State Extends Time for Comments on MMJ Limits

State Extends Time for Comments on MMJ Limits
Posted by CN Staff on August 26, 2008 at 06:32:45 PT
By Jack Broom, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Source: Seattle Times
Tumwater, Thurston County -- More than 100 activists who jammed a state Health Department hearing Monday to protest proposed medical-marijuana limits won at least a minor victory: getting more time to make their case.Responding to concerns by advocates, Assistant Health Secretary Karen Jensen extended until 5 p.m. Friday the deadline for comments on a proposed rule to limit medical-marijuana users to possessing 24 ounces of cultivated marijuana, six mature plants and 18 immature plants.
The action came at a 2--hour hearing in which about 50 patients, doctors and other marijuana supporters blasted the proposal as unfair, unrealistic and unduly influenced by law-enforcement agencies."We're not criminals. We're patients," said Melissa Leggee, of Spokane. "We just want to be left alone to do what we need to do to survive."Leggee said she uses marijuana to ease chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions.Dr. Karen Hamilton, of Redmond, who has treated patients helped by marijuana, said the proposal would "effectively take treatment out of the doctors' hands," adding that there is no "one-size-fits-all" appropriate marijuana dose.Speaker after speaker said six mature plants can't possibly provide the amount of marijuana most patients need to combat pain, nausea and symptoms of more than a dozen ailments the drug is used to treat. As a result, they argued, users would need to find drug dealers to augment their supply."You're going to make everyone in this room a felon," if the proposed limit is adopted, Steve Sarich, of Kirkland, told the panel of Health Department officials. Sarich is director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients.  Lawsuit Filed Sarich and another activist, John Worthington, of Renton, filed a lawsuit Friday in Thurston County Superior Court that they hope will force the state to reclassify marijuana, now on a list of "Schedule I" drugs deemed to have no valid medical use.Sarich said the state's old drug law, which contains that listing, should be superseded by Initiative 692, passed in 1998, which legalizes marijuana for medical purposes.The initiative, approved by nearly 59 percent of Washington voters, said patients with valid certification by a physician should be allowed to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana but contained no definition of what quantity that is.Last year, the Legislature directed the Health Department to spell out an acceptable amount.Several speakers Monday criticized Health Department staffers for not sticking with an earlier draft proposal, which would have allowed a user 35 ounces of harvested marijuana and a 100-square-foot growing "canopy."That proposal was changed after Gov. Christine Gregoire's policy analysts urged the Health Department to get input from law-enforcement agencies and medical experts, who were scarcely represented at the workshops on the draft proposal.Staffers for Gregoire also told Health Department officials the amount appeared to be on the high side.The change prompted Troy Williams, of Clark County, to remark that department officials should "stand up, have some courage, and tell the governor to shove it."Jensen said she expects the agency to take about a month to evaluate comments and come up with a rule set by Health Secretary Mary Selecky.If substantial changes are made to the current proposal, Jensen said, a new round of comments would be solicited. Target of Raids  Despite the Washington initiative, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana remain illegal under federal law. Some advocates for medical marijuana have found themselves the target of raids by law enforcement, which they say violates their rights not just to legal pot but to freedom of speech.The homes of both Sarich and Worthington were raided early last year. Marijuana plants were seized at each man's home, but neither was formally charged.Jeanne Ferguson, of Seattle, executive director of "Grammas for Ganja," said the controversy would disappear if marijuana were legalized. "The plant should be free to be grown in your backyard, next to your broccoli and carrots."Outside the Health Department's Tumwater offices during Monday's hearing, marijuana backers set up a blue tent in which certified patients could "medicate."Activists said state staffers had asked them not to set up the tent but did not interfere once it was in place.Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report. To read & comment on the Health Department's proposed limits for medical marijuana see: Title: State Extends Time for Comments on Medical-Marijuana LimitsSource: Seattle Times (WA)Author:   Jack Broom, Seattle Times Staff ReporterPublished:  Tuesday, August 26, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Seattle Times CompanyContact: opinion seatimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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