I saw a very energized Washington medical marijuana community last night. By the hundreds they came, from all over the state, some driving more than three hours to be there. From the coast, from the mountains, from the fields of Eastern Washington and the urban canyons of Seattle came the patients to speak their truths, many of them on crutches or in wheelchairs.
Why was all this necessary? Because the Washington State Liquor Control Board, put in charge of recreational marijuana by I-502, has now been given control of medical marijuana, as well, by the Legislature.
The WSLCB recommends that medical marijuana patients no longer be allowed to grow marijuana at home, that all collective gardens be shut down, and that patients register with the state (unlike patients who use any other medicine). The board also recommends deep-sixing the petition process that adds new conditions to the list of illnesses legally treatable by medical marijuana and reducing the amount of marijuana patients can legally possess by 88 percent (from 24 ounces to 3).
Sometimes, it seems as if “public feedback” meetings of government officials and bureaucrats are completely obligatory, and they’d really be just fine with nobody showing up. When it comes to taking feedback on the horrible medical marijuana recommendations recently released by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), that may be why there was only one public feedback meeting, for the entire state.
That meeting was held Wednesday night, November 13, in Lacey, Washington, in a room designed to hold 450 people. At least 600 patients showed up. None of the numerous patients who spoke, supported the WSLCB’s recommendations (surprise, surprise, one “drug rehab counselor” did).
Judging by the demeanor of the government officials present, they’d rather have been almost anywhere else that night. Considering their recommendations, I don’t blame them.In a raucous meeting filled with emotional patient testimonies to the medical efficacy of cannabis, and the insanity of eliminating the ability of patients to legally grow their own, one thing became very clear: The Liquor Control Board may have slated us for destruction, as a community, but we will not go quietly.
Think about it, for a moment. When a group of probably five or six policy wonks hammered out these recommendations in a brainstorming session, not one patient was included. Not one recommending physician who authorizes patients for cannabis was included or consulted, either.
Is it any surprise that the recommendations they came up with have very little to do with the day-to-day realities faced by seriously ill medical marijuana patients?
In any event, the members of the WSLCB who were present for the meeting, along with one each from the state Department of Health and Department of Revenue, can no longer claim ignorance when it comes to the devastating impact of their recommendations, because they got an ear full about it Wednesday night.
Chief among the problems patients found with the recommendations was the proposal to stop patients from growing their own cannabis, which they’ve been allowed to do for 15 years now, since Washington voters approved RCW 69.51a back in 1998.
Patient after patient, many facing end-stage chronic diseases and limited incomes, told the Board that without the ability to grow at home, they just couldn’t afford the volume of medicine needed.
So many patients signed up to speak during the three-hour meeting, the Board ended up selecting names at random from the sign-up sheet. I was lucky enough to be one of the patients called to the front.
I made the best of my allotted two minutes, letting the Board and the DOH official present, in no uncertain terms, that it is NOT OK to remove patient growing rights, and it is NOT OK to impugn the honesty of chronic pain patients by casting them as fakers who just want to get high.
Were the board members listening? Will it make any difference in the final version of their recommendations which they’ll give to the Legislature, to act upon in the 2014 session?
That remains to be seen. But what can no longer be questioned, after Wednesday night’s meeting, is that Washington’s medical marijuana community is united in its strong opposition to these recommendations, and this fight will not be over until the right of patients to be self-sufficient with their medical cannabis — through either home growing or collective gardens — is no longer threatened.