Josh Farley at the Kitsap Sun provides another recap of the Robert Dalton case. Dalton was arrested after WestNET, a local drug task force, searched his property in August of last year and found 88 marijuana plants, which he says he was growing for his own personal supply of medical marijuana. Dalton is an authorized medical marijuana patient. Prosecutors tried to claim that he was supplying others, but the judge, Anna M. Laurie, threw out the “with intent to deliver” charge because of a lack of evidence.
Laurie will give her ruling on this case Friday. The case has boiled down to a man with a doctor’s authorization being accused of growing marijuana for medical reasons. Washington voters first said in 1998 that this should be legal, and the percentage of the state’s residents who support it has only grown since. In the comment section of Farley’s report, there are 27 comments, not a single one supportive of this prosecution. Why is it still happening?
For one, you can definitely blame Rob McKenna, the state’s Attorney General, who appears to believe that the Federal laws on marijuana should trump our state laws (and that putting sick people in jail is more important than protecting consumers from fraud). At a meeting I attended in April with patients, there was nearly unanimous agreement that McKenna and his office’s attitude towards them was a large step backwards from when Christine Gregoire was in that position.
But Christine Gregoire and the state Democrats are not without blame here either. Gregoire derailed the Department of Health’s efforts to establish good limits, leaving us in limbo past the original deadline and with a lesser likelihood of ending up with guidelines that can protect patients like Dalton. The legislature, which should have no reason to be tentative about this issue – considering the widespread support for medical marijuana – caved to law enforcement pressure to water down the original bill that was meant to provide better protections for patients under the initial voter-approved law.
The polling from the end of this week should be a wake-up call for the Gregoire campaign. I obviously don’t think that the Dalton case, or even medical marijuana in general, is having this effect on the polls, but the lack of courage that has been demonstrated by her in this area is something that we’ve seen across the board, especially the infamous cave to Eyman on I-747. And this perception is having a profound effect on the Governor’s chances for re-election. Right now is not the time for timid leadership that’s constantly worried about perceptions, or worse, completely beholden to special interests (the state’s law enforcement union in this case). Maybe it’s too late to do anything about this. It likely is for trying to win my vote.
The saddest thing is that if Gregoire’s terrible handling of this situation was based upon the fear of public perception alone, her fear is unfounded. The public’s attitude towards the drug war is not what it used to be. This is one topic that often brings policy wonks on both the left and right together, and it’s one that finds almost no support from people under the age of 40. The marijuana decriminalization initiative in Massachusetts has polled at over 70%. Taking a stand against the wastes and abuses of the drug war is a smart move in a state like Washington, but only a handful of politicians here have figured this out. Christine Gregoire is not one of them.