Marijuana Patient Rights
When I was arrested for growing cannabis in 1996, there were no medical marijuana laws. Attorney Jeff Steinborn heard my story and defended my use of cannabis as a “medical necessity”. After I proved my need for medical cannabis at trial, I was assured police would cease and desist. Yet they returned less than two months later and arrested me again. That was about the time my doctor filed The Medical Use Act of 1998.� Thereby, the end of my personal legal battle became the beginning of a much larger series of conflicts.
A year or so later, Jeff Steinborn asked me to testify for another patient who was accused of growing more than the “60 day supply” allowed by law.� It was not long before another attorney called me to testify in another case, and then another, and another . . .� I have been deposed in dozens of cases against marijuana patients who were forced to present an “affirmative defense”.� I have also testified before the state legislature numerous times as the medical cannabis laws have been revised over the years.� In fact, the current law allowing collective gardens was modeled after Lifevine, the original cannabis collective I founded in 1999.
Now that the Liquor Control Board (LCB) is licensing production and distribution of recreational marijuana, the WA State Legislature must consider the future of medical use.� LCB has recommended abolishing the patient’s right to grow their own medicine, without offering an alternative for those of us who truly need it to treat serious medical conditions.� Fortunately, LCB’s recommendations are not the final word.� Our state legislature is gearing up for this debate, with Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsoring further legislation in 2014.�
There are some important differences between medical cannabis and recreational pot.
THC is the most prominent and potent psychoactive compound found in cannabis.� Synthetic THC is available in pill form prescribed by an MD, but patients usually complain it is too intoxicating.� THC is the compound enjoyed most by recreational users, but consuming high doses of that powerful euphoriant is not the best medicine for many patients.� Research has shown that THC has some medical utility in pain relief and appetite stimulation, but more recently, other cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBN, are shown to have greater medical effectiveness in treating neurological pain and insomnia, as well as seizure and other neurological disorders. Medicinal growers have recently developed high CBD/low THC strains that have little or no psychoactive effect.� These medicinal strains are unavailable and undesirable in recreational circles. Scientific references to the medicinal qualities of cannabis are found at: www.cannabismedicaldictionary.com .
Occasional pot smokers use it for fun, to get high or stoned.� Marijuana patients tend to use cannabis every day, to feel normal, not intoxicated. The amounts consumed by patients are typically far greater them those of non-medical users.� LCB has determined that average marijuana consumers use 2.3 joints per week, but typical medical users consume up to ten times that amount and some even more.� The higher volume used by many patients puts them at risk for greater exposure to pesticides and toxic ingredients that can build up in the body with repeated use.� While a small dose of a mildly toxic pesticide would have no effect on a healthy person, one with a compromised immune system could incur serious health problems from the same compound with years of exposure.� Medical-grade cannabis is free of pesticides, toxic ingredients, and bacteria found in most gardens.� �Such stringent quality-control is not required by current LCB rules.� In fact, there are 200 pesticides approved for use by recreational growers.�
The cost of cannabis is a crucial factor in the lives of patients who simply cannot afford to purchase marijuana from any source, licensed or not.� In 1997, I told my jury I had spent $10,000 per year on black-market marijuana.� Most patients have very low incomes and simply could not afford that expense. �Qualified patients are allowed an exemption from the large excise tax applied to recreational users, but the cost of marijuana in for-profit retail stores will still be much higher than the cost of growing at home.� That is especially true for cancer patients and others who require large amounts of cannabis to make oils and other cannabis preparations.� The most severely ill patients are the ones who will suffer the most if they lose the right to grow granted by popular vote 15 years ago.�
Voters approved I-502 with assurances that the new law would not affect medical users—that patients would still be allowed to grow their own medicine.� Now LCB has recommended abolishing that right, which would certainly perpetuate the black market and create a new generation of heated court battles.� Advocates beseech our state government to maintain patient rights in accordance with the will of the people.� It is important to remember that the recreational marijuana market may be an economic boon to the state, but ethics demand we continue to protect the much smaller population of severely ill people whose lives depend on the benefits of nature’s greatest medicine.
email: Martin@CannabisMD.org� �