Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: medical marijuana

Jan.
21st

Draw the line between legal pot and bogus medicine

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.
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Dec.
1st

Pot versus medicinal cannabinoids: A big difference

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

If only the question of “medical marijuana” were as simple as Gov. Chris Gregoire makes it sound.

She and Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island petitioned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday to knock marijuana down from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug. Her press release said the move “will allow its use for treatment – prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists.”

Not quite. Before drugs can be legally prescribed, they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which must first determine that they are both effective and safe. Moving marijuana to Schedule 2 would make research easier, but it won’t put the plant into pharmacies without the FDA’s approval.
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Nov.
17th

Well-aimed pot raids hit traffickers, not the sick

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Two numbers get to the heart of this week’s federal-local raids on Puget Sound marijuana merchants:

Pot operations reportedly busted, 19 – out of well over 100 “medical marijuana” outlets known to be operating in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

Patients arrested, 0.

After the coordinated regional raids, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan repeated what the Obama administration has been saying all along: The Justice Department doesn’t have the least interest in prosecuting genuinely sick people whose doctors have recommended the use of marijuana. Just the criminals.

Big-time profiteers typically claim they’re in the trade for the sake – cue the violins – of dying cancer victims and pain-racked patients.

But as Durkan said, “State laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment.”

Some dispensary owners may not be in it for the money, but a whole lot are. Some of their customers are bona fide patients, but a whole lot are recreational users. The problem is, you can’t tell the difference. The industry is so rife with bogus “green cards” and traffickers posing as humanitarians that it all looks like a grand charade.
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Oct.
13th

Tacoma’s Initiative 1: An invitation to endorse pot

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Is Tacoma – a city with more cannabis dispensaries than pharmacies – really out to jail seriously ill patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana use?

That’s the contention of the people behind Initiative 1, a measure that would order the city’s police to make marijuana offenses their “lowest enforcement priority.” Their chief argument is that people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS stand to be prosecuted and see their homes confiscated – although not even the hard-nosed U.S. Justice Department has shown the least interest in doing so.

The overwrought claims about the sick being persecuted point to the difficulty of identifying a practical – as opposed to a political – purpose for this initiative. If the city or county ever prosecuted a dying cancer patient or wasting AIDS patient for using medical marijuana, it would be – and should be – a scandal.

In reality, the police don’t waste much time pursuing adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. A minor marijuana charge is commonly a byproduct of a serious bust – as when a crack dealer gets caught with some weed in his pocket.

As far as we can tell, Initiative 1 would pretty much tell the police to do what they’re already doing.
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Oct.
5th

Easy green cards have discredited medical pot

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.
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Aug.
27th

It’s a little late to plead ignorance about pot shops

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Looks like another round of dithering from the Tacoma City Council on medical marijuana.

At the council’s behest, Mayor Marilyn Strickland is assembling a “task force” of citizens tasked with helping council members shirk accountability for letting a commercial marijuana industry fester illegally in the city.

The group is supposed to advise the council on whether it should tolerate marijuana stores, also known as dispensaries. It’s hard to see this as anything but an attempt to outsource the question to people who bear no public accountability for it.

The issue came before the council last year and has been hotly debated ever since; any council member who actually needed more facts on the matter at this point would do well to confess a case of terminal obtuseness and resign.

The council has had time to study the issue ad nauseum. It knows that every competent legal authority, from the city attorney on up to the county prosecutor and the state attorney general, says that the sale of marijuana is illegal under state law, including the initiative that legalized medical marijuana in 1998.

The law does allow collective gardens of no more than 45 plants shared by a maximum of 10 patients, who can hire a skilled marijuana gardener (no shortage of those) on a strictly nonprofit basis.

The Seattle City Council has decided to pretend that this explicit restriction somehow allows dispensaries to sell pot to unlimited numbers of customers.

For the Tacoma City Council, the question is whether to mimic Seattle’s toleration policy or actually honor the law. It ought to close Tacoma’s roughly 50 marijuana stores – which for some strange reason far outnumber the city’s pharmacies – and stick to genuine collective gardens.
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July
23rd

Tacoma council must reject pot-sellers’ latest sham

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

On Monday, Tacoma officials begin what may turn into a new round of dithering over whether illegal “medical marijuana” shops are illegal.

The question: Will the City Council respect a ban that is clearer now than it’s ever been, or will it follow the lead of the Emerald City and adopt a tolerance policy that begs for a crackdown from the U.S. Justice Department?

Contrary to the unending claims of marijuana dispensary owners, all sales of the drug for medical purposes are illegal in Washington under state and federal law. No exceptions.

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May
19th

Those illegally posted medical pot signs have an enemy in high places

And yes, pun intended.

Your eyes weren’t deceiving you, Federal Wayans. (Is there some other way they refer to themselves?)

That guy you spotted out in the wee hours the other night, picking up illegal “get your medical marijuana card” signs, was none other than your mayor, Skip Priest.

Priest called today to thank us for our editorials on the medical marijuana dispensary legislation. He’s fed up with the illegal signs being posted in rights-of-way advertising a toll-free number to call to find out how to get an authorization to buy medical marijuana. He got so worked up about them

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