by Lee, 04/22/2008, 9:04 AM

On Sunday, I met with a group of this state’s registered medical marijuana patients, activists, and attorneys in downtown Seattle. It was the first time meeting many of the folks who I’ve heard about through various emails regarding court dates, trials, and other problems that this community still has to deal with. It’s been ten years since the voters of this state made it clear that we believe their medical choices are valid and should be protected by the law. Despite the intent of that voter initiative, people who have been certified by their doctors to use medical marijuana to help combat a variety of life threatening illnesses and severe disabilities are still being prosecuted across the state. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information shared at the meeting and I want to summarize what I was able take away from it:

- The prosecution of Pam Olson (which is starting this week in Port Orchard) was on everyone’s mind and was the first topic of discussion. Both Olson and her husband were arrested last year and will face trial separately (Bruce’s is scheduled for June). Many people were concerned about the tactics of the drug task force. Before raiding their home, the task force members put poisoned meat in their yard to make sure that their dogs wouldn’t be a problem. The Olson’s then had to spend $2000 in veterinary bills for their two puppies. As a consequence of their arrest, they were forced to sell their home to pay for their legal fees. The Olson’s were fully authorized by a doctor to use medical marijuana, but the judge at the trial today may decide that the defense cannot reference the state law that protects her as a patient. Anyone who can be present at subsequent hearings is strongly encouraged to go to Kitsap County Superior Court and show support. This page will be updated with information.

- Another older woman, who was maybe 90 pounds, talked about her ordeal with the authorities. After her house was raided by the police, it was broken into again soon after. She lives a mile down a private road. When she had to sell her home, she was forced to use a real estate agent who just happened to be the brother of the person who led the drug task force. Thankfully, she did not get sentenced to any jail time.

- There were no doctors at the meeting that I was aware of, but a number of patients discussed the risks that doctors still face for authorizing medical marijuana use. There is an atmosphere of intimidation from insurance companies and the state (more on that later) to keep doctors from openly advocating its use. Many patients said that their doctors will tell them that they have no problem with it, but can’t officially authorize it. This appears to be a bigger problem here than in other medical marijuana states.

- People are still being kicked off of organ transplant queues because of their medical marijuana use. This was a matter of life and death for at least one person in the room, and another case involving someone who wasn’t there was discussed and is expected to be reported in the traditional media soon.

- One thing that caught me by surprise was that the patients feel that things have gotten far worse under Attorney General Rob McKenna than they were when Governor Gregoire was the Attorney General. I expected there to be more anger towards the Governor and the Legislature considering the disappointment over SB 6032, but any lingering animosity wasn’t showing.

- People within this community often differ very strongly over strategy. Like any movement, it has moderates and extremists who often sense that the other side is harming the movement. Some within the group see all law enforcement and justice officials as the enemy. Others recognize that there are allies within that group who they can work with. Within the former group, there’s now a very strong push to initiate lawsuits – particularly directed at Attorney General McKenna, who is openly carrying out the Bush Administration’s battle against medical marijuana in defiance of our voter-approved state law. If even a fraction of what was discussed in this meeting is true and comes out in court, Clay Bennett could unseat him in November.

- The State Department of Health still hasn’t released the defined limits that patients will be allowed to have according to SB 6032. There were equal parts optimism and pessimism over whether the limits would be adequate. There was also some confusion over whether the limits would need to be re-approved by the legislature. I’ll have to follow up on this when I learn more (and I really have to remember to bring notebooks to these things). [UPDATE: See comment #2 below]

- On a more personal note, seeing people in wheelchairs and with other severe illnesses talking about how much they fear the police or about how fervently the prosecutors in this state are still trying to send them to jail is just a jarring experience. When polled on this subject, overwhelming majorities of this state’s residents support the legality of this medicine and believe doctors should be allowed to authorize it, but that hasn’t translated to real justice for any of these folks. What the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice is doing (and which Rob McKenna’s office is faithfully following) is inexcusable. It’s really hard not to think of it as a human rights violation. I find it absolutely beyond comprehension that we have prosecutors in this state who believe that they are serving the public by going after these people.

40 Responses to “Rob McKenna’s War on the Sick and Disabled”

1. Steve Elliott spews:

Great job of summarizing the meeting and the concerns expressed there, Lee!

It really is hard to understand public officials — like Atty. Gen. McKenna, and prosecutors such as Hauge here in Kitsap County — who use their time and taxpayers’ money to go after legal medical marijuana patients. Inexcusable!

We really need to get McKenna out of office, come November.

2. Alison Holcomb spews:

Nice summary, Lee.

The rule issued by the Department of Health defining the presumptive definition of a “60-day supply” will not need to be approved by the legislature to become law. The anticipated next steps are that (1) DOH will circulate a draft rule to stakeholders (anyone may sign up to receive it by sending an e-mail to medicalmarijuana@doh.wa.gov), (2) after considering feedback and perhaps revising the draft, DOH will file a proposed rule (officially called the CR-102) and schedule one or more formal hearings on it, and (3) DOH will consider the input at the formal hearing(s) and then file its final rule, the CR-103. The final rule will be the presumptive definition of a 60-day supply, applicable statewide, unless and until it is amended by either the state legislature or DOH in future proceedings.

Best,
Alison Holcomb
Marijuana Education Project Director
ACLU of Washington Foundation
http://www.MarijuanaConversation.org

3. YLB spews:

Wow! An “ajax” click to continue – very cool.

4. The Real Mark spews:

If you want to have an actual discussion of this, why not post what the Olsons are being charged with. Neither your post nor the pot advocacy site mentions it. Regardless of how you feel emotionally about the issue, did they break laws that are currently on the books?

If they are found guilty and if Gregoire is such a supporter of your cause, why wouldn’t she simply pardon them? Instead of filing a zillion motions (which runs up the trial costs), plead guilty if you broke a law on the books, get your pardon and go home. Or are they afraid that Gregoire would not be in their corner?

Law-breaking for a “good cause” doesn’t make it right. Would you be OK with someone robbing your house simply because they were broke and hungry?

5. Lee spews:

Regardless of how you feel emotionally about the issue, did they break laws that are currently on the books?

No, they’re following the laws that are currently on the books. What the prosecutors are trying to do today is to make it impossible for the defense to cite the state law.

6. The Real Mark spews:

Lee @ 5

What were they charged with?

How can you be arrested for breaking a law that doesn’t exist? They have to have broken SOME law.

Or… If you’re telling me that there are laws in conflict, then all of this is really a big test case and the pro-pot folks should chip in and pay for the legal bills since it benefits them, too.

7. michael spews:

@4

From reading what Lee linked to it didn’t look like the Olsen’s broke the law. The small amount of marijuana they had growing would provide less than a 60 day supply at harvest. It also looks like the state has failed to properly define what a 60 day supply of medical marijuana looks like.

Anyway, that’s what courts and trial are for. Lets see what the court comes up with.

The dog thing was pretty disturbing.

8. "Hannah" spews:

Just an FYI, this Pam Olson has a few arrest cases (criminal, domestic, harrasment and traffic dating back to 1995) The Hanibus site claims she is being charged with “illegal cultivation of marijuana” but looking up Kitsap records, she actually has a history with the courts. So I don’t know if she would be a good example of the medical marijuana laws.

9. The Real Mark spews:

Humorous side note I found when trying to learn more about the case:

“Pam’s attorney, Scott Moriarty of Tacoma, asks that those who can dress appropriately and act respectfully come to the court in Port Orchard to show support.”

I thought the pro pot crowd wasn’t some kooky sub-culture…

And further comments like, “When I went to Port Orchard last week, it was the first time I had been in the Kitsap County Courthouse since… I was tried as one of the Bangor 6, charged with blocking the white train carrying hydrogen bomb warheads to the submarine base in Bangor, WA…” don’t make it sound any less fringe.

10. Reasonable Voter spews:

Rob McKenna is a wonderful AG. His pro-life stance and his fight on Meth and ID theft isn’t partisan. He’s attacking the real root problems in our state. I vote democratic but cross over for Rob. He’s the real deal.

11. Roger Rabbit spews:

The Bushevik regime has claimed a federal authority to mandate pain and suffering for cancer patients based on federal preemption, but I don’t know if this has been settled by the courts yet. Until then, McKenna’s duty is to defend the state law against federal intrusion, and if he’s not doing that he should be removed from office.

12. Roger Rabbit spews:

Why aren’t the narcs who poisoned the Olsons’ dogs being prosecuted for felony animal abuse under the Pasedo Law?

13. proud leftist spews:

Rob McKenna is a disaster. He is a lawyer only to the extent that he has a law degree and passed the bar. He has never tried a case to a jury. He had never argued an appeal until he became AG. His career has been entirely centered on politics. He sees the AG position as a mere step toward his ultimate goal, either governor or US Senator. The AG position is more important than just something to put on a politician’s CV. John Ladenburg, the Ds’ AG candidate, offers a striking contrast to McKenna. He is a lawyer’s lawyer, with executive experience to boot. He would be a true legal representative for the people of this state.

