You’d think it was a done deal, if you were satisfied with the skewed version of the “truth” presented you by “Radical” Russ Belville’s High Times story of April 28. It sounds pretty cut and dried, after all: “Washington Bans Collective Medical Marijuana Gardens,” reads the headline, and the news doesn’t get in better in the story.
But the sad fact is, High Times — once a trusted source of cannabis news — continues to busily chip away at what’s left of their credibility by allowing Belville to use the magazine’s website as a bully pulpit of repertorial ineptitude and flagrant dishonesty.
We’ll leave behind, after a moment, the palpable glee with which Belville — long a foe of the medical cannabis community in Washington state — reports the supposed “news.” But before we do, let’s just note that with it, Belville showed the same abysmal absence of class as when, a few months ago when it looked as if the Washington Legislature would take away from patients the right to grow their own medicine.
At that time, Russ, believe it or not, actually bragged in public that no matter what happened to the unfortunate patients in Washington, he in Oregon would be enjoying his 24-plant limit. (Interestingly, Belville, in his April 28 High Times piece, claims Washington’s 15-plant limit is the biggest in the country.)
While you really have to wonder about the missing empathy (hell, the humanity) of a guy who’d taunt suffering patients from just across the state line, it magnifies Belville’s offense that he was a vocal, nay abrasive, proponent of the very measure which resulted in patients’ misfortune.
Belville has been so busy producing bogus articles claiming all of his predictions of great success for I-502 were correct — and those of its detractors were wrong — that he somehow missed the fact that I-502’s brand of “legalization” just didn’t seem to leave any room for the state’s successful, 15-year-old medical marijuana law to continue.Russ infamously declared in the divisive lead-up to November 2012’s I-502 vote that he was “out of patience with patients.” “Yeah, yeah, you’re sick and disabled, sorry to hear it,” the Rectal One said. He found patients’ complaining about safe medical access being endangered by the badly written I-502 annoying, so he chose not just ignore their concerns, but to actively belittle and attack them.
Now you have the same guy who promoted legislation which would destroy Washington’s medical marijuana community crowing over the recent Washington State Court of Appeals decision in Cannabis Action Coalition v. City of Kent. The court ruled that collective medical marijuana gardens are illegal, because they can only consist of “registered” patients, and Washington state has no medicinal cannabis registry.
SB 5073, which would have explicitly legalized dispensaries and created a patient registry, was mostly vetoed by the line-item veto pen of then-Gov. Christine Gregoire, but she left in sections allowing collective gardens of up to 10 patients, cultivating up to 45 plants. This is the section under which storefront dispensaries in the state continue to operate, keeping lists of their last 10 patients, who sign in upon arrival and sign out upon departure.
Belville calls the operation of storefront dispensaries in Washington state as “clearly illegal,” which would certainly come as a surprise to the couple hundred collectives (and their attorneys) currently operating in the state, with many paying sales taxes.
The City of Kent banned collective medical marijuana gardens, despite SB 5073 allowing them, and that’s when the Cannabis Action Coalition sued, saying the city had no right to ban them. But the city’s legal team noticed that collective gardens were required to be composed of “registered patients,” according to the language of SB 5073.
“Kent, in response, contends that the plain language of [SB 5073] did not legalize collective gardens because collective gardens would only have been legalized in circumstances wherein the participating patients were duly registered, and the registry does not exist,” the Appeals Court ruled. “The trial court properly ruled that Kent is correct.”
‘Belville Has No Clue’
Belville lays the blame on the Cannabis Action Coalition for daring to sue the City of Kent for banning medical marijuana collectives. But, of course, his writing doesn’t approach anywhere near a reasonable grasp of the facts, and certainly isn’t even in the neighborhood of actual journalism, so Toke Signals decided we’d talk with some people who actually have a clue.“Perhaps if NORML and the ACLU weren’t so busy promoting I-502, they would have stood up for Kent’s patients,” activist John Worthington told Toke Signals Monday afternoon. “To chastise us for doing what the ACLU and NORML collect donations to do is low class shit.”
“Rectal Russ has no clue about what is going on here, and he is a NORML shill taking shots at people that fought for the rights of patients, while the people collecting donations ‘to protect patient rights’ just sit back and let patients fend for themselves,” Worthington said.
“Take shots at the Cannabis Action Coalition all you want, High Times,” Worthington said. “Patients know you are joined at the hip with NORML, and now they know you have hired the propaganda arm of NORML to spin the issue so people don’t place the blame where it belongs — which is with the high-powered criminal pot attorneys, pages of them, who advertise in High Times and NORML, who should have stepped up so we didn’t have to.”“These frauds should no longer be able to collect money from patients if all they are going to do is sit on their hands, and than take shots at us for doing their job,” Worthington said.
Activist Steve Sarich, leader of the Cannabis Action Coalition, concurred in his assessment of the situation, and especially of Belville’s misinformation.
“So NORML and High Times feel that providing safe access to medication for patients is nothing more than a ‘loophole’ that needs to be ‘eliminated’?” Sarich asked. “They believe that the solution is for patients to accept a patient registry and be forced to pay more than 50 percent in state excise tax on their medicine which is already exempt from taxes under state law?”
“Someone should explain how patients can be arrested and prosecuted if they don’t join a state registry, and how this can somehow be considered a ‘voluntary registry,'” Sarich said. “It sounds a lot like register or volunteer to go to jail, to me.”
‘Let Hitler Have Poland And He’ll Leave Us Alone’
“Apparently Rectal Russ is preaching the Neville Chamberlain doctrine of diplomacy, ‘Let Hitler have Poland and he’ll leave us alone’,” Sarich told Toke Signals. “Just give up your rights to medical privacy, register with the state, pay exorbitant taxes for your medication, give up growing and we won’t throw you in jail.”“The ‘just give ’em whatever they want and maybe you won’t go to jail’ strategy hasn’t worked out so well in the past, and we certainly aren’t about to try it again simply because NORML and Rectal Russ think it’s a good idea,” Sarich said.
“If we had not filed against Kent two years ago, every other city in the state would have been banning and closing down every safe access point in Washington,” Sarich said. “Instead of placing the blame for this clearly political decision by the Appellate Court on the judges who wrote the decision, Rectal Russ and the I-502 sellouts want to blame those who stood up for patients’ rights in Washington.”
“Who will they blame when we win?” Sarich asked. “I think we’re all tired of these industry greed-heads who keep rooting for the other side and who keep supporting the law enforcement lobby’s position on medical cannabis.”
Dreams of Wealth Are Suddenly Dashed“It will be amusing to watch the reactions of all these I-502 millionaire hopefuls when their dreams of wealth are suddenly dashed by the Liquor Control Board lottery results due out this Friday,” Sarich told us. “Do you think they’ll all be shutting down their ‘illegal collectives’ and continue funding Kari Boiter in her efforts to throw medical under the LCB bus?”
“It’s absolutely scandalous that the Canna Law Group would post on their blog that ‘medical marijuana activity (even patient cultivation in the home) is illegal under current state law,'” Sarich said. “Certainly Hilary Bricken and the other attorneys at Harris Moure know that this is not what the Appeals Court said.”
“This appears to be a blatant attempt to scare their clients, as well as the patient community, and literally ‘scare up’ additional legal fees,” Sarich said. “At best, this scare tactic is reprehensible and unprofessional, especially for a law firm that represents medical cannabis business interests as a specialty.”
Decision Only Affects District 1
“I’d like to point out that the District 1 Court of Appeals only affects collectives in District 1, not Districts 2 or 3,” Sarich said. “It is not the ‘law of the land’ for the entire state. That will take a Washington Supreme Court decision.”
“I’d also like to point out that, while the Court said the collectives were ‘illegal,’ there is no criminal penalty for operating a collective,” Sarich said. “No one should be cutting down their gardens at this point.”
“The Supreme Court stay is still in effect until the outcome of this case has been decided,” Sarich said. “That decision will not come for months, at the earliest.”