Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jun 1999
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 1999 The Seattle Times Company


WASHINGTON voters made two things clear last fall when they approved
Initiative 692, the medical-marijuana law:

1. Police must treat sick patients with compassion.

2. Patients must abide by reasonable limits.

The unfortunate case of David Means, profiled by Seattle Times reporter
Carol Ostrom on June 14, demonstrates that neither cops nor patients have
yet found the appropriate balance between rights, responsibilities and
respect for the voters' will. State and local authorities should redouble
their efforts to ensure that all parties comply with the spirit and letter
of the law.

Means suffers from seizures and had obtained legally required documentation
from a licensed medical doctor. He grew his own supply in his West Seattle
apartment - and made sure to keep both the text of the law and his medical
documentation accessible to law enforcement. The home was raided in May;
police destroyed 40 marijuana plants and confiscated his growing equipment.

That's not all. They apparently trashed the place. Means' apartment manager
said it looked "like a tornado came through his apartment" after the cops
left. Means also says the cops taunted and provoked him after handcuffing
him. He was arrested and released without any charges filed.

This apparent disregard for Means' dignity and property is appalling. It's
exactly the kind of boorish behavior I-692 sought to end. Police officials
say the case is under investigation and more training is planned. Those who
conducted the destructive raid at Means' apartment need more than training;
they ought to be disciplined.

The case is complicated by Means' unilateral decision to share his personal
supply of medical marijuana with other patients. The law does not address
distribution. Moreover, although it states that qualifying patients may
possess a 60-day supply for personal medical use, it does not define a
60-day supply.

The Legislature failed this year to assign a state agency to write
implementation rules for I-692. Gov. Gary Locke should take the lead in
forming a multi-agency task force to craft clear, rational guidelines for
enforcement of the popular medical-marijuana law. Members should include
representatives from the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance
Commission, the Attorney General's office, patient advocate groups (such as
the Capitol Hill Compassion in Action or Green Cross Patient Co-op),
doctors, police officers and academic researchers.

Until that happens, though, ambiguities in the medical-marijuana law are no
excuse for police raids against sick patients. What happened to David Means
should not happen again.

- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck