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Thursday, April 5, 2007

What’s the AP Smoking?

posted by on April 5 at 6:30 AM

First posted last night at 11 P.M.

Washington’s legislature went out on a limb, err, stalk to protect medical marijuana patients tonight, but you might not know it from reading this:

The state House late Wednesday passed a measure clarifying the state’s medical marijuana law and addressing supply issues, but medical marijuana advocates and patients opposed to the measure argue it does nothing to help them.

The measure, which passed on a 64-30 vote, requires the state Department of Health to determine the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be considered a 60-day supply. The bill passed the Senate last month, but since it was amended in the House, it must go back to the Senate for concurrence.

Strangely, the AP article fails to mention that medical marijuana advocates and patients who support the measure argue it does a lot to help them. Joanna McKee, who runs the state’s oldest medical marijuana organization, Green Cross, and Martin Martinez, one of Washington’s foremost authorities on the medical use of marijuana, both testified in favor of the bill. They said it would help authorized patients avoid arrest by defining how much pot they can possess. Instead of quoting them, or the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36 Seattle), the AP only talked to this guy…

Steve Sarich, executive director of CannaCare, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said that doctors - not the state - should determine the supply a patient needs.

“Does the state determine how many birth control pills you take, or how much Percocet you need?” he asked.

“This bill provides no significant protection for patients whatsoever,” he said.

Sarich, a rabble-rouser new to Washington with a relatively unknown organization, is partly right. The bill wouldn’t provide much protection for him. He was nailed earlier this year for growing 1,500 plants. With that sort of operation, the case is automatically in federal jurisdiction and would greatly exceed any reasonable 60-day supply that would be set by Washington’s Department of Health.

Sarich is also little misguided about the premise that doctors should be prescribing specific amounts of cannabis like pharmaceuticals. It’s a great idea, but prescriptions are overseen by the DEA – a federal agency that doesn’t recognize medical marijuana at all.

Currently, as long as authorized patients don’t mess with the DEA or grow so much pot they get bumped out of the state’s legal system, they’re protected in Washington courts. But if this bill is signed into law, as now appears likely, sick people could avoid arrest and court altogether. That’s a big deal.

Somehow, the AP story missed those facts.

RSS icon Comments

1

Excellent post, and an improvement on the current law. Keeping sick people out of the court and prison system is in everyone's best interest... What's a 60 supply look like?

Posted by myre | April 5, 2007 11:16 AM
2

A 60 supply? Do you mean 60 keys?

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 5, 2007 11:50 AM
3

The problem is nobody knows what a 60-day supply looks like under current law. Depending on the patient and their condition, it could be 6 grams or 6 kilos. Police officers don't know either, so they arrest sick folks and let the courts decide if the patient is in compliance with the law. But if you're sick enough to qualify for medical marijuana, then you shouldn't have to get busted, hire a lawyer, or go to court.

That's why the legislature is working on this -- so the Department of Health could determine how much pot a patient can possess without the risk of going to jail. Hallelujah!

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 5, 2007 12:50 PM
4

What's Dominic been smoking?

This law does nothing to prevent a patient's arrest even if they are below the limits set by the Dept. of Health.

The law leaves the arrest up to the discretion of the officers - the same as it has always been. We've all seen how well that has worked.

Plant and quantity limits in other states have been politicized to the point that the laws are practically useless for medical patients (although they may be fine for the occasional recreational user) For example: 3 mature plant limit and/or 1oz processed in Maryland, Alaska, Hawaii, and only 1 plant in Vermont.

The Federal Governments IND medical marijuana program still gives it's patients an average of 300 .75g marijuana cigarettes EACH MONTH!

Medical use is nothing like recreational use. The patients in the federal program require 225 grams or 8oz every month. If washington's DOH follows the course of the other states, patients will no longer be able to grow their own supply, because now the new guidelines will take the discretion the officer had in all cases and limit it to only those patients below the guidelines.

This is a BAD bill. If Dominic were a patient who required medical marijuana, rather than a dillitante dabbling in politics, he would understand.

Posted by Bruce | April 5, 2007 11:45 PM
5

I've remained silent as much as possible but it's simply unfair to carry on half-truths to further your agenda Dom. I am sorry, I still love you, but I must object. Joanna McKee does not support the current bill, she is even listed in the house bill report http://www.leg.wa.gov/pub/billinfo/2007-08/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/House/6032-S.HBR.pdf page 4 as having testified " (With concerns) Michelle Smith and Joanna McKee, Greencross; ... ". Martin Martinez, for anyone not familiar with medical marijuana in Washington State, has been a consistent and constant 'rabble-rouser' since his first and second trials for disobeying the laws of the state (refresh everyones memories Dom, who was his attorney back then? ). Had the AP article quoted Joanna, that would leave your cast of 'supporters' at Martinez. SB 6032 was a very good idea, we supported the original bill. Had you and Alison attended the senate hearing rather than taking a trip to california maybe you could have helped poor Andy fend off the bullies, but you weren't there so you didn't help him. Unfortunate as the good senators bill was driven horribly off course and now it is not helpful to anyone but the ACLU (finally a win in the legislature) and prosecutors (continued persecution of patients). Please don't make the situation worse than it has already become by doing double-duty now, k? Thanks.

Posted by Ric Smith | April 6, 2007 9:29 AM
6

If this article had been written by someone who was totally unfamiliar with the medical marijuana community, or me personally, I would have just written the author off as ignorant or, at best, ill-informed. That's not the case here, however. Dominic Holden knows me and he's very aware of the issues. He's simply a liar. He wants to put a positive spin on this new law that his employers at the ACLU are shoving down the throats of the patients that trusted them.

Sarich, a rabble-rouser new to Washington with a relatively unknown organization, is partly right.

Apparently any patient activist that disagrees with the ACLU is now a "rabble-rouser". I suppose this makes the patients who demonstrated outside of your offices, protesting this terrible bill, nothing more than "rabble". The same "rabble" demonstrated outside the House building Olympia to protest this this bill and then testified against the bill in the House Healthcare Committee.

When you state that I’m “new to Washington”, you’re simply lying. I was born in Seattle, graduated from Bellevue High in 1969, and attended both WSU and Seattle University. My family came here as immigrants in 1914. My elderly parents, my eldest daughter and grandchildren all live here. I guess I’m not all that “new” after all, but you already knew all of this and chose to lie.

As far as CannaCare being a “relatively unknown organization”, you are certainly aware that we are the only organization, at least that I'm aware of, that helps patients state-wide. Do a google search on “medical marijuana” in Washington and I think you’ll find that we’re at least as well known as any other single group in this state. But you already knew that and again chose to deceive.

The bill wouldn’t provide much protection for him. He was nailed earlier this year for growing 1,500 plants. With that sort of operation, the case is automatically in federal jurisdiction and would greatly exceed any reasonable 60-day supply that would be set by Washington’s Department of Health.

I wish you’d at least clarify that I’ve never been arrested (or “nailed”) for a drug charge, ever. The 1500 plants were starter plants (and mother plants) that we provide to patients who can't afford to go to drug dealers for their medication; a fact that you knew and failed to mention. Under the current law, I was absolutely within my "60 day supply", as defined clearly by my own physician, and you might note that I was not charged with being over my limit. But you're very aware of all of this and just chose to deceive.

But you're quite correct when you assume that the law you and your friends have now arrogantly shoved down our throats will put care providers, like CannaCare, in even further legal danger.

You're correct when you assume that the Department of Health will set a ridiculous limit on the amount of medication and the number of plants a patient can have. If they set a six plant limit, we will no longer be able to provide plants to needy patients. I'm sure that patients will not soon forget the screwing you and the ACLU just gave them.

Under this new law, if the DOH sets a low limit for patients (something even you are predicting), the patients that need more than the DOH limit will now be subject to seizure and arrest, even if their doctor recommends more than the DOH limit. They will then have to go through a trial to prove that they need more than the DOH limit.

You are simply lying when you say that patients will be safer under this law. There is nothing new in this law that protects patients from arrest. I must have missed the "protection from arrest or seizure" clause in the bill. If it's in there somewhere, please point it out. Oh, I almost forgot...that protection was part of the bait you used to get us to support the bill. That's the critical part that was removed early on in this process...at the request of the prosecutors and police that continue to raid, rob and prosecute law abiding patients.

As patients are sadly aware of, it's nearly impossible to get their family physician to sign a medical marijuana authorization. Doctors, knowing that they will potentially have to testify in court for every patient they write a recommendation for, will cease writing patient recommendations all together. Who would blame them? This bill takes the dosing limits out of the hands of the physician and patient relationship and puts the state in control of dosing limits. There is no other medication that is regulated like this in our state. You've just turned us, once again, into second class citizens with this bill.

All this bill brings us is more government regulation. It brings us tighter, very likely impossible, limits that will place patients in far more danger than they are today. It gives the thugs that enjoy raiding the homes of sick and disabled patients yet one more weapon in their terrorist arsenal. Thanks, Dominic. We won't forget what the ACLU has done to patients in this state. Your deceit apparently knows no bounds.

You failed to list the many other "rabble-rousers" that opposed this bill. Dr. Greg Carter, arguably the leading medical marijuana expert in the medical community is Washington, is now a rabble-rouser. Douglas Hiatt, arguably the leading medical marijuana defense attorney in this state, is now a rabble-rouser, according to you. Dale Rogers, Jim Wheeler, Allison Bigelow, Todd Dearinger, and countless other long-time members of the medical marijuana community are now, according to you, nothing but rabble-rousers.

Your very personal attempt to discredit me, CannaCare, and the countless other devoted medical marijuana activists that overwhelmingly denounced this bill, and testified against it, is nothing short of despicable. You have certainly diminished any credibility that you may have garnered from the patient community. The fact that you're now name-calling and making these attacks personal only further discredits your position in the community.

The ACLU has resorted to nothing short of "bait and switch tactics" to get this bill passed. They got our support for one bill, and got us to testify for it, then totally switched the bill. You substituted it with one that removed the sections that we supported that would have protected patients and allowed cooperative growing. You then replaced it with a bill that further restricted the rights of both patients and care providers. You placed us in even more danger than we were in before this. You tricked us and we won't soon forget that.

Sarich is also little misguided about the premise that doctors should be prescribing specific amounts of cannabis like pharmaceuticals. It’s a great idea, but prescriptions are overseen by the DEA – a federal agency that doesn’t recognize medical marijuana at all.


Again, if this was written by someone that doesn't understand the issues, I could write off this comment as simply ignorant. But since you are very aware of the situation, and the case law, this can only be viewed as one more lie that you and your organization want to sell to the public.

For those in the public that don't understand the law, doctors do not "prescribe" a patient's 60 day supply. They don't "prescribe" at all. Doctors, in all 12 medical marijuana states, can only "recommend". Doctors are protected by the Ninth Circuit Federal Court ruling in Conant v. Walters. This gives doctors the unfettered free speech right to make any recommendations they feel appropriate for their patients. My doctor "recommends" my 60 day supply and that recommendation has never been challenged, even when my home was raided. It provided me with legal protection. This new law will hand this decision over to the state bureaucracy. You and your friends somehow want to spin this as somehow a "plus" for patient's rights. Nice try. We're not buying this spin.

Currently, as long as authorized patients don’t mess with the DEA or grow so much pot they get bumped out of the state’s legal system, they’re protected in Washington courts. But if this bill is signed into law, as now appears likely, sick people could avoid arrest and court altogether. That’s a big deal.

Actually, that's a big lie, or certainly a concerted effort to deceive. We already had this "right" to have our property seized and to be charge in state court. We already have the "right" to hire an attorney, subpoena our doctor for court, and to have to defend our 60 day supply in order to avoid prison. This law does nothing positive whatsoever to change this situation. It does nothing to protect patients from being raided by state drug task forces and then being turned over to the feds to deny them even the opportunity to use their affirmative defense in a state court. As you well know, this is exactly what they attempted to do to me. I begged to get protection from this illegal activity by state law enforcement officers written into the new law. Senator Kohl-Welles totally ignored this request, as did the ACLU.

If you want to know the truth about where this bill is taking us, you need look no further than the latest amendment added to the bill by Representative Curtis. This calls for a study on establishing a state-owned marijuana distribution system that will be charged with looking into distributing marijuana seized from those illegally growing it. They could then, conceivably, raid patient's homes, steal their plants (just as they do today), and then sell patients back their own marijuana.

But it could be worse. They could then sell critically ill patients marijuana that is laced with dangerous insecticides or pot that is moldy and likely to cause infection and lung damage.

To find out what they're actually thinking with the passage of this bill, one needs to look no farther than the comments made on the House floor by Rep. Curtis. The state no longer wants patients growing their own medication in their homes and they want patients to be forced into going to the state pot store.

What will patients pay for medication at the state pot stores? One need look no further than the state owned liquor stores. Prices are frequently double the prices you'll pay in Oregon and California. Once the state finds out what a cash cow marijuana can be, do you think that they'll somehow take pity on patients living on fixed incomes and make medication truly affordable? If so, I've got a perfectly good bridge for sale. (Actually it's more like a viaduct)

The AP didn't get the story wrong. The Times and the PI didn't get the story wrong. The editorials in both papers did not get the story wrong. The facts are the facts. The fact that the ACLU screwed the patients of Washington and now wants to convince the public that somehow this screwing is going to be good for patients and care providers, is nothing short of reprehensible. You can lie to the public all you want, but patients know when they're being lied to...and whose doing the lying.

Ask Joanna McKee if she now feels like she was screwed by you and Senator Kohl-Welles after she was promised last minute changes to the bill that were never even attempted by the good Senator. You duped her too.

Patients in this state will never again allow the ACLU to lobby on our behalf. We will never again trust Jeanne Kohl-Welles. The patient community will begin meeting within the next two weeks to write our own new bill that will actually protect patients and we'll address all the other critical issues that were left out of your legislation. Forgive us if we don't include the ACLU in that process.

Steve Sarich
Executive Director & Head Rabble-Rouser
CannaCare
steve@cannacare.org


Posted by Steve Sarich | April 6, 2007 10:58 AM
7

Many people think that Steve Sarich and Cannacare are federal agent provocateurs. Steve has ripped off and stolen from many patients.

Posted by John | April 6, 2007 12:42 PM
8

What you or many people think of Steve has nothing to do with the arguments he makes.

It's easy to slander somebody, but it's hard to discredit a logical argument

Posted by Bill | April 6, 2007 1:30 PM
9

So as a Med Doc person on the Eastside.With no money for lights,and the jeopardy of losing a home I own if I buy off the street. To supply myself, I could grow-X- quantity outside,say 60 plants hoping that would last til the next harvest and still would need to continue to grow outside.
Right away I would be in an illegal situation with the seedlings.I could not vary the age and growing season. If I could grow indoors,the increaseed cost of futilities is prohibitive.
This limitation and quantity problem are thought by law enforcement to be a priorty, where is it all going? Well mine is going to control intractable pain and migraines.I need every tiny bud I grow.
Should I be made homeless because some federal dept does not agree with what I use as medication with approval of my own doctor? I am a 57 year old gramma,I have served on city committees and board of directors.
We need a study group to help these legislators know how this affects us.Go to your local Health Dept.ask how they feel about this.

Posted by Fran | April 6, 2007 4:49 PM
10

Fran, your local Health Dept. has nothing to do with setting the new limits. The State Dept. of Health in Olympia, rather than the county Health Dept, will be making that decision. All phone calls to them have been met with a "no comment".

With the execption of a few Northern California counties, the "guidelines" set by every other state are so ridiculously low that it will be practically impossible for an individual patient to grow a useful amount of medicine.

The patients in Washington, having seen the effect of plant limits in other states, intentionally created the "60 day supply" language to allow patients to grow and posses an amount of cannabis that could actually help them. They didn't specify actual quantities because they knew recreational users and the general public would not understand the actual amounts required.

The patients understood that law enforcement would oppose medical cannabis regardless of how it was implemented. Thats why we prefer the initiative process rather than a legislative approach.

Unfortunately, Dominic and his friends at the ACLU seem to believe that law enforcement can be placated and were more concerned with law enforcement's objections than the patients' needs.

Posted by Bruce | April 8, 2007 8:48 AM
11

Fran, your local Health Dept. has nothing to do with setting the new limits. The State Dept. of Health in Olympia, rather than the county Health Dept, will be making that decision. All phone calls to them have been met with a "no comment". Speaking to legislators is futile as well, since the bill has already been snuck through both houses. (Dominic likes to refer to this as "the stealth strategy")

With the execption of a few Northern California counties, the "guidelines" set by every other state are so ridiculously low that it will be practically impossible for an individual patient to grow a useful amount of medicine.

The patients in Washington, having seen the effect of plant limits in other states, intentionally created the "60 day supply" language to allow patients to grow and posses an amount of cannabis that could actually help them. They didn't specify actual quantities because they knew recreational users and the general public would not understand the actual amounts required.

The patients understood that law enforcement would oppose medical cannabis regardless of how it was implemented. Thats why we prefer the initiative process rather than a legislative approach.

Unfortunately, Dominic and his friends at the ACLU seem to believe that law enforcement can be placated and were more concerned with law enforcement's objections than the patients' needs.

Posted by Bruce | April 8, 2007 8:52 AM
12

Bruce (10 and 11), are you saying that Oregon's 24-oz. limit (three times the federal IND amount) is too low? And how were Washington patients able to look at all the other states' guidelines and determine they were too low back in 1998 (when Washington passed its medical marijuana law) when, according to NORML, www.norml.org, Washington was the second state to pass a medical marijuana law after California (tied with Alaska and Oregon)?

Posted by Carol | April 9, 2007 9:16 AM
13

It's just a plant! it should be legal for everyone!
Lettuce is. Tomatoes are, Potatoes are legal to grow yourself! even though you could even make vodka out of them!

Wine grapes are easy to grow, and there is no limit on how many you can grow.

Hell you can even grow your own foxglove for home made heart medication.

The medical marijuana community seems to have forgotten that it"s just a plant.
it'S NOT gold!

PLEASE READ MY COLLECTION OF LETTERS

Posted by DARRAL GOOD | April 9, 2007 11:48 AM
14

Carol,

Oregon's 24 oz limit is NOT 3 times the federal IND dosage (only 3x a ONE MONTH supply) this was only recently raised from a 1oz. limit due to the unenforceability of the previous limit which was so low. law enforcement was unable to get a conviction in court for those who violated it. Oregon still only allows three mature plants.

Although Washington was only the second state to PASS a MMJ law, many other states had proposed bills (all with ridiculous limits) which is why the 60 day supply language was suggested.

Posted by bruce | April 9, 2007 1:17 PM
15

Sorry, I just double checked Oregon's law and I see they raised the mature plant count to a whopping 6 plants!

They also stripped patients of the right to prove they needed more or present any medical defense if they possess more than those state mandated limits!

Wanna bet Washington follows suit within a few years?

Posted by Bruce | April 9, 2007 4:49 PM
16

Bruce, I'm even more confused now. You say the federal IND 8-oz. amount is for a one-month supply. I looked up the actual Oregon law, and it doesn't talk about any time limits at all, which tells me a patient can possess 24 oz. every single day - so if I start with 24 oz. today and smoke a little, I can replace it immediately and have 24 oz. again tomorrow. That sounds like it could wind up being a LOT more than 3X the IND program! As for the plants, my friends tell me that 6 mature plants plus 18 immature plants should be plenty to maintain my supply, keeping the plants cycled properly.

Posted by Carol | April 10, 2007 8:19 AM
17

Washington STILL has a 60 day supply limit.


Washington does not have oregon's limits.


You are arguing the merits of the one state that has the largest state limits.

Oregon's patients are protected from arrest if they are under those limits, unlike Washingtons patients.


The Washington law is a terrible law, because (among other reasons) it DOES NOT protect patients from arrest, despite Dominic's claims.


Lets discuss Washington's law rather than Oregons.

Posted by Bruce | April 10, 2007 9:01 AM
18

Won't Washington be looking at other states' medical marijuana laws when it's coming up with its 60-day supply rule? Seems like we should be discussing Oregon's law and figuring out what's good and bad about it, especially if that's what the Department of Health is going to be doing.

Posted by Carol | April 10, 2007 2:10 PM
19

That is one of the big problems with the law. The DOH has already stated they will be considering ALL the other states laws when making their decision, the average being only three mature plants.

The Dept of Health should only be using medical and scientific evidence to make a medical decision.

Of course, most patients think only their doctors should be making medical decisions for them.

Posted by Bruce | April 11, 2007 12:32 AM

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