14. SeattleJew spews:

Lee …

While I am sympathetic to these people, I medical marijuana approach may put the stronger arguments at risk.

First, IF MJ were really effective therapeutically, it is likely that there would be better evidence that it should be a controlled substance.

Second, I know the literature on harmful effects pretty well .. basically there is none. I know less about the evidence for benefit. However, if there is benefit, then MJ should be able to survive the ordinary FDA trail and I do not think this has been done.

15. Roger Rabbit spews:

If the real estate agent didn’t disclose to the seller that she was being investigated by his brother, and gave his brother information about her obtained in the course of his business relationship with her, that would be both a conflict of interest and a breach of ethical duty that should result in disciplinary action against the real estate agent’s license.

16. Roger Rabbit spews:

What I see here is that laws protecting ordinary citizens aren’t being enforced, and government minions are free to engage in behavior that violates citizens’ rights and breaks the law.

That’s a sure sign that our government has been taken over by lawless totalitarians. It doesn’t happen only in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia; we’ve had a Republican element in our own country for a long time now, so the potential for it to happen here, too, has been there all along.

17. Lee spews:

@6
How can you be arrested for breaking a law that doesn’t exist? They have to have broken SOME law.

They were breaking federal law, but following state law. And because of how the initiative was written, there is not what’s known as an “affirmative defense” against arrest.

Or… If you’re telling me that there are laws in conflict, then all of this is really a big test case and the pro-pot folks should chip in and pay for the legal bills since it benefits them, too.

These cases are happening all over the state, and pro-pot folks already chip in. There are several lawyers who work these cases pro-bono and a number of activist who support them.

@9
I thought the pro pot crowd wasn’t some kooky sub-culture…

Sorry, Skippy, but the person who can’t see a problem with trying to send sick and disabled people to prison is the kook here.

18. Lee spews:

@10
His pro-life stance and his fight on Meth and ID theft isn’t partisan.

His pro-life stance isn’t partisan? The term pro-life is partisan, for crying out loud. Can the state GOP please hire smarter concern trolls?

19. Lee spews:

@14
Second, I know the literature on harmful effects pretty well .. basically there is none. I know less about the evidence for benefit. However, if there is benefit, then MJ should be able to survive the ordinary FDA trail and I do not think this has been done.

It hasn’t been done because the government won’t allow it to be done, Steve.

20. michael spews:

@16

Port Orchard has always been a little bit interesting…

21. Roger Rabbit spews:

Of course, it’s not surprising that Republicans are against anything that would relieve the pain and suffering of cancer patients. They like to see other people suffer. Many Republicans tortured little animals when they were young. George W. Bush got his start in politics by blowing up frogs with firecrackers. Other Republicans undoubtedly pulled wings off butterflies or burned ants with magnifying glasses. That’s what I did when I was a bunny. On a sunny day, you take one of those magnifying glasses they use in grade schools and go outside and sit on the warm pavement and wait for an unsuspecting ant to come along. Then you trap him in a circle of light and move the magnifying glass closer to the ant to focus the beam. Then the ant begins smoking and goes sort of “pop!” and is turned into a burnt cinder. They just sort of curl up and fucking die, you know? I was a Republican back then. It’s a good thing I turned into a Democrat and stopped doing that shit before it escalated into a Ted Bundy thing. He was a Republican, too, you know.

22. Roger Rabbit spews:

@4 How can they “break laws on the books” when state law authorizes medical use of marijuana, Mark? Unless they’re charged with violating the state law by possessing more than the allowed supply, or possessing medical marijuana for a non-medical use, they’re merely caught in the middle of a jurisdictional dispute between state and federal governments. Since when do citizens commit a crime merely because state and federal bureacrats disagree with each other? Citizens shouldn’t be dragged into this. When governments disagree with each other, they normally settle it with a war or something. So, if Bush doesn’t like our state laws, let him send the 82nd Airborne! We’ll meet them at the state border! We’ll defend states’ rights! Ooops, I better be careful, because I sound like a wingnut now. I used to be a Goldwater Republican and still occasionally have these Dr. Strangelove relapses.

23. Troll spews:

Sensational headline. But I didn’t see any facts in the body of the article to support the headline’s assertion.

24. michael spews:

@22

Well put!

If the court tosses the case out can the Olsen’s sue somebody?

25. Roger Rabbit spews:

@7 “The dog thing was pretty disturbing.”

I think “crime” is the appropriate terminology here. Those narcs are cut of the same cloth as this guy:

“Gunman Shoots Pregnant Bank Teller

“By KEN KUSMER,AP
“Filed Under: Crime News

“INDIANAPOLIS (April 22) – A bank teller pregnant with twins was shot in the stomach during a robbery Tuesday morning, and a police search was under way for the gunman. …

The gunman came into the Huntington Bank branch around 9:30 a.m., jumped over the counter screaming and shot the teller in the lower abdomen, [a police spokesman] said. He then fired another shot as he was running out of the bank, he said.”

Quoted under fair use; for the entire disgusting story see http://news.aol.com/story/_a/gunman-shoots-pregnant-bank-teller/20080422131909990002

26. Roger Rabbit spews:

Why hasn’t McKenna convened a task force to hunt down and prosecute those dog killers? I’ll bet they’re not even real narcs — they’re probably political appointees hired off a list of GOP campaign workers. A real cop wouldn’t poison puppies.

27. Lee spews:

@23
Sensational headline. But I didn’t see any facts in the body of the article to support the headline’s assertion.

There will be more to come soon, but one thing is very clear already. Rob McKenna is enforcing federal law over state law and he’s doing it because the Bush Administration is telling him to. This is not what the state’s AG is supposed to be doing.

28. Roger Rabbit spews:

@23 The state AG is required by statute to defend state laws in the courts. This is mandatory, not at the AG’s discretion (which should be kept in mind by those who criticize Gregoire for defending state laws they didn’t like while she was AG). But Republicans, as we have learned, think all laws and even constitutions are only discretionary …

29. The Real Mark spews:

Lee @ 17

My comment was based on the quoted statement from Pam Olson’s attorney. If the pro-pot crowd is just “normal folks,” why did he make a point about dress and decorum? Is he afraid that a bunch of stoned hippies in dirty NORML tees will show up and shout “BS” at the judge? Naaaahhhhh… Never happen. Right?

30. SeattleJew spews:

@19 Lee

I think the main issue here may be McKenna’s misuse of precious resources. I am disappointed if he is doing this since in other issues he seems reasonable.

As for the government “not letting” research on beneficial effects be done I doubt that very much. First, other than the idiocy about stem cells the govt does not ban much of any research that I know of. There might be IRB issues in r ehumans but even that is hard to imagine.

It may well be that getting funding would be hard, BUT that is only true of funding through the NIH. If MJ is truly effective clinically, it is hard to understand why no one would spend $$.

Second, even if you are right, there is the issue of advocating a drug that lacks evidential support. It seems to me that the strong suit in MJ is that it is a pleasant but harmless agent.

I think we should ban the opiates generated during strenuous exercise.

31. The Real Mark spews:

Lee @ 17: “…because of how the initiative was written, there is not what’s known as an ‘affirmative defense’ against arrest.”

Sounds like the pro-pot folks that wrote the initiative should’ve spent more time with the law books and less time smoking. In other words, THOSE are the folks who screwed up and put the Olsons in this predicament.

And just a side note… I have no problem with pot as a controlled substance that would be dispensed at a pharmacy. I *do* have a problem with the criminal element involved in all drug manufacture and sale. As I’ve mentioned in other drug threads, I would be OK with a greater treatment-to-punishment ratio for users, but definitely want a sledgehammer to come down on producers and distributors. And the people who actually get jail time for pot offenses nowadays inevitably have some other conviction besides simple pot possession.

32. Lee spews:

@29
My comment was based on the quoted statement from Pam Olson’s attorney. If the pro-pot crowd is just “normal folks,” why did he make a point about dress and decorum? Is he afraid that a bunch of stoned hippies in dirty NORML tees will show up and shout “BS” at the judge? Naaaahhhhh… Never happen. Right?

It could certainly happen. But by not recognizing that what’s happening here is an injustice, you are far more kooky than anyone like that.

33. Lee spews:

@30
As for the government “not letting” research on beneficial effects be done I doubt that very much.

Google ‘Lyle Craker’ and educate yourself about what’s happening.

Second, even if you are right, there is the issue of advocating a drug that lacks evidential support. It seems to me that the strong suit in MJ is that it is a pleasant but harmless agent.

Under the Clinton Administration, the government released a report saying that marijuana has medical benefits. The Bush Administration’s official position is that that report doesn’t exist.

There is absolutely no question that marijuana has medicinal effects. Even for a healthy person like myself, I’ll use it whenever I have a stomach ache. It works unbelievably well to fight nausea. That’s why AIDS and cancer patients use it. And that’s only part of it. People with glaucoma, MS, and other ailments, especially nerve damage, find it to be incredibly helpful.

34. Lee spews:

@31
Sounds like the pro-pot folks that wrote the initiative should’ve spent more time with the law books and less time smoking. In other words, THOSE are the folks who screwed up and put the Olsons in this predicament.

I’m sorry, but when someone forgets to lock their car door and their car gets stolen, I still get more angry at the car thief. By your logic, the car thief was just doing what was expected in that situation.

And just a side note… I have no problem with pot as a controlled substance that would be dispensed at a pharmacy. I *do* have a problem with the criminal element involved in all drug manufacture and sale.

Then what do you expect people like the Olsons to do? You can’t get it at a pharmacy. They have to grow it themselves. They’re doing exactly what they should be doing in order to keep from contributing to a criminal enterprise – yet your attitude is still “fuck ‘em”.

As I’ve mentioned in other drug threads, I would be OK with a greater treatment-to-punishment ratio for users, but definitely want a sledgehammer to come down on producers and distributors. And the people who actually get jail time for pot offenses nowadays inevitably have some other conviction besides simple pot possession.

The Olsons don’t. They didn’t even have fully grown plants. This drug should be legal, regulated, and taxed. But until that can become a reality, the least we can do is not go after the people whose health and well-being rest upon their use of this drug. That’s just absurd. I hope you’ve learned a few things in this discussion today.

35. SeattleJew spews:

)33 Lee

I am glad you find MJ useful but .. frankly … suspect that oregano might do as well. It may be that MJ has these effects but we are .. thankfully .. protected by a wall that requires evidence.

In this case, it seems to me that the #1 science issue is the lack of evidence that MJ is harmful. If you wanna eat it I see no reason why Uncle should get in your way.

BUT argueing for a drug because anecdotal reports is nto a good thing either.

I would LOVE to read any real literature on the topic if you can find it. Lyle Craker’s story, while interesting , does not add anything since ehe did not propose to do anything more than increase the supply of legal pot.

Let me put it this way, if someone can raise the cash, then I would be willing to bet that the research would get done.

36. Lee spews:

@35
I am glad you find MJ useful but .. frankly … suspect that oregano might do as well.

You’d be wrong. That’s why scientists study things through experimentation. Here’s more info on the 1999 report which concluded that marijuana has medicinal benefits.

BUT argueing for a drug because anecdotal reports is nto a good thing either.

Please click through to the link above. There is far more than just anecdotal reports.

Lyle Craker’s story, while interesting , does not add anything since ehe did not propose to do anything more than increase the supply of legal pot.

But it’s an indication of the lengths that the government will go to prevent research from being done. Few scientists and researchers are willing to break the law for science. Would you?

Let me put it this way, if someone can raise the cash, then I would be willing to bet that the research would get done.

It’s not a money issue. Universities all over the country are capable of doing this, but they don’t because of the legal problems.

37. proud leftist spews:

SJ @ 30: “I think the main issue here may be McKenna’s misuse of precious resources. I am disappointed if he is doing this since in other issues he seems reasonable.”

In what regard has McKenna been reasonable? He is smart enough to rein in his basest political instincts because he knows that following his Republican heart in this oh-so-Democratic state would mean no more political career for Robbie. But, his recent statements concerning governmental accountability in the courts, jury trials, tort reform, etc. mark the man as a partisan tool. The media is buying his spin concerning his moderateness, just like it gives McCain a waiver on his claim to being a maverick. McKenna needs to go down in November for a whole lot of reasons.

38. The Real Mark spews:

Lee @ 34

Comparing the police to a car thief is wrong. For one, the police are doing their job — enforcing a law that is properly on the books. If you don’t like the law — if you feel the law is no longer just — petition to have it changed. And if you screw up how you change the law, you only have yourself to blame.

39. Lee spews:

@38
Comparing the police to a car thief is wrong. For one, the police are doing their job — enforcing a law that is properly on the books.

In this case, they’re not. And it’s also a mistake to assume that just because a policeman is doing his or her job, or even following the law, that that’s not something immoral or reprehensible.

If you don’t like the law — if you feel the law is no longer just — petition to have it changed.

That’s not the only thing you should do. Our founding fathers strongly encouraged Americans not just to push for changes to unjust laws, but to openly disobey them. That’s the American way.

And if you screw up how you change the law, you only have yourself to blame.

But that does not absolve those who are promoting the original injustice. I sincerely hope that you are smart enough to recognize that.

40. Mark1 spews:

Who cares? And Lee, feel free to move to Amsterdam.