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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 22, 2008 9:50 AM

Two pounds of pot too much for the governor

Posted by David Postman

Last year, nine years after Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law, the Legislature passed a bill designed to clarify, among other things, what exactly qualifies as the 60-day supply of pot patients are allowed to possess.

Senate Bill 6032 says:

The legislature intends to clarify the law on medical marijuana so that the lawful use of this substance is not impaired and medical practitioners are able to exercise their best professional judgment in the delivery of medical treatment, qualifying patients may fully participate in the medical use of marijuana, and designated providers may assist patients in the manner provided by this act without fear of state criminal prosecution.

The Legislature didn’t consider itself experts in the world of medical marijuana and didn’t come up with specifics on what is a defensible, two-month supply. Instead, lawmakers directed the state Department of Health to hold hearings, talk to experts, research medical literature, and come up with a regulation that as of July 1 of this year was supposed to give patients, doctors and law enforcement an answer.

The Department of Health did all that. And it recommended allowing proposed a rule that would allow more than two pounds of pot every two months. But as Times reporter Carol Ostrom wrote yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire and some cops didn’t like that. The governor told the Department of Health to go talk to more people, get more input, and reconsider the pound-a-month plan.

"I wouldn't say she was upset" by the amount, said Gregoire's spokesman, Pearse Edwards, but she believed input had been one-sided.

But if that’s the case, whose fault is it? No one in law enforcement or the medical community should have been surprised the Department of Health was trying to clear up one of the big gray areas of the medical marijuana law.

Officials with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs testified on the bill last year. They certainly knew what was in the measure.

When the rule-making process began last year, there was a news release sent out and, as required by law, details were published in the state register. But the Department of Health did more to comply with the Legislature’s direction that experts be consulted and interested parties be given a chance to comment. An e-mail that was headlined, “Defining a 60-day supply of medical marijuana,” was sent Aug. 7, 2007. It went to a long list of organizations asking for help and soliciting comments via e-mail, the Department’s Web site, public workshops or by snail mail.

That e-mail went to:

The Washington State Medical Association, medical researchers at the University of Washington, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Washington Association of Police chiefs and Sheriffs, the Department of Social and Health Services, the ACLU, the State Medical Quality Assurance Commission, the Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, Washington State Patrol, the state department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, Washington Fish and Wildlife, statewide court administrative offices, all Washington NORML offices, Green Cross, and the Washington State Association of Counties and Cities.

It seems outreach wasn’t the problem. I can only assume that two pounds of pot was more clarification than some folks could handle.

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