Here are a few thoughts/reactions to the recent violence in the medical marijuana community:
– The major tragedy of the week wasn’t just the murder of Mike Howard, but the lingering questions about why this terrifying act of violence took nearly a week to be reported in the media. It’s hard to believe that an individual who was beaten to within an inch of his life with a crowbar while trying to defend his property wasn’t the top story that evening on Seattle news stations. The answer may lie in the actions of Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies, who – if this account is accurate – didn’t seem very motivated to help the gravely wounded Howard, but instead were more concerned with finding his plants.
– Steve Sarich, the homeowner in Monday morning’s incident, is a bit off. When I first starting following the story of the legislature’s attempts to revamp the medical marijuana law, I had a long, rambling phone conversation with him that lasted about an hour. He was angry, but I couldn’t pin down any specifics on what he was angry about. When it was all said and done, very little of what he said was backed up by anything I could find in the bills online. There were leaps of logic being made that didn’t quite match up with what I was able to find out on my own. Since that time, I’ve kept him at arm’s length, and take the things he says with a grain of salt.
Sarich is definitely the most controversial and polarizing figure in the medical marijuana community. People generally see him as either a hero or a villain. He’s often accused of working with the police to spur raids on other medical marijuana patients who cross him, but he’s also one of the most outspoken critics of law enforcement as well. As curious as I’ve been to know what the reality of that dude is, he’s still mostly an enigma to me.
– I wasn’t too surprised that police found as many plants as they did in Sarich’s house, but I would definitely be surprised if they were all full-grown plants. My understanding of what his CannaCare operation does is that it creates starter plants for other patients to take home and finish growing themselves. That may or may not still be true, but that’s what I’ve been told by several folks who are familiar with it. Is it illegal according to the state law? Probably. Should it be? Absolutely not. This was a profound failure by our legislature not to allow for operations like this to exist openly. By refusing to allow dispensaries, the legislature created this problem. To the extent that Sarich’s neighbors were upset about having this kind of an operation happening on a residential street, they can blame both Frank Chopp and Governor Gregoire, neither of whom took this issue seriously back in 2007 and 2008 when the law was being revised.
– Despite the accusations being thrown at the Pierce County deputies for how they treated a seriously wounded Mike Howard, and at the King County deputies who apparently ransacked Sarich’s residence after the shooting, the statements of both King County Sheriff Sgt. John Urquhart and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg show that some folks in law enforcement do get it that Sarich and Howard are treated as criminals only because the laws are inadequate.
“By forcing this production to remain underground,” Mr. Satterberg said, “you increase the risk of violence for everybody and you disburse that violence to residential neighborhoods and put everybody at risk.”
This is a lesson that we need the legislature to learn – and learn quickly.