Drugs King County Refuses Medical Marijuana Cases, State Senator Seeks to Strengthen Law
posted by October 9 at 16:30 PMon
Ten years after Washington voters passed a medical marijuana law, patients in King County finally have a decree protecting them from prosecution. Under the law passed by voters in 1998, patients were allowed an ambiguous 60-day supply, which meant they could be arrested and prosecuted for any amount.
On Tuesday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg wrote a memo to all county law-enforcement agencies, including city police and county sheriff’s deputies, which says the prosecutor’s office “will decline to prosecute legitimate patients who qualify under the law if they reasonably adhere to the dictates of the statute.” Patients with serious illnesses may possess a “24 ounces of usable marijuana and 15 plants.”
The Department of Health set those plant and dried-weight amounts last week, as required by the legislature in 2007. But those amounts are technically only “presumptive quantity,” meaning law enforcement officers may continue to arrest patients for any amount of marijuana and require the patients to make a defense in court.
Satterberg’s memo represents a generous interpretation of the law. By stating that he will not charge any person with a physician’s authorization to possess marijuana, the medical marijuana law essentially carries protection from arrest.
But tacit arrest protection in one county is not enough for State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “I am really looking to what I might offer and introduce as legislation,” she says. She is considering a bill for the 2009 session that would offer total protection from arrest statewide and allow patients to grow in cooperatives. “We have some defense in the law now, but I think we could use more,” she says.
Satterberg’s memo goes on to say that he will “look with a very lenient eye” toward patients who would qualify for medical marijuana but lack proper paperwork. It also says his prosecutors “do not wish to prosecute” co-operative gardens involving more than one patient.
Although 24 ounces and 15 plants may seem like an excessive quantity of pot, especially to people like me—for whom a bong hit causes a minor out-of-body experience—patients disagree. That amount covers the maximum quantity patients would possess at any time in the cultivation cycle, such as right after harvesting. Twenty-four ounces may have to last for five or six months of daily use, while a new crop of plants mature.