WA Medical Marijuana Laws Clash With Federal Laws


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Patients who have their doctor's approval to use marijuana in Washington State want help to get the police off their backs. They asked the legislature to clarify a voter initiative passed in 1998 that legalized medical marijuana.

Steve Sarich of Snohomish County said at a hearing in Olympia Tuesday that he was busted for trying to help sick people get legal access to pot. He runs a growing cooperative called CannaCare.

Steve Sarich: "My home was raided by 26 guys with bulletproof vests. This was a drug task force funded by the state of Washington, funded to go after major drug criminals. What they got, regardless of what it says in the newspapers was exactly 7 grams of marijuana and a whole lot of plants."

Other people, some in wheelchairs, testified that they're too sick to cultivate marijuana plants themselves. They urged lawmakers to clarify their rights to grow pot.

Prosecutors say vague definitions of how much pot a person can have make it difficult for police officers to distinguish legal pot users from illegal users.

Tom McBride, from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, says the clash between state and federal laws means no one really wins.

Tom McBride: "It is kind of ridiculous that you can't legally obtain what's legally medicine in Washington. Quite frankly if the state really wanted to protect qualifying patients, you should issue a state license to grow and provide it. And then you run the risk of federal interference."

McBride hopes Olympia lawmakers will define how much pot a medical marijuana user could have on hand at any given time.

Police departments are also not sure how to handle groups of medical marijuana users who collectively grow pot. The Washington Association of Police Chiefs said they don't know whether the marijuana ends up with sick patients or recreational pot smokers.

Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting
Author: Sarah Gustavus
Copyright: 2007, KUOW
Website: Public Interactive Home
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