Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jul 2008
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Bruce Ramsey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The police raid on Martin Martinez, a Seattle man who uses marijuana to dull
the chronic
pain from a motorcycle accident, made the page-one headline last Thursday:
"Was Pot Raid
Justified?" Martinez's lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, insists vehemently that it was

In Seattle, the topic of medical marijuana and the law leads quickly
to Hiatt. A native Chicagoan, 49, this blue-jeaned barrister is
vehement often, his deep voice rising quickly to indignant italics.

His cellphone rings. "I gotta take this," he says. "Hello? Yes ... No
. No, we're not going to do that! Look, this is my client ... Yes,
I'll be there." Click.

Originally a public defender, Hiatt is now exclusively a
medical-marijuana lawyer. It is not a lucrative practice. His clients
are often broke, and typically they are merely trying to be left
alone. Hiatt says he has been paid in salmon, and once in an organic

His first client was an AIDS patient stuck in the King County Jail.
Hiatt went to Dan Satterberg, then deputy prosecutor, for help - and
it was Satterberg who smoothed things over after last week's raid on

To Hiatt, King County's Republican prosecutor is "Good King Dan," who
follows the law that 59 percent of Washington voters approved in 1998.
Most prosecutors around the state don't, Hiatt says.

"It makes me crazy," he says.

For healthy folk who think of marijuana as getting stoned, "medical
marijuana" may sound like a doper's deception. Hiatt shakes his head.
His clients are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Typically, they are on
disability. Many have cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's
disease or Crohn's disease.

AIDS patients are using marijuana to control nausea, so they don't
vomit up the 40-odd pills they have to take every day. In 2000, when a
judge forbade writer and AIDS patient Peter McWilliams from using
marijuana, he threw up his "AIDS cocktail," choked on his vomit and

The word "cocktail," makes Hiatt bristle. "It's not a damned cocktail.
This is chemotherapy for life."

McWilliams had been ordered to use Marinol, a drug with one of
marijuana's active ingredients. Hiatt says he has a client right now
ordered by a judge to use Marinol.

"It makes my client really stoned, and he doesn't want that," Hiatt
says. "It's expensive. It costs $10 to $20 a pill. Why use it when you
can grow a house plant?"

Hiatt's typical client is one, like Martinez, with chronic pain. Says
Hiatt, "Their doctor puts them on OxyContin, morphine, one of the
opiates. Their brain is in a fog because of the opiates. They're
constipated. They're miserable. They say, 'I lost my life.' Then they
try marijuana. It allows them to cut their opiate dose in half. Some
of them eliminate it. They feel better. Their mind is clearer. They're
not constipated anymore."

"I've heard that story five hundred times," Hiatt says. "Because it

Hiatt estimates there are 25,000 medical-marijuana patients in
Washington. The state law says they can have a 60-day supply, but
since 1998 it has been up to local officials to say what that is. The
Department of Health will have a public hearing in Tumwater Aug. 25 on
a new rule to allow patients 24 ounces of dried plant and six mature
plants. And that's not enough, Hiatt insists.

"Every single medical marijuana patient I have is over these numbers,"
he says.

I relate Hiatt's story partly because I believe in letting these folks
alone, but partly also because I had an aunt who was in sharp pain
from a pinched nerve. Her doctor prescribed an opiate, which handled
the pain but messed up her mind and her gut.

My aunt was the most un-stoned person I ever knew, but she told me she
would have taken marijuana, or anything else, if it had killed the
pain, and to hell with the government. I would be no different.

Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin