The audacity of dope: Medical marijuana laws in Washington

The Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act, passed by the voters in 1998, continues to be attacked and disrespected by many law enforcement officers and some prosecutors’ offices statewide.

The lack of good faith and compassion shown by some law enforcement is driven by the decades-long war on drugs and by the mountain of government misinformation concerning marijuana that has been consistently force-fed to all of us for years.

The truth does not stand much of a chance in these circumstances. Instead of finding ways to make the people’s will a reality, in terms of compassionately treating sick people, many politicians and law enforcement have done their best to ignore or marginalize the law. Many have spent hours preparing tedious and hair-splitting arguments to try and put sick people in jail, ignoring the democratically expressed will of the voters — and wasting their money. Some prosecutors have used the drug forfeiture laws to try to take property away from patients, in addition to trying to put them in jail, all for trying to use marijuana as medicine, just like you the voters wanted.

Despite good intentions, the bill passed in the Legislature last year (SB 6032) did little or nothing to protect patients or clarify the law in any meaningful way. The bill’s delegation to the Department of Health to help define what constitutes a 60-day supply has exploded into a political quagmire — with law enforcement and the governor’s office trumping the available science with politics. What a surprise.

At the Department of Health’s public hearing Aug. 25 in Tumwater, medical marijuana advocates told the department to follow the science of respected researchers like Dr. Greg Carter and Suni Aggarwal when setting limits for patients, not the self-serving propaganda of those who oppose us. (The hearing regarded a rule to allow patients 24 ounces of dried marijuana and six mature marijuana plants; final results are still pending.)

Washington state’s voters have the right to expect that their democratically expressed will would be respected and implemented, not denigrated and disrespected. Contact your state officials, your elected representatives and your prosecuting attorneys and (politely) let them know that you will not tolerate disrespect for patients or your medical marijuana law.

Douglas Hiatt is a Seattle attorney. His Web site is


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