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Thursday, October 2, 2008

State Sets Medical Marijuana Limits; Attorney Plans Lawsuit

posted by on October 2 at 16:26 PM

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.

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24 oz. is more than enough pot. I haven't grown, so obviously I don't know how hard it is to come up with that much weed, but as someone who suffers from chronic pain, who could probably find a Doctor to get me a prescription, I could, at most, smoke about 1/32nd of an ounce a day (based on my experience with eights).

As a former heavy smoker, I can attest that you can only get so stoned before you are just wasting the weed.

Posted by elswinger | October 2, 2008 4:46 PM

so if 1/3rd to 1/5 of your seeds actually grow into plants, you get 45-75 seeds. Viola Dominic, math solves yet another perceived problem.

Further, the idea that someone is always going to need more for a particular reason sounds like junkie talk no matter how you slice it. I just need a little more pot to get me through the day sounds like gimme gimme gimme cause a pound and a half isn't going to cut it.

Seriously, do medicinal marijuana users consume upwards of quarter of an ounce per day, because that works out to a 96 day supply using a quarter of an ounce per day.

And your bolding leaves me to wonder if you think that the green cross is fucking ridiculous or you're hysterical at the limits suggested on possession of medical marijuana.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 4:46 PM

Why the hell would Hiatt want an injunction against the new rule? It seems like, while he's busy fighting for a higher limit in court, it would make a lot of sense to let the rule take effect and thereby keep all the patients who are in compliance with it out of jail.

Posted by Greg | October 2, 2008 4:49 PM

Now I understand that a patient doesn't necessarily have the capability to wait 6 months to harvest 8 days worth at a quarter of an ounce. And it works out that you'd be planting 45 plants total for the year on my math.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 5:00 PM

My former pothead roommate had trouble going through just one ounce in a month. I can't imagine how hard you'd have to work to smoke almost a half an ounce every single day. Objecting to this does just make you sound like an addict.

Posted by F | October 2, 2008 5:39 PM

I know.

Let's let everyone smoke as much pot as they want. No problems.

Posted by tomk | October 2, 2008 6:06 PM

24 ounces is about a 20 year supply in my household.

Posted by beatgrl | October 2, 2008 6:51 PM

If you want to know how much pot medicinal marijuana users need, just ask an HIV-pos patient on "the cocktail" who relies on weed to hold down his dinner. Except don't, because it's absolutely none of our bunsiness. I wish I had a way to inflict pain on these assholes in the government who try to advance their careers by persecuting and jailing sick people.

Posted by yuiop | October 3, 2008 1:31 AM

I'm fairly certain that all serious advocates on both sides of the marijuana-legalization debate would agree that medical marijuana is simply a first step toward full, regulated legalization.

With that in mind, is this latest debate even newsworthy? The pro-legalization voices want no limits on quantity for "medical" marijuana, while the anti-legalization voices want very low limits (the scare quotes are there because we all know the stuff is often prescribed as a sole remedy for dubiously medical conditions like anxiety, in addition to being used as an effective supplementary treatment for unquestionably serious and painful conditions).

This isn't a debate about how much pot is enough to stimulate a chemo patient's appetite. This is a tug-of-war to determine the direction of the momentum of marijuana's legality.

If it were really a debate about medication levels, then we wouldn't be listening to disingenuous blowhards on both sides arguing about weights of raw materials, which contain amounts of the active ingredient that vary from 4-24% after initial processing, and which are generally administered using methods that are, to put it mildly, imprecise.

If this were a real medical debate, then we'd at least have someone trying to find out, at a minimum, what range of thc blood levels were found to be adequate for mitigation of specific symptoms for a given population of marijuana-using patients (and preferably using tests more reliable than simple, unsubstantiated self-reporting).

Neither side of the actual debate underway, however, has any interest in results like that, much less in the subsequent reverse calculation back through a tangle of multiplying variables to an (inevitably rather broad) effective range of weights of raw material per symptom.

This is not a medical debate. If you understand that, then this latest bit of "news" is meaningless. The specific amount of marijuana allowed by the WA state courts to individual patients is meaningless to patients, who will use as much of it as they want to (and they can afford) regardless of the law.

It's also almost meaningless to the rest of us. The reason it's meaningless (apart from its value as an indicator of legalization momentum) is that we already knew how we would react to any limit on medical pot possession, and it had nothing at all to do with the medical effectiveness of pot, in any amount, for any symptom; instead it had everything to do with our personal perceptions of recreational pot use.

Posted by robotslave | October 3, 2008 4:46 AM

I understand that eating cannabis requires a lot more than smoking it (both in terms of typical preparations and tolerance issues). But, wow, getting a limit of 12 oz/month seems like cause for declaring victory and calling it a day, to me ...

Posted by abracapocus | October 3, 2008 6:53 AM

I'd like to hear from affected patients as opposed to the 'chronic' tokers who have commented thus far. 1/4 OZ PER DAY IS LAUGHABLE TO SOMEONE SEEKING RELIEF FROM SIDE EFFECTS OF PROTEASE INHIBITORS.
Kindly save your tavern comments for your fellow 'chronic' tokers and allow the people truly affected by this ridiculous ruling make their comments, k?
I am heading towards a kidney transplant, I will not be allowed to smoke but rather ingest my med mj. I will need an excess of 24 ounces and I can not grow my own pot. Terminal and/or debilitated means just that - many of the qualified patients in Wadhington State CAN NOT grow their own, providers must be protected for more than 15 plants.
2 years of hard work, 2 years of honesty, 2 years of putting ourselves at risk of prosecution fell on deaf ears in Olympia and Tumwater ... I've never been as disappointed as I am right now.
Where does this leave truly qualified patients such as myself? Same place we've always been - having to plead with a discompassionate judge.

Posted by Ric | October 3, 2008 8:47 AM

Peace and love Ric! i am right there with you for the last 15 years i have helped patients get there medicine...and truly sick folks need a lot!..i have been living with AIDS for the last 21 years and i don't require a lot, but i have helped out many patients much much sicker than me. and that's why i got into medical marijuana movement was to help the sickest patients thing Dom did not do in his blog was to call Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and get his take, which by the way has shown his compassion to the patents of king county....but that does not help other patients in other county..... Bottom line here is that the DOH did not follow the science and we have the #1 researchers of medical marijuana here in our state.... so much energy and time a lot of these patients will never get back, but most of all is the loss of faith in our system.

Posted by Dale | October 3, 2008 10:21 AM

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