Pubdate: Thu, 20 Sep 2007
Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)
Copyright: 2007 Yakima Herald-Republic
Author: Mark Morey, Yakima Herald-Republic
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


SELAH -- Medical marijuana advocates are charging that Yakima County
has disregarded the state's law regarding limited use of the drug by
approved patients.

But Sheriff Ken Irwin and chief prosecutor Ron Zirkle disagreed,
saying that they have tried to appropriately handle the few cases that
have come up since voters approved the related initiative in 1998.

CannaCare, a medical marijuana advocacy group active in Washington and
Nevada, issued a news release Wednesday stating the group's concerns
about the county's approach. The news release also stated that
CannaCare would ask the state attorney general's office to

CannaCare representative Steve Sarich spoke at a meeting Wednesday
evening in Selah where the state Department of Health was gathering
comments on how the agency should define a 60-day supply of medical
marijuana for patients.

The group accuses Zirkle and Irwin of not recognizing the law, based
on a letter from a member of the prosecutor's staff.

Zirkle, who attended Wednesday's session but did not speak, described
the letter as unclear and said he would look into it. He said he was
not aware before Wednesday of the correspondence with a medical
marijuana advocate from Western Washington.

Irwin said the law needs to be fixed to define a proper

A recent revision to the state statute directs police to let patients
retain their marijuana if they can prove they have proper

Zirkle and Irwin said medical marijuana cases are relatively rare in
Yakima County, although they could not provide an exact count.

Zirkle said he personally believes that the push for medical marijuana
is part of an effort to legalize its use altogether.

CannaCare representative Steve Sarich said widespread legalization is
not his focus.

"That may be a good issue, but it's not my issue," Sarich

Sarich said he thinks that law enforcement officials want the
Department of Health rule as another method by which they can pursue
prosecution of patients. Sarich said his home in Western Washington
was raided, although no charges have been filed.

The appropriate amount of medical marijuana means different things for
different patients, speakers told department representatives during
the comment period.

The meeting at the Selah Civic Center was the last of four held around
the state by the department as officials respond to the Legislature's
request to set how much marijuana should be allowed for patients who
possess a qualifying recommendation from a doctor under state law.
That administrative rule is due by July.

Some speakers suggested that nine plants isn't enough, while another
said that a 100-plant standard may reduce conflicting enforcement efforts.

Voters approved the state's medical marijuana law in 1998. It allows
approved patients of certain medical conditions -- cancer, AIDS and
intractable pain, among others -- to hold a 60-day supply of the drug.
But the proper amount has never been defined, leaving providers and
police in a quandary.

The federal government, which has long maintained that marijuana
offers no medical benefit, still considers the drug illegal,
regardless of laws in Washington and other states.

The Department of Health also wants to clarify the best method for
supplying the drug to patients.

Speakers at Wednesday's meetings -- some of whom expressed concern
about being targeted by police because they spoke out -- said the lack
of a secure supply forces them to get marijuana from illegal dealers,
especially if they do not have the resources or knowledge to grow their own.

The Department of Health tentatively expects to end its public comment
period by December.



Comments on a medical marijuana rule proposal may be submitted to the
Department of Health via the following methods:

* Sending an e-mail to * Posting a message at

* Mailing a letter to Box 47866, Olympia, WA 98504-7866, or faxing it
to 360-236-4768.

More background information is available at the Web site listed above.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake