Drugs State Sets Medical Marijuana Limits; Attorney Plans Lawsuit
posted by October 2 at 16:26 PMon
The state set new rules today establishing the amount of marijuana an authorized patient can possess and grow. The law passed by voters in 1998 allowed a “60-day supply,” which was ambiguous. Under the new guidelines, set by the Washington State Department of Health, authorized patients may possess up to 24-ounces of usable marijuana and grow up to 15 plants.
That may seem like a lot of pot, but some patient advocates—who are just reacting to the news—disagree. They say many patients use more marijuana than recreational users because they eat the pot, smoke it throughout the day, or have a high tolerance.
“Patients are not going to have enough,” says Joanna McKee, director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Green Cross. She says that if someone starts with 15 seeds, only three to five will survive to maturity. That will leave sickest patients without enough harvestable marijuana to treat their conditions, which range from intractable pain to cancer. “They are going to have to go to the black market to get it,” she says.
Tim Church, a spokesman for the Department of Health, says, “We were trying to come up with a number [of plants] and an amount [of marijuana] that the majority of patients need to treat their illness, and we think they have hit that.” He says there was very little scientific research on which to base the decision. The DoH gathered input from numerous public meetings with patients, doctors and law enforcement. “There is always someone who needs more for a particular reason,” he says.
“This basically means it is open season on every medical patient that law enforcement encounters because nobody is in compliance with this rule,” says Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle attorney who defends medical marijuana patients. Hiatt worries the rule would set a “clear bright line” that encourages police to arrest medical marijuana patients who exceed the amount set under the rule.
“I am going to file for an injunction to stop the rule from taking effect,” says Hiatt. He says scientific reports show that many patients need more marijuana that the rule would allow. “Then I am going to file to overturn the rule based on them failing to follow science.”
The legislature tasked the DoH with establishing the guidelines to clarify the amount of pot a patient could possess, because, under the law passed a decade ago, police would routinely arrest medical marijuana patients for any amount and allow a court to decide whether or not the patient was in compliance with the law. Although the rule still does not provide patients protection from arrest if they are under the limit, it may help them being arrested. The patients still retain retain their legal defense in court if they exceed the limits. “It’s a good start,” says McKee. The rule is slated to take effect on November 1.