Pubdate: Tue, 8 Jul 2008
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2008 The Olympian
Author: Christian Hill
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Advocate Aims to Clarify System for Legal Users

An Olympia man will open a resource center outside Olympia next month 
for patients who use medical marijuana and for those who want to 
learn more about the medicinal use of cannabis.

Jeremy Miller, 36, said he wants to help people navigate through the 
state's medical marijuana law that remains complex despite an effort 
last week by the state Department of Health to bring more clarity.

The opening of the resource center was "semi-inspired" by the 
agency's action and resulting need to educate people.

"It's a legitimate law just like any law that should be functional 
and, right now, it's not as functional as it should be," Miller said. 
"There's several things we can do, but I think it's going to take 
independent counties throughout the state and possibly independent 
organizations to take it upon themselves to keep patients out of harm's way."

The Olympia Patient Resource Center will provide its members 
referrals to doctors and lawyers, equipment to grow and use 
marijuana, classes to cultivate the plants and a social setting for 
the legal use of the drug. It will not grow medical marijuana for patients.

Membership Cards

Miller said he will request that local governments and law 
enforcements agencies recognize the center's membership cards as 
legal verification for the holder to use medical marijuana.

The cards eventually will have security features so they can't easily 
be forged. He said he's made contacts with the county commissioners 
and will make presentations to them and the Olympia City Council soon.

Miller, the founder of Olympia Hempfest in 2003 and a strong local 
voice for legalizing marijuana, is blind in one eye after being shot 
with a pellet gun and has a doctor's authority to use marijuana to 
treat debilitating headaches.

Miller said the proposed rule by the state Department of Health 
defining a 60-day supply is reasonable if the limits on immature 
plants were removed. That inclusion means patients easily could run 
into trouble if they got sick and weren't able to care for their 
plants for a short period of time.

"It's not right that we make illegal patients out of legal patients," he said.

The proposed rule allows a patient or designated provider to possess 
up to 24 ounces of marijuana and places limits on the number of 
mature and immature plants they can own.

Feedback to the proposal has been mixed. Law enforcement wants a 
lower quantity -- but are satisfied they soon will have a number to 
enforce -- and patients and their advocates seek a higher quantity, 
agency spokesman Donn Moyer said.

The proposed rule was based on other state laws and scientific 
research, Moyer said.

"No one has the answer," he said. "We're trying to come up with what 
works best in Washington."

The state Department of Health had proposed defining a 60-day supply 
as up to 35 ounces of marijuana, but the proposal was shelved after 
Gov. Chris Gregoire asked the agency to solicit comments from law 
enforcement and prosecutors -- stakeholders she felt were 
under-represented in an earlier public process.

Lt. Loreli Thompson, commander of the Thurston County Narcotics Task 
Force, said it focuses on mid-to high-volume drug offenses and only 
might run across a medical marijuana case a few times a year.

There are cases pending in Superior Court involving individuals 
charged with marijuana possession who say their use is for medicinal 
purposes and therefore legal.

Thompson said she learned about the resource center Monday and didn't 
have sufficient information to specifically comment on its operation.

She did say, "If people are going to use medical marijuana, they need 
to follow the law. That way, they don't run into people reporting 
them or us knocking on their door."



In 1998, voters authorized the use of marijuana to treat certain 
debilitating or terminal illnesses with a doctor's authorization. 
Last year, state lawmakers added several qualifying illnesses and to 
require the state Department of Health to define what constitutes a 
60-day supply to bring more clarity to the law for patients, doctors, 
prosecutors and law enforcement.

On July 1, the agency proposed a rule authorizing a patient or 
designated provider to possess up to 24 ounces of marijuana -- and no 
more than six mature plants and 18 immature plants. An immature plant 
is no more than 12 inches in height and diameter and has no flowers.

The quantities can be adjusted with "documentation from a patient's 
physician stating the amount that is medically necessary," according 
to the proposal.

A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25 in Tumwater. Those comments 
will be taken into account before a rule is finalized, agency 
spokesman Donn Moyer said.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in Room 152/153 at the 
state Department of Health, 310 Israel Road S.E.

The Olympia Patient Resource Center, 6303 Rich Road S.E. Unit G, is 
scheduled to open the first week in August. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. 
Tuesdays and Thursdays; appointments are required. Call 360-456-3517. 
The annual membership cost is $25.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake