Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Draw the line between legal pot and bogus medicine

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Jan. 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm with 7 Comments »
January 20, 2012 4:50 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has given the Legislature a big fat opening to separate medical cannabis from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

I-502 proposes to authorize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana in Washington. It’s an initiative to the Legislature, which means that lawmakers have three options: They can adopt it as is, ignore it and let it go to the ballot, or come up with an alternative measure to put on the ballot alongside it.

The issue belongs to the voters, though legislators may well be able to improve on the initiative as written.

With the legalization option out in the open – and cleanly contained in its own bill – lawmakers ought to be able to craft a medical marijuana policy that doesn’t amount to sneaky, corrupt pseudo-legalization.

They could get two-thirds of the way there with one simple step: explicitly outlawing clinics and medical practices that do virtually nothing but hand out so-called green cards to almost anyone who walks in the door.

The proliferation of pot docs and retailers in this state over the last few years has made a mockery of the 1998 initiative that carefully authorized the therapeutic use of marijuana for the genuinely ill within a doctor-patient relationship.

The law forbade sales of the drug and restricted its use to suffering patients who couldn’t be helped by ordinary treatments.

Those restrictions remain in force but are routinely flouted. Potheads and partiers claiming “intractable pain” can easily find practitioners who will legalize their habits for $100 or $200 – often promising them the money back if they don’t get authorization papers. In Tacoma, the situation is such a sham that police say they’re running into gang members who’ve been “medically” authorized to smoke dope.

A new bill introduced by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, purports to clarify the legal status of the marijuana stores. Actually, their legal status is already clear: They are illegal. But many of their operators have proved that they will ignore the law so long as there’s fast money to be made and local officials – the Tacoma City Council among them – willing to enable them.

Tinkering with definitions and labels won’t change that. What will is a crackdown on providers who write green cards for common drug-seekers. Shut off the flood of bogus authorizations, and the rest of the industry will automatically get cleaner – if poorer.

Some lawmakers proposed last year to outlaw operations that “primarily” authorized marijuana. The sneaky-legalization people amended that to “exclusively” – a term of art broad enough to cover someone who sells lava lamps on the side. Getting “primarily” into law would fix some of what’s broken with medical marijuana in this state.

Outright legalization is a separate discussion with a different set of issues; it’s not quackery and it doesn’t use sick people as camouflage for recreational or compulsive users.

There are respectable libertarian arguments for legalization. Let those honest arguments ride on I-502, and yank the dishonesty off the back of medical marijuana.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. duke_of_hurl says:

    i thought gang members had health problems like any other human being..

  2. NewDragon says:

    These editorial clowns are idiots as usual. Trying to bring gang members into the fray. How about you editorial clowns try you going to a doctor for real narcotics. No paperwork required. You just walk in and say I’m in pain and they will not only give you a prescription for addictive drugs, they will shoot you up right there in the clinic. I had back pains and this is my real actual experience. So where is the real problem? Shills are what you editorial idiots really are. Your brains as so full of idiocy you can’t see what you wrote is not only nonsense but by using gang members as scapegoats you have also crossed into the racial arena as well. TNT editorial board equals racists shills with no foresight whatsoever.

  3. moms4marijuana says:

    I think I’m going to go downtown and have me a boatload of tequila shooters. Or maybe a bunch of Jager bombs. Who’s with me?

  4. SteveSarich says:

    Perhaps the TNT Editorial Board needs to be reminded about why we have clinics that specialize in medical cannabis. Could it be because most primary care doctors were refusing to write recommendations, even for their sickest and most disabled patients? Don’t you think we would have all rather gone to our treating physicians…provided they were will to write us a recommendation? Are you suggesting that we should just be forced to suffer?

    I can’t, and won’t, defend some of these clinics. Some are truly an embarrassment to those of us who are truly trying to do the right thing and would never write recommendations to those patients who do not have medical records verifying their qualifying conditions.

    That said, there are plenty of pill pushing doctors selling Oxy and Vicoden scripts all over the state. This has become such a problem that the DOH has now gone to the legislature to try to stem this epidemic. There will always be people that will push, or violate legal limits in order to make a buck. The big difference is that the Oxy and Vicoden epidemic is killing people in this state, including school kids, and no one is dying because they have a recommendation for cannabis that they may not legally qualify for.

    I’m not saying it’s right, by any means, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. But I agree, we need some better regulations. What you’re suggesting is just leaving patients to suffer in order to clean up the problem caused by some greedy people and the legislature, rather than coming up with a viable solution that doesn’t involve further harm and suffering to legitimate patients.

    We may agree on one thing, however. The bill proposed by Senator Kohl-Welles will clarify nothing. In fact, it will do exactly the opposite. A registration system that will violate a patient’s 4th, 5th and 2nd Amendment rights, as well as their Federally protected right to medical privacy will certainly not eliminate the problem we both have with illegitimate medical providers. In fact, it only state certifies the fraud and does nothing to clean up the current mess.

    The one thing the Editorial Board missed in the Senator’s bill was the fiscal note attached to the bill. The reason you missed it was because it wasn’t included when the bill went before the Senate Healthcare Committee last week. If we assume that the price tag would not be any higher than the estimated cost that they came up with last year, our cash strapped state would be in for an $8,000,000 price tag in order to provide patients with a state registry card that no one is interested in paying for. Patients are overwhelmingly against a state registry.

    That’s only one of the major failings of this bill. By letting every little town, city and county legislate their own medical cannabis regulations, when they have no experience in writing medical legislation whatsover, you’ll end up with 300 entirely different medical cannabis laws around the state, some legal and some not. You’ll see a lot of litigation that these communities can’t afford and it will bring anything but “clarity” to medical cannabis issue here in Washington. This state should only have ONE medical cannabis law, a STATE law, and I think we can all agree that we aren’t anywhere close to that at this point. It won’t likely come during this short session either. Our legislators should be worrying about how to cover the $1.5 billion dollar shortfall in the state budget and not worrying about spending an extra $8,000,000 on a state registry of patients. Don’t you dare cut healthcare for poor children, up our gas tax and then spend $8,000,000 on this ridiculous make-work project for the Department of Health.

    Steve Sarich
    CannaCare
    steve@cannacare.org

  5. ThinkingClearly says:

    Recent research clearly shows marijuana has great value in the management of pain. Used in conjunction with commonly prescribed pain medications containing opiate based derivatives(such as vicodin) they produced enhanced pain relief effects safely, leading doctors to believe it possible to prescribe less of the addictive pain killers. Marijuana is not a physically addictive substance. The concerns about doctor shopping in normal medical practice can be expected here too, but consider this: marijuana is non physically addictive and from a medical standpoint many doctors would rather recommend a non addictive substance than one that is.

    The danger comes in regulating out of existence the availability of the medicine to the patients that need it.

  6. ThinkingClearly says:

    The problems experienced in Michigan were of over zealousness by State officials leading to a virtual nullification of the medical act that was passed. The only “mockery” that was being made was not by those in the providers area, but by State officials themselves blocking any open doors for growth and management which ending in completely ignoring the voters intent with the law.

  7. ThinkingClearly says:

    There is no possible way to rum a medical marijuana program when you think all the patients are criminals.

*
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