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Medical pot supporters to rally tonight at Tacoma City Council

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 19, 2010 at 11:45 am |
October 19, 2010 11:51 am

As the TNT’s Stacia Glenn reported today, medical marijuana supporters are planning to rally at tonight’s Tacoma City Council meeting, protesting the city’s recent threats to revoke eight pot dispensaries’ business licenses.

In a press release promoting tonight’s rally sent by Sensible Washington, the campaign seeking to legalize pot through a state ballot initiative, campaign chair and noted medical marijuana attorney Douglas Hiatt is quoted:

The City of Tacoma is clearly misinterpreting state law on medical marijuana. The City’s reading of the law is inconsistent with what Washington voters approved in 1998. It’s also inconsistent with how the same law is read by King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

But is Hiatt’s claim that the city is “clearly misinterpreting state law” correct? You be the judge:

Here’s the operative section of the city’s cease and desist letter, sent to each medical pot dispensary in Tacoma:

The business activity of dispensing medical marijuana to more than one person is illegal in the State of
Washington, per RCW 69. 51A. 010 1 “Designated Provider” (d) Is the designated provider to only one
patient at anyone time (emphasis added). Possessing, delivering, or using marijuana is illegal in this
state per RCW 69.50.401,69.50.4014. A copy ofRCW 69.51A “Medical Marijuana” is attached.

And here’s a primer that explains the practical effects of the state’s medical marijuana law, as passed by voters in 1998, including the operative section cited in the city’s letter:

Who qualifies as a “primary caregiver”?

The Medical Marijuana Act was designed to protect patients from prosecution for medical use of marijuana. However, the new law recognizes that some patients may be in such ill health that a family member or close friend may need to obtain and possess marijuana for that patient. Or a patient may live with someone who could be subject to criminal or civil charges for the patient’s marijuana kept on the same property. In this spirit, so-called “primary caregivers” to medical marijuana are also exempted from marijuana charges.

The Act defines a primary caregiver as someone who is responsible for the housing, health, or care of the patient. This person must be so designated in writing by the patient. The fact that a caregiver must be responsible for the health, housing or care of the patient could narrow the definition of “primary caregiver” considerably. Family members, very close friends and roommates of patients will fit this definition most readily.

In short, give careful thought to designating a caregiver or in considering yourself to fit under the new law┬╣s definition. A judge may have to decide each case on its merits.

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