Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Ease in obtaining marijuana “green cards” will hinder legalization

Post by Brian O'Neill on Oct. 2, 2011 at 5:03 pm with 18 Comments »
October 3, 2011 9:38 am

Advocates for medical marijuana have made great progress in the last few years.

Several states, including Washington, have taken varied steps towards legalizing medical cannabis, and public sentiment is not inclined to throw a wrench in the works.

But the actions of a growing number of pot heads could change that.

An investigative journalism piece by the Trib’s Rob Carson (10/2) shed some light on a growing phenomenon-  modern day carpetbaggers setting up marijuana permitting clinics in Tacoma. Medical credentials aside, the aim of these individuals and their storefronts is to churn out a high volume of marijuana permits whether or not their patients’ needs are legally valid.

Like dope dealers everywhere, these individuals are all about skirting the law in the name of profit.

Carson’s insightful report demonstrates that new laws and restrictions drafted for patients in need of pain reduction or relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea is now catering to people only interested in smoking marijuana for the high.

The new clinics set up to issue marijuana use permits appear to exist as a rubber stamp shop for anyone looking to purchase marijuana legally. In at least one case that can be accomplished by walking to the dispensary next door.

The individuals involved in this charade do not come across well. One subject issuing medical permits quoted in Carson’s article states he “does his best to comply with state law.” That sounds more like a plea for leniency in a sentencing hearing than the business plan of a law-abiding medical professional.

In a greedy head-rush, one canna-businessman (I need to patent that term) was said, “There is big freaking money in this thing.” The “thing” to which he was referring was the $99 cost for medical marijuana permits, the so-called green card.

What is clear is that genuine advocates and legitimate patients of medical marijuana are being overwhelmed in number by recreational marijuana smokers. These habitual users are pushing and shoving at a legal doorway that the legislature has thus far only cracked open.

One can hardly argue their enthusiasm, but it could end up being costly.

The issue comes down to perception. If the people choose to legalize medical marijuana, thereby upending decades of cultural beliefs and drug laws, many of them will want reassurance that the law extends only to chronicallly ill patients.

On the other hand, if it becomes clear that the medical marijuana legislation was merely a ruse–a ruse that now gives ethically challenged medical professionals and pot growers a constant source of cash–then the voters might get pissed off.

Marijuana advocates should consider these missteps, because the door of legalization swings both ways.

Leave a comment Comments → 18
  1. Yeah, it’s all about perception. The whole “medical marijuana” deal was a hoax from jump street. The people who understood that DID NOT vote for it. They have watched their reasons for not voting for it confirmed in the years since.

    I don’t feel like digging up the RCWs at the moment, but the fact is these pot shops are NOT legal under Washington law. The law allows a patient to designate one person to grow pot for them, and that one person may do so for that one patient, and no others. Nothing in the law authorizes these massive grow operations and retail pot shops.

    At the end of the day, it’s really about enforcement. It doesn’t do much good to have laws if no one is interested in making arrests.

    By the most conservative estimates, marijuana addicts entering drug treatment centers are currently costing taxpayers $30 billion a year. There are no good statistics on exactly how many traffic accidents and fatalities a year are caused by pot smokers. In all probability, the number is conservatively over 10,000 dead by stoned driving. It is not a “safe” drug, and using it is NOT a victimless crime. The cost to society is huge and the damage is substantial. That is, after all, the reason it was made illegal in the first place. Society has a right to protect itself from the minority that would cause harm to the majority.

    The argument is always that pot is “safer” than alcohol, but the reality is it has never been about using one or the other. The typical pot smoker also drinks. Also, pot by it’s nature is not used in a social setting. Smokers smoke to get wasted. There is no equavalent in their world to a glass of wine with dinner. The result is you have people using two powerful drugs in combination, for an effect that is orders of magnitude greater than either alone. The person who drinks a couple of six packs is ten times more dangerous if he smokes a joint before hitting the road. Since he’s legally drunk when he kills someone on the highway, no one bothers to look any farther than that when he’s arrested. I’d bet big money that if blood tests were administered at the same time, the data would show the majority of accidents are caused by duel users. And, as far as I know, the majority of those arrested for smoking pot are typically the result of a traffic stop

    All of the above aside, THC is available by perscription for anyone who legitimately needs it for pain. It’s marketed as “Merinol”. There never was a reason to legalize “medical marijuana”. The only medical condition addicts self medicate is symptoms of withdrawl.

  2. So, now(As it stands in America) instead of going into a legally sanctioned venue to get Cannabis(Safe, quality product, that adults are using DESPITE it’s legal status, etc…)

    You get to go meet some ‘banger named ‘Bleezy’- in some normally unsafe place, unsure if Bleezy’s gonna shank you- or the cops are gonna roll up on you. And Bleezy might have given you catnip- or parsley.(You don’t know until you get the headache.)

    A little extreme? Maybe. But ummm… yeeeah. That’s a ‘Sensible’ approach.

    /Sarcasm off. IT SHOULD NOT MATTER WHY PEOPLE ARE USING THIS PLANT. You may not feel like Cannabis is good for you- Great! But don’t marginalize me, because you don’t agree with my choices. You don’t have to make them for me. I respect the opinions of non-users, why shouldn’t they respect mine?

    There are LOTS of bad laws in Washington. This is one of them. And this one extends to all of America- in fact, most of the globe. Educate yourselves(and everyone else!) So you don’t have to be afraid of the ‘Green Boogey…plant.’ anymore.

    “Occupy Wallstreet?” YES. “Occupy The-FREEDOM-to-make-your-own-ADULT-choices.”- INDEED.

  3. BTW… This ‘hit-piece’ article is probably based on the opinion of a small group of people, whom the writer was sure to agree with. Oh! you must be “Fair and Balanced”- Like Fox?…

    (Dangit. I thought I turned that sarcasm off….)

    There are 2 sides to EVERY story. Shouldn’t you report them BOTH?

  4. “Serve and Protect”-Your own interests, right?

  5. “By the most conservative estimates, marijuana addicts entering drug treatment centers are currently costing taxpayers $30 billion a year. There are no good statistics on exactly how many traffic accidents and fatalities a year are caused by pot smokers. In all probability, the number is conservatively over 10,000 dead by stoned driving. It is not a “safe” drug, and using it is NOT a victimless crime.”

    So, Your ‘Most conservative Estimate’ is based on what facts?… Or is that a ‘personal guess-timate’?

    FACT-$40,805,554,192 – This year, as of the time I post this. Found Here.

    For 2011, the federal portion of the Drug War budget will amount to
    $23.44 billion.
    (Found at the above site.)

    You can have your own opinions- but NOT your own facts. Just because you said it, doesn’t make it true.

  6. Mr. O’Neill

    It saddens and irritates me that you have used this bully pulpit upon which to pontificate when this is merely a comment on the TNT story. It should have been posted where it belongs, along with the other dozens of comments to the article.

    The rambling, unfocused, shotgun nature of this piece makes a rebuttal difficult and even unnecessary. Rather than parse your statements, I will just direct you and others to the New Approach Washington website. There you will find advocates for the ending of marijuana prohibition ( far different than “marijuana advocates”) who are highly educated, accomplished professionals with expertise in the field and the issues. One can read and decide for oneself whether we should continue with the policy of marijuana prohibition or consider the alternative harm reduction strategy of legalizing, taxing, and regulating.

    Besides being a former police officer, how did you–or more to the point–how did the TNT come to consider you a public policy maven? Your stated goal for your column was “to add layers of understanding and context to the myriad stories about cops, citizens and criminals that are scattered like grapeshot throughout our daily media.” Did you accomplish that with piece of opinion? I say no. Perhaps you forgot one of the basic guidelines for writing, especially when writing non-fiction, “Write about what you know?”

    By the way, you might want to fix the typo in the article and replace the vulgar word you used for “anger.” It makes your work look unprofessional.

  7. sharonwhit says:

    Hello! When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 I didn’t fully understand the battle I was about to embark upon, and it is a battle Cannabis saved me. I don’t expect you with your negative attitude and these it’s all bullshit comments to get it – and to be honest, I hope you don’t ever have to experience the releif that cannabis provides during chemotherapy. Cancer sucks. Cannabis is like a light switch from agonizing nasua to relief. It is amazing how quickly it takes effect. I can remember mornings, I’d wake up at 3:30 AM sick every morning. Cannabis relieved my nasua, relaxed my body, and helped me fight cancer. I thank God that he put such a plant on our earth each day!

  8. Brian O'Neill says:

    Whether or not you agreed with my column, I thank you for taking the time to present your views on what is certainly a combustible topic. But those comments also require rebuttal.

    I am not a reporter- I am a police officer. If you look for my column online you will find it under the opinion section rather than the news. My guideline for this column is to write about various topics from my own viewpoint, and obviously my viewpoint includes my experience in police work which dates back to 1988. As I stated in this piece I truly do not care whether marijuana is legalized. I understand it appears to have some measurable benefit for those suffering chronic pain and nausea. I also had the experience of waiting outside a cannabis dispensary while my wife purchased some marijuana for her mother (stage 4 lung cancer) because they would not allow a law enforcement officer inside. Despite the fact that my mother-in-law did not receive any benefit from this medication I still have an open mind on the topic.

    The reason for this column was simple. The legislature is trying to satisfy patients’ needs for cannabis, but the current system is being exploited by recreational users. This abuse of the law may very well throw reverse the progress that advocates have made because voters may not appreciate the way the recreational dope smokers (and the carpetbagging medicos and sellers) are behaving.

    Legalizing marijuana will be a sea change for our culture much in the same manner as the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The difference is that the impatience of marijuana users may work against them.

    As I said, I don’t care one way or the other whether marijuana is legalized. But pot smokers may want to consider how their actions appear to the voting public.

  9. PhilDeBowl says:

    The governor had a chance to license and regulate this industry, obviously she has no balls,so now we have to deal with these. “CARPETBAGERS”
    If the state wants to put an end to these Dispensaries they need to License and Regulate the industry.

  10. BlaineCGarver says:

    Just legalize it. Pot only. Welfare folk need to take a piss test for it, just like many companies do for employment.

  11. SteveSarich says:

    It’s sad that we do have “dirty laundry” to air in the medical cannabis community. Those of us who have been involved in taking care of legitimate patients for years are sad to see this happening. Anyone who is writing recommendations for people that have no medical records legally documenting their conditions are harming the people they are writing them for and damaging the image of those who are doing their best to actually care for legitimate patients.

    That said, you shouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. God only knows that there are countless doctors writing prescriptions for dangerous painkillers in trade for cash payments (script mills). The latest report from the DOH says that on person on public assistance in Washington dies every day taking doctor prescribed, and state funded, painkillers. Over 700 people in Washington died last year from and overdose of painkillers. That’s roughly two a day.

    While I’m not trying to excuse the sham recommendations being written for cannabis, we should also recognize that not one of those people with a sham medical cannabis recommendation died from a cannabis overdose last year….or in any year. And the cost to the state was budget was absolutely zero.

    Let’s try to keep all of this in perspective and look at the real danger to public safety rather than just bashing those that are writing bad recommendations. The worst fallout from these bad recommendations is that they will result in arrests and prosecutions of patients (legitimate or not). The Tribune seems to thrive on digging up any dirt on medical marijuana and they seem to find the sleaziest people to quote in their articles.

    Steve Sarich

  12. Brian O'Neill says:

    Steve- I appreciate you weighing in with your expertise on this issue. I think the Trib did an excellent job reporting on the bottom feeders in your industry, and it does demonstrate that you have more work to do to isolate and remove the “capitalists” from your process.

  13. SteveSarich says:

    Brian – My point was that the only issue that the Trib wants to focus on is the bottom feeders. Can you imagine the outcry if the only articles on doctors or medicinal issues that the Trib focused on were Medicare fraud, pill mills, malpractice and the ever-increasing number of deaths from prescription drugs?

    To read the Trib, you’d think that all of us that are legitimately helping patients were nothing more than drug dealers or scam artists. That’s hardly a balanced picture of what’s actually happening. When was the last positive story you heard about medical cannabis in the Trib?

    The exposing of the scammers is certainly the function of the press, but the Trib has proven that their reporting is anything but fair or balanced.

    There are enough stories of crooked cops and politicians to fill nearly every newspaper. But, as a cop, if that’s all you read in the newspaper, I would imagine you, and your fellow officers, would be up in arms….and rightly so.

    It’s harder for us to keep our industry legitimate than is it for you to weed out bad cops. You have a way to investigate them and, when appropriate, get rid of them. We have no apparatus to do that at this point, though we are certainly working on it. It will still never stop those that are determined to cross the line if they think they can make an extra buck.

    Thanks for your response.


  14. Brian O'Neill says:

    Steve- You are right in your assumption that it is difficult to monitor the illegitimate caregivers and dispensers of medical marijuana. The problem is enforcement, and that is a matter that has been muddled by municipal governments like Seattle. But I would suggest that a local newspaper’s main goal should be to highlight corruption. While I appreciate a good story about hard-working individuals making progress in their endeavors, fighting injustice just sounds–and sells-better.

    And if I were concerned about negative perceptions some people have towards cops, I would never have taken an oath in the first place.

  15. PhilDeBowl says:

    “. There are no good statistics on exactly how many traffic accidents and fatalities a year are caused by pot smokers. In all probability, the number is conservatively over 10,000 dead by stoned driving. ” No good statistics,but that doesnt stop the ignorant Know Nothings from spreading fear and ignorance.. There are no good statistics on exactly how many traffic accidents and fatalities a year are caused by pot smokers. In all probability, the number is conservatively over 10,000 dead by stoned driving.

  16. PhilDeBowl says:

    ” There are no good statistics on exactly how many traffic accidents and fatalities a year are caused by pot smokers. In all probability, the number is conservatively over 10,000 dead by stoned driving. ” No statistics but that doesn’t stop the ignorant Know Nothings from spreading fear and ignorance.

  17. PhilDeBowl says:

    “THC is available by perscription for anyone who legitimately needs it for pain. It’s marketed as “Merinol”. There never was a reason to legalize “medical marijuana”. Marinol is pure THC, it has none of the healthful cannabinols etc.THC will only get you high,it will not cure anything.Why should anyone have to support big Pharma when they can grow their own medicine.

  18. PhilDeBowl says:

    Sorry about the double posting.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0