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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Stop Arresting Patients
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State Plans To Force Medical Marijuana Patients To Use I-502 Recreational Marijuana Stores

The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Monday proposed new rules that would effectively outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries next year and home growing by patients when recreational marijuana stores start opening as I-502, approved by voters last November, is implemented in the state.

The work group, which also included representatives of the Department of Health and the Department of Revenue, was formed after state lawmakers (and law enforcement) “raised concerns” that licensed marijuana stores wouldn’t be able to compete with medical marijuana dispensaries.

Patients are currently allowed 15 plants of any size and 24 ounces of dried marijuana under Washington’s medical marijuana law. The new rules would force patients — many of whom are quite ill and on limited incomes — to stop growing at home or in collectives, and to buy the heavily taxed marijuana which will theoretically be available in state-licensed stores next summer.

Thick Irony

“There will be a safe and consistent supply of tested, you know, labeled marijuana available for people,” claimