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Medical cannabis among the ruins


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MEDICAL marijuana has been the legislative disaster of 2011. The way out is not yet clear. Prosecutors should tread cautiously, mindful not only of the letter of the law but of the public will.

In 1998 the voters of Washington voted 59 percent in favor of Initiative 692, to allow patients with AIDS, cancer and like diseases to use cannabis to ameliorate pain and nausea. The measure was vague; it was not clear how patients were supposed to get marijuana, because it was forbidden under federal law.

Washington has lived with this contradiction more than 12 years. Most of that time was during the Bush administration, which fought for the right to shut down all medical marijuana, won at the Supreme Court, and then did not do it.

Last year, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, began working on a bill to legalize commercial growers and dispensaries, bringing the entire medical-cannabis network into the open. She talked to all sides, and wrote many drafts. She found a Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Jerome Delvin of Richland.

It was a good bill, and it passed both houses and went to Gov. Chris Gregoire. At that point the Obama administration bared its teeth and Gregoire line-item-vetoed part of the bill before signing the rest into law.

Kohl-Welles' carefully constructed plan was in ruins. To save some of it, she filed a new, less-sweeping bill. Last week it was about to be approved by a Senate committee when one previous supporter changed his vote: Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. And that killed it.

Now the ruins. The old law, which remains in effect until July 22, allows a dispenser to serve only one patient. Dispensers have said they were serving one patient at a time, the new patient replacing the old one. But a non-vetoed part of the new law will not allow this. It requires any new patient to wait 15 days.

"That really changes the law," says Dan Satterberg, the King County prosecutor.

The new law will allow "collective gardens" in which 10 or fewer patients grow for their own use. But commercial dispensaries, the Republican prosecutor says, "do not have an argument."

What to do with all the dispensaries that now exist?

"I don't know yet," Satterberg says.

"The question is, prosecutorial discretion," say Pete Holmes, Seattle's Democratic city attorney.

The people of Washington, and particularly the liberal voters of King County, do not want dispensers of medicine prosecuted for felony distribution.

The people wanted medical cannabis legal. So did the Legislature. So did the governor, she said.

Prosecutorial discretion should be the order of the day, while political minds think of a way out.

Captain Kronic

Member of the Month: July 2011
This kind of thinking scares me...

Prosecutorial discretion should be the order of the day, while political minds think of a way out.
The term "prosecutorial discretion" refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute and unreviewable power to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring, in cases where the evidence would justify charges. This authority provides the essential underpinning to the prevailing practice of plea bargaining, and guarantees that American prosecutors are among the most powerful of public officials. It also provides a significant opportunity for leniency and mercy in a system that is frequently marked by broad and harsh criminal laws, and, increasingly in the last decades of the twentieth century, by legislative limitations on judges' sentencing discretion.


New Member
This kind of thinking scares me...
But thats the way since we first passed the intitiative. Its never been legal in Washington, you only get an affirmative defense. Thats a big difference from being legal. Any patient can be arrested at any time if law enforcement wants to go that way.
The part of the new bill thats really going to kill the movement is this.

17 (b) A health care professional shall not:
18 (i) Accept, solicit, or offer any form of pecuniary remuneration
19 from or to a ((licensed dispenser, licensed producer, or licensed
20 processor of cannabis products)) collective garden or nonprofit patient
21 cooperative;
22 (ii) Offer a discount or any other thing of value to a qualifying
23 patient who is a ((customer)) member of, or agrees to be a ((customer))
24 member of, a particular ((licensed dispenser, licensed producer, or
25 licensed processor of cannabis products)) collective garden or
26 nonprofit patient cooperative;
27 (iii) Examine or offer to examine a patient for purposes of
28 diagnosing a terminal or debilitating medical condition at a location
29 where cannabis is produced, processed, or dispensed;
30 (iv) Have a business or practice which consists solely of
31 authorizing the medical use of cannabis;

32 (v) Include any statement or reference, visual or otherwise, on the
33 medical use of cannabis in any advertisement for his or her business or
34 practice; or
35 (vi) Hold an economic interest in an enterprise that produces,
36 processes, or dispenses cannabis if the health care professional
37 authorizes the medical use of cannabis.
Code Rev/AL:ean 7 S
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