Charlie Bermant writes in the Port Orchard Independent about the Bruce Olson trial and the attention it’s finally drawing to what’s been happening in Kitsap County. Olson is an authorized medical marijuana patient who was raided by the WestNET drug task force in 2007. Prosecutors claim that Olson and his wife were selling marijuana as well as using it medicinally, but the prosecution’s only witness is a longtime drug addict who they flew up from Oklahoma for the trial who claims he bought marijuana from the Olsons. The Olsons, and others who know them, maintain that they were not growing plants to sell on the black market.
I’ve written about this case a couple of times already, but Bermant’s article illustrates why this case has elicited so much anger from the medical marijuana community:
Both Olson and his wife are medical marijuana patients, but have faced the same distribution charge. The law about acceptable quantities of medical marijuana has been more strictly defined since Pamela Olson’s trial.
Pamela Olson is now serving probation, having pleaded out to avoid jail time. As part of her sentence, she is not using the medical marijuana that she claims is necessary to ease her pain.
The case has become a flashpoint for medical marijuana advocates, or what Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge characterizes as “a well-organized lobby whose purpose is to see the laws changed.”
Hauge is a major focus of the anger in this case. A lot of us who are trying to call more media attention to the Olson trial certainly want more changes to our current drug laws. No argument there. But the problem with what Russ Hauge is doing is that he’s openly trying to undermine the current medical marijuana law in the state of Washington.
The original medical marijuana law that was passed by voters in 1998 contained only an affirmative defense for authorized patients. What that meant was that law enforcement officials were still able to arrest patients, who were then faced with the burden of proving their innocence in court. More progressive prosecutors like King County’s Dan Satterberg recognized that hauling patients into court like that was a waste of both time and taxpayer money as well as being immoral and didn’t do it. But not Russ Hauge.
Even worse, the usual tactic from Hauge’s office has been to arrest patients, then threaten them with long prison terms into taking plea deals. This is what happened to Pamela Olson. And because of Department of Correction rules that don’t recognize medical marijuana, she’s not allowed to take medicine that her doctor has authorized for her while she’s home on probation. A second patient from Kitsap County named Jason Norbut has also found himself in this same situation. According to Norbut, the judge even promised him when he was offered the plea deal that he’d still be able to use his medicine while on probation, but was later told after he was sentenced that it was not allowed by the DOC.
Access to medical marijuana is rarely, if ever, a matter of life and death to patients. For most, it’s a quality of life issue (pain management, stimulating hunger during chemotherapy, etc), but that still doesn’t give any law enforcement official the right to overrule the judgment of doctors. Despite what Russ Hauge may believe he’s doing, what he’s really doing is undermining an existing voter-approved law and violating the human rights of the citizens of Kitsap County.
As medical marijuana supporters have been congregating in Port Orchard to oversee this trial, they’re slowly finding more and more victims of Russ Hauge’s crusade, including a quadriplegic by the name of Glenn Musgrove, who was recently wheeled into court on a gurney. Musgrove has a hearing scheduled for next Friday, March 27th. If anyone is curious about why Kitsap County is spending taxpayer money to prosecute a quadriplegic, the case number is 08-1-00937-6.