Patient Advocacy

Last week, the state’s Department of Health finalized their rules on the 60-day limit of medical marijuana allowed for registered patients. They stuck with the initially proposed 24 ounces, but revised the plant count to 15, regardless of the plant’s stage of development. As has been the case throughout, the medical marijuana advocacy community continues to be split on whether this will really protect patients:

Alison Holcomb, the drug-policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the new rule “is a step in the right direction,” even though it doesn’t begin to address the practical matter of accessing medical marijuana.

“Twenty-four ounces and 15 plants is a heck of a lot clearer than ’60-day supply,’ ” she said. “It gives an average law-enforcement officer a very quick and easy way to determine if they’re in compliance, move on and leave that patient in peace.”

But Douglas Hiatt, an attorney who represents medical-marijuana patients, disagrees. He said he plans to file a lawsuit to have the limits thrown out.

“No one I know is in compliance with the number of plants. No one,” he said. “We will drown in cases if we can’t get this rule stopped and keep it out of the hands of law enforcement.”

From what I’ve seen so far, I tend to think that Hiatt is right. For a patient who requires a larger amount (people who choose to eat it rather than smoke it need more), it might be a challenge for them to grow enough with a 15-plant limit. The real question is how police and prosecutors will deal with any legitimate patients who find that the limits are too restrictive. Here in King County, Dan Satterberg has made it clear that he stands with the patients:

“Having this rule, having some amount … is helpful, but it’s not the end of the analysis,” Satterberg said. “If you’re in King County and you’re dying of cancer, we’re not going to prosecute you if you have 15 plants or 30. If somebody is legitimately ill, we’re not going to prosecute that case, period.”

Unfortunately, other prosecutors around the state are likely to take a different view, as we’ve seen especially in Kitsap County, which has been aggressively going after patients.

I still believe that the bulk of the blame for this situation should go to Attorney General Rob McKenna. He could easily lay out guidelines similar to the ones that his Republican colleague Dan Satterberg has laid out, but instead he’s done nothing to ensure that patients who intend to comply with the state law are protected. If there’s any public figure in this state who should lose their job over this, it’s him. But another Republican is taking a very different stand here, Lieutenant Governor candidate Marcia McCraw. Recently, she released this statement in support of the patients:

I’m a socially liberal republican running for lieutenant governor. I’m a respected lawyer, and, as a lawyer, I respect the law. The people have spoken – with a doctor’s recommendation, marijuana use is legal in Washington for medical purposes. We have to stop the politicians and bureaucrats who are trying to make it impossible to legally grow, possess and use medical marijuana. They are forcing chronically and terminally ill patients to purchase their medicine from illegal drug dealers, and this must stop. You need a strong advocate in Olympia, and I will be that voice.

I’m running against the longest sitting lieutenant governor in the entire nation, a man who has been on the public payroll in Olympia for over 30 years. He has diverted taxpayers’ hard earned dollars to his personal crusade against marijuana. He runs nongovernmental organizations funded with taxpayers’ dollars and lobbyists slush funds that are answerable to no one.

As president of the state senate, the lieutenant governor is the only senate member elected by ALL the people instead of by a particular district. As such, I will use that position to be a spokesman and
lobbyist for the people of Washington, including those who legally use medical marijuana.

I’m Marcia McCraw. Please register to vote now and get your friends and family to register. On November 4 (or before if you vote absentee) please remember to vote for me for lieutenant governor.
You owe it to yourself, your values and your health.

Her opponent, current Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, has one of the worst track records on drug law reform of any statewide official, and certainly of any Democrat. He initially opposed the voter initiative to legalize medical marijuana. He campaigned against Seattle’s initiative I-75, and he has a long history of making hysterical and unsubstantiated claims about a subject he clearly knows nothing about other than how it can increase the size of government while accomplishing nothing.

I know it’s hard to vote for any Republican this year, but Marcia McCraw will definitely be getting my vote. Want bi-partisan solutions this year to shake up the status quo? Send both Brad Owen and Rob McKenna packing in November and get people into statewide office who put people over politics.


  1. 1

    Bananaphone spews:

    I don’t know, I’m pretty sure this is a too-simple solution (we’d have figured it out by now, otherwise), but why can’t the doctors prescribing the treatment make the decision?? If I get a prescription for a certain number of pain killers of a certain dose, I have a label that tells law enforcement officers that I’m allowed to have this amount. Can’t the doctor (with the advice of a botanist) prescribe an allowable amount of biomass to maintain the supply?

  2. 2


    My understanding is that it’s because if a doctor specifies an amount, the federal government can then go after them and revoke their medical license.

  3. 3

    KRogan spews:


    And as long as pot is still against Federal Law (which it currently is), raids and arrests will continue by Federal agencies. Try wrapping your little ganja-overloaded mind around something so simple there Lee, I know it’s complicated for someone like you. State laws will contiue to amount to a fart in the winds against above. Next topic….

  4. 4

    SeattleJew spews:

    @3 Lee’s obsession aside, the constitutional argument that the Feds have the right to regulate a harmless or nearly so substance has never made much sense to me.

    @1 I have no idea if a physician can prescribe the amount of plant someone needs to grow or even how such a rule would be controlled in practice when the plants he is pushing are not grown under standard circumstances.

    Unfortunately, in the spirit of getting their fave legalized, Lee and others are willing to stress the medical and legal systems. Part of the issue with having a MM law is that there is no medically established need for the plant .. as opposed to its active ingredient. YHC is avaliable and can be presribed like anyother drug. The real issue is that the potfans are using patients and this law to stress the existing dumbass laws against recreational MJ.

  5. 5

    Broadway Joe spews:

    But synthesized THC (dronabinol) is ferociously expensive (US$723 for 30 doses as of 5/2008), and users have noted that the tablets can be overpowering. The irrational, senseless (not to mention based in religious fundamentalism) fuddy-duddy fear of marijuana is all that stands in the way of a lot of people being able to live their lives without pain, or with appetites…..

  6. 6

    David spews:

    There was a recent case where a man had painkillers prescribed by his doctor for pain management, the DEA decided that no one should be prescribed that much for pain management and the man must be dealing drugs.

    The doctor lost his license to prescribe medicine. The man with the pain pills was sent to prison, where he is prescribed the exact same amounts of the same drugs by the prison infirmary for pain management. He appealed, pointing out that the prison system prescribes him the same amounts as his doctor did, but the appeal met with the stiff resistance of the DEA and was denied.

  7. 8

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    @6 – The DEA should be disbanded, and we should look into criminal prosecution of the leadership of that organization as a criminal organization…. and, oh yeah, marijuana should be made legal.

  8. 9

    Broadway Joe spews:

    Amen, PI.

    I think the same should be done to the ATF, BLM, and National Forest Service. The best and brightest people of the agencies could be sent to the FDA, FBI, or USDA, while BLM and NFS lands should be returned to the states, or where geographically convenient, local Native American nations.

  9. 10

    Steve Sarich spews:

    Bananaphone is correct…it’s up to the doctor and patient to determine the correct course of treatment, including the amount of medication…not the DOH. There is no other drug that has imposed limits by our state “nannies” and the DOH. Do you really want the law enforcement community telling you how much heart medication you need? How about the state legislature? Well…they’ve done just that.

    Lee, like very many in the community, has been misinformed about doctors getting in trouble for recommending a specific amount. I’ll be happy to post my legal argument on that issue for anyone that’s interested in this issue.

    My doctor puts the recommended 60 day supply on every authorization she writes. She has never been challenged by the state or the feds. According to the new law, the doctor’s recommendation overrides the DOH “presumptive limit”.

    To KRogan…wrap your mind around USC Title 21 section 903. This gives the power to the states to control all controlled substances, including the arrest and prosecution of these cases. And it’s not the feds raiding the homes of patients that’s the issue. It’s state-funded drug task forces that some feel that they don’t need to follow state law because they have signed bribe agreements with the feds to get federal grant money. This is illegal and will end shortly in all medical marijuana legal states. Hate to burst your bubble. So Federal law does NOT trump state law. That’s a myth being perpetuated by state cops who continue to violate state law and use this as their mantra. This will cost the state, the counties and the department that they work for, millions of dollars this year. And THAT will end this federal use of state law enforcement to attack the sick and disabled here in Washington.

    SeattleJew is really off base. Marinol contains only one of many components (THC) that make cannabis an effective treatment. For the vast majority of our patients, it has little or no medicinal value. Cannabis is arguably the most studied herbal medicine in history. To say that there is no proven medical value is simply ignorant. There are literally thousands of pages of peer-reviewed medical studies that prove its efficacy.

    The truth is that medical cannabis has proven to be the safest medication in the world. It’s not effective for every medical condition, but it has been proven to be effective for more ailments than any other medication that I’m aware of. Please feel free to argue with that. Before you do, be aware that the list of medical conditions that it’s been approved for is very long…so do your research before you argue the point.

    Please be aware that I’m not a proponent of legalization…that’s not my job. My job is simply to get the truth out there and to protect medical marijuana patients here in Washington.

    The fact that Marcia McCraw, a Republican, would come out in favor of protecting medical marijuana patients is proof that the tide is turning…on both sides of the isle. We need more candidates that are willing to come down on the side of compassion.

    Steve Sarich
    Executive Director