Pubdate: Thu, 23 Nov 2006
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2006 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Rachel LA Corte, The Associated Press
Note: Majority opinion:
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


OLYMPIA -- A voter-approved initiative allowing doctors to recommend 
medicinal marijuana does not apply to cases where the doctor is 
licensed outside of the state of Washington, the state Supreme Court 
ruled Wednesday.

"The initiative could have, but did not, define a qualifying doctor 
as one with a valid license from any state," Justice Tom Chambers 
wrote in the 6-3 majority decision.

Initiative 692 passed in 1998 with 59 percent of the vote. It gives 
doctors the right to recommend -- but not prescribe -- marijuana for 
people suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and 
other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

Marijuana is still illegal to buy and sell. It's listed in the same 
class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Possession of pot is allowed under 
I-692, but state law does not say how people can obtain it in the first place.

In its decision, the high court affirmed a Court of Appeals ruling 
that upheld the conviction of Sharon Tracy, who had been charged with 
possession and manufacturing of marijuana.

Tracy, 53, suffers from a hip deformity and migraine headaches. She 
has had a series of corrective surgeries following a ruptured colon 
and bowel conditions, according to court records.

She was arrested in May 2003 after police arrived at her home to 
investigate a domestic-violence complaint. While there, police 
smelled marijuana and, after returning with a search warrant, found 
just over an ounce of marijuana, four marijuana plants and a 
California medical-marijuana card.

A few months after the arrest, she obtained another medical card from 
a doctor in Portland, the closest large city across the border from 
her home in Stevenson, Skamania County.

The judge at her trial in Skamania County would not let her use a 
"compassionate use" defense allowed under I-692, because she was not 
a "qualified" candidate because the card in her possession at the 
time of her arrest was not issued by a doctor who was formally 
licensed to practice medicine in Washington state.

The trial court found that the authorization received by the Oregon 
doctor met Washington's requirements, but it was not able to be used 
in court because the card was received after her arrest. David 
Schultz, Tracy's attorney, said that at the time of her arrest she 
was traveling back and forth between the two states because of her 
family situation, which is why she got the card from California in 
the first place.

She said that some of her health problems had to do with the pain 
medication she had been on for years, which is why the doctor 
switched her to medicinal marijuana.

"Had the California doctor prescribed her Vicodin and Soma or 
anything like that, the prescription would have been legal. She could 
have filled it at any Washington pharmacy," Schultz said. "I have a 
lot of trouble seeing the difference, especially in light of what the 
initiative stands for."

In his dissent, joined by justices Richard Sanders and Barbara 
Madsen, Justice Jim Johnson wrote that the majority opinion ignores 
the intent of the voters. "The majority offers no persuasive 
rationale for holding that the people of Washington understood, let 
alone intended, that an otherwise qualified patient would be excluded 
from protection by I-692 simply because the patient's treating 
physician was licensed in California or Oregon rather than 
Washington," he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said the ruling 
shows that the law needs to be made more clear. "Seriously ill people 
still are being prosecuted and convicted for using medical 
marijuana," said Jennifer Shaw, the organization's legislative coordinator. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake