Pubdate: Tue,  2 Apr 2002
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2002, The Olympian
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


MONTESANO (AP) -- A man busted last fall for a garage garden of 53 
marijuana plants says he was using the illegal herb for medical reasons -- 
allowed under a vague initiative approved by state voters in 1998.

Authorities are dubious.

"He had enough marijuana to supply the city of Ocean Shores, and that's not 
an exaggeration," said Sgt. Dallas Hensley of the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force.

One of the flaws state courts have found in Initiative 692 is that it 
recommends patients not have more than a 60-day supply, but does not say 
how much that is.

Hensley said the medical-marijuana defense is coming up more often during 
drug busts.

"I can't make decisions in the field if the Legislature and scores of 
attorneys can't come up with an answer," he said. "The law needs to be 

Defendant Bruce Buckner, 48, suffers from Crohn's disease, a chronic bowel 
inflammation that afflicts more than 500,000 Americans with symptoms that 
include severe and persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue and 
weight loss.

Note From Doctor

Buckner said he's managed the symptoms fairly well for 29 years -- since a 
doctor suggested smoking marijuana might provide some relief. And under 
Initiative 692, which allows doctors to "recommend" medicinal use of 
marijuana, he said he believed he was within the law.

He got a recommendation last year -- written by a physician's assistant and 
signed by a doctor -- that said: "This letter is to confirm that I support 
Mr. Buckner's use of marijuana for treatment of Crohn's Disease not 
relieved by standard treatments."

"For the first time in my life, I wasn't going to feel like a criminal," 
Buckner said.

Grays Harbor Prosecutor Stew Menefee and Deputy Prosecutor William Leraas 
said he was wrong about that. Leraas has filed a motion asking the court 
not to allow the medical-marijuana defense.

Buckner faces trial May 29 on charges of manufacturing marijuana and 
possessing one gram of illegal psilocybin mushrooms. In addition to the 
plants found at his former home in Ocean Shores, officers seized a pound of 
processed marijuana, two scales, packaging materials and $10,000 in 
hundred-dollar bills.

Buckner said he weighed his own doses and the money was his life savings.

He said he was smoking 8 to 10 grams of pot daily, about one marijuana 
cigarette per hour. He grew it in the garage of a rented two-bedroom 
bungalow in the beachfront community.

"When you smoke it a lot, you don't get high anymore. And that's what's 
good, because it helps the symptoms of the disease and I can still function 
and work," said the self-employed Web and T-shirt designer.

In addition, Buckner said, he supplied a friend in Sequim who also has a 
medical recommendation. Leraas said Buckner did not have proper 
authorization for that.

Evicted after the bust, Buckner has moved to Olympia. He said his health is 
worsening without marijuana and his work has suffered.

I-692 allows doctors to "recommend" marijuana for some ailments, but they 
cannot prescribe it and pharmacies cannot distribute it because it remains 
illegal under federal law.

The state Court of Appeals earlier this month upheld a Stevens County 
medical-marijuana conviction -- a case involving 15 plants -- because there 
was no evidence indicating how much pot the defendant needed and thus no 
way to know what constituted a 60-day supply.
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