Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

July 1, 2007 - Spokesman-Review (WA)

Washington To Limit Medical Marijuana

Caps Should Help Police, But Some Fear Political Meddling

By Curt Woodward, Associated Press

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

SEATTLE - This fall, public servants will convene a series of meetings across Washington to answer a pressing question: Just how much marijuana constitutes a two-month supply?

It's an attempt to shore up the state's medical marijuana law, which has been around for nearly a decade without defining the "60-day supply" patients are allowed to have on hand.

Now, after years of unsuccessful attempts to amend the law, the state Health Department has been ordered to spell out how much marijuana makes up that theoretical two-month cache.

Prosecutors and police seem generally happy with the change, saying it should help determine whom to arrest and whom to leave alone.

The American Civil Liberties Union and supportive state lawmakers think it could be the beginning of even broader reforms by the state's Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But some patients wish the state simply wouldn't bother, spooked that the government will make the limits too restrictive and spark far more arrests for people in frail health.

If the law is going to be changed, dissenters would rather see stronger protection from arrest or an allowance for group growing operations. Defining the 60-day supply, they say, is a do-nothing compromise aimed mostly at pleasing law enforcement.

"Once again, politics have trumped patients' rights. Once again, politics have trumped science," said Dale Rogers, head of Seattle's Compassion in Action Patient Network, which distributes medical marijuana.

Washington's medical marijuana law was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters in 1998, following closely behind California in the first wave of such measures around the country.

Under Washington's law, doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana for people suffering from "intractable pain" and several diseases, including cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Patients still can be arrested and prosecuted, but may avoid conviction by proving medical need. And like anywhere else in the country, nothing in state statute shields a patient from prosecution under federal law, which does not recognize medical uses for marijuana.

"Law enforcement officers in the field were put in the position of throwing their hands up in the air and saying, 'We'll let the judge and the jury sort that out,' " said Alison Holcomb, director of the state ACLU's Marijuana Education Project.

In some cases, the gray area has served as a legal shield, allowing each patient and their doctor to argue in court how much marijuana they need, said Douglas Hiatt, a defense lawyer who specializes in medical marijuana cases.

"We can't have an outside health authority dictate to our doctors how much a patient should use," Rogers said.

Opponents also fear the limit will end up being artificially low. Unlike standardized medicines, marijuana varies in potency. Add that to the variety of serious conditions it can be recommended to treat, and even one patient's use can change quite a bit.

Ric Smith, a medical marijuana user from Seattle, typically lights up before eating to treat the nausea that comes with his HIV medication.

In any given week -- depending on how he's feeling and the potency of the pot -- Smith can burn through anywhere from 7 grams to about an ounce. But without it, even the smallest disturbance can be too much to handle.

As they prepare for this fall's public lobbying with health regulators, Hiatt and others say they've already got their ammunition: a marijuana dosing study led by a University of Washington rehabilitation-medicine specialist, Dr. Gregory Carter.

Following the study's guidelines, Hiatt said, patients should be allowed anywhere from a 1/2 pound to 2 3/4 pounds of marijuana in two months. If the Health Department goes drastically lower, Hiatt said a lawsuit could follow.

"I know the people of Washington state didn't want lawyers and judges and prosecutors arguing about little piddly details like this," Hiatt said. "Is the person sick? Yes. Are they using it with a doctor's permission? Yes. Then leave them alone."

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact