This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Restoring credibility to medical marijuana in Washington will require separating drug-seekers from the seriously ill people who may genuinely need it.
Anyone who cares about the latter should be anxious to prevent recreational users and abusers from discrediting the whole system – as is happening in Tacoma on a large scale.
For the last two years, pot-lovers across the state have found it increasingly easy to get the so-called green cards that protect them from the law. Tacoma officials have accommodated them by tolerating a proliferation of illegal marijuana stores that now – according to licensing records – greatly outnumber the city’s pharmacies.
That’s the visible end of the sham, but it’s not the headwater. Upstream, the industry is sustained by ever-growing numbers of common marijuana smokers who’ve discovered how easy it is get authorization papers on flimsy pretexts.
The News Tribune’s Rob Carson, for example, reported Sunday that, after walking into a Tacoma marijuana outlet, he was able to get medical authorization via the Internet from a nurse practitioner in another part of the state.
State law permits providers to authorize marijuana to treat debilitating or intractable pain that can’t be relieved by other treatments. Carson’s long-distance nurse quickly recommended marijuana for shoulder discomfort he normally handled with ibuprofen.
The medical ethics of too many pot docs are a joke. Supposed professionals recommend marijuana to the vast majority of “patients” they see, and they offer their customers their money back if they don’t walk away with a license to use. It’s all about the cash.
Judge John Hickman of the Pierce County Superior Court has lost patience with the charade. He has refused to return confiscated “medical marijuana” to two Tacomans unless they demonstrate that their authorizations actually comply with state law.
These two aren’t the issue; they may well be in compliance. What’s important is that somebody – at last – is insisting that authorizations pass muster with someone other than a marijuana merchant.
Somebody – preferably, responsible medical professionals – should be scrutinizing the authorizers on a routine basis.
Marijuana advocates talk about moving the drug from Schedule I to Schedule II, which would allow doctors to legally prescribe it.
That may not be a bad idea. But the prescribing of Schedule II drugs, such as Percocet and amphetamines, is monitored by professional oversight bodies and ultimately by pharmacists. Doctors get sanctioned if they get too prescription-happy.
Medical marijuana advocates who are out to help the genuinely sick – not furtively legalize the drug for all comers – wouldn’t object to tighter regulations of their own. Would they?