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Drug laws should matter, even with pot

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on March 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
March 29, 2010 7:48 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Imagine a drug company manufacturing and selling uncontrolled doses of its pharmaceuticals right in the owner’s house.

Imagine the owner bringing in a doctor on Saturdays and paying them to pass out prescriptions for his product to lines of customers. Both owner and doctor haul in large sums of cash in this tidy little arrangement.

The quantity of drugs on hand violates state law, as do the sales themselves. Both the cash and drugs are crime magnets. Burglaries have become routine. The neighbors aren’t happy.

Were this some normal, FDA-approved prescription drug, most everyone – especially medical oversight bodies – would be screaming to high heaven.

The drug is non-FDA-approved marijuana, though, and the operation is in King County. So lots of people seem cool with the whole thing. Attach the word “medical” to “marijuana,” and it’s pure humanitarianism.

This particular situation hit the news two weeks ago when Steve Sarich, a marijuana champion who grows and sells marijuana out of a Kirkland house, fought off armed robbers (good for him) who were after the cash sitting around at his place. Sarich said it was his eighth home invasion since May.

Sarich – who has a doctor’s authorization to use pot as medicine – says he’s no drug dealer. But he’s certainly an entrepreneur.

After the attempted robbery, police say they found $10,712 in cash in his safe and what looked like records of $14,653 worth of sales between March 1 and 5. Also, 116 medium and large-sized marijuana plants and 259 starter plants in the house, plus a load of marijuana products and a small arsenal of guns.

State law allows a medical marijuana patient a maximum of 15 plants; Sarich’s live-in girlfriend also has an authorization, so their combined max would be 30.

Sarich – who was caught with 1,554 plants in 2007 – readily admits he’s been providing the drug to numerous users. Police say he sells it to customers who pay up to $200 to attend his Saturday seminars, where his hired doctor hands out authorizations to use marijuana as medicine.

Let’s cut through the haze: Dispensaries and shill doctors are not what Washingtonians approved when they legalized medical marijuana – with strict limits – at the polls in 1998. That year’s Initiative 692 explicitly forbade sales, limited quantities and allowed a caregiver to provide marijuana to a patient – but only one patient, not dozens and not hundreds.

Weeds must be pulled before they go to seed. Official tolerance of “medical” grow operations insults the voters, subverts the law, fosters de facto drug houses and invites violence in the bargain. Quasi-commercial marijuana dispensaries are a disease; the cure is prosecution.

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