saturday morning. “We opposed it in the Senate as it was written when it got to the floor and we learned there was not support for licensing the whole industry. When it then got to the House we were neutral and just trying to get the retail tax out of the bill, or should I say the exemption reinstated.

“Then Cody brought out her ‘just kill MMJ outright’ striker and both ASA [Americans for Safe Access] and us went into full opposition mode and started peeling votes away from both caucuses,” Eickmeyer said.

“Are we taking credit that we did it alone?” Eickmeyer rhetorically asked us. “Hell no. Did we play a big role in killing it in the House, hell yes.”

“Just because someone supports moving forward with a bill in the early stages doesn’t mean they can’t oppose it towards the end if it fucking sucks,” Eickmeyer equivocated. “Where do you get your information about what’s happening in Olympia?” (Editor’s note: Don’t be misled; the bill fucking sucked all along.) 

“The black and white, us vs. them bullshit people are feeding the community out there is so wildly misleading,” Eickmeyer said. I’ve been constantly demonized as trying to kill off medical out of greed for want of 502 profits. Are you fucking kidding me? Who was out campaigning against 502 during the election?”

“Who has held firm in Olympia against such actions, even moving to kill my own bill this year because it became bad for patients and their providers?” Eickmeyer asked. “Why do people buy into such divisive shit over and over?”

Eileen Cody’s Personal Vendetta Against Medical Marijuana

Rep. Eileen Cody got so mad at the medical marijuana community, she introduced a "striker" bill to "just kill MMJ"

Rep. Eileen Cody:
Got so mad at the medical marijuana community, she introduced a “striker” bill to “just kill MMJ”

Rep. Eileen Cody of West Seattle certainly deserves dishonorable mention for her last minute, Hail Mary move of introducing a stripped down “zombie” striker bill as a direct attack on the medical marijuana community, and in particular an attack upon Steve Sarich, who leads the Cannabis Action Coalition. Rep. Cody reportedly had developed a keen dislike for Sarich due to his fighting every single bill in Olympia which would have reduced safe access for MMJ patients — prominently including, of course, Cody’s HB 2149.

Cody and her Democratic allies reportedly tried to strip out everything in the bill that would force a two-thirds vote. The Democrats could have passed it all by themselves with a simple majority, but around a dozen of the rank-and-file members said “NO” in caucus.

That’s reputedly when Gov. Jay Inslee — who set his sights on the medical marijuana industry not long after being elected as a supposed “liberal” — tried to strong-arm House Democrats into passing something, anything, to “take down” medical marijuana in the state. Inslee’s strong-arm tactics didn’t work — so then he reportedly tried to strong-arm Republican Rep. Cary Condotta of East Wenatchee — who had authored a GOP amendment which would have shared the cannabis tax money with municipalities, instead of all of it going to the state —  into supporting the bill. Condotta reportedly didn’t have any of it.

“By that time we had legislators running around to find us, not the lobbyists,” Novak told us.

Whether Inslee imagines himself taking a stab at the Presidency, or perhaps has some financial stake in the success of recreational marijuana in the state (and thus, in his mind, the failure of medical marijuana), we don’t know. But he seems single-minded in his goal of closing down every dispensary in Washington state. Liberals who expected Inslee to take a compassionate stance towards safe access for medical marijuana patients have been greatly disappointed.

Dead, All Dead…

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles: Mad at Rep. Cody?

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles:
Mad at Rep. Cody?
[Humanities Washington]

Included in the carnage was SB 6542, which would have created a “cannabis industry coordinating committee” appointed by Governor Inslee, which means, of course, that it would be heavily stacked with those hostile to the medical marijuana community, perhaps salted with a token “representative” of MMJ — or at least one of the lame sellouts who favored the bills (you know who you are).

Rumor has it that Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles dropped that bill because she thought the Cannabis Action Coalition’s Steve Sarich supported it. Sarich, of course, was against 6542, and all the other legislation that came down the pike this year. The stance of the CAC was “kill all the bills” and leave medical cannabis alone until we see how recreational marijuana implementation unfolds under I-502.

There was also reportedly some kind of big falling out between Sen. Kohl-Welles and Rep. Cody, both Democrats. Insiders say the two lawmakers were quite unhappy with each other, but we haven’t heard the exact reason why.

Language which would have allowed home inspections of MMJ grows by the Washington State Liquor Control Board was disavowed by the LCB itself. Officials with the Board claimed there’s “no way” they would ever want to be involved with going into people’s homes. So, according to insiders, that means either law enforcement got that language slipped into the bill — after all, wouldn’t they just love to have that authority? — or perhaps one of the industry lobbyists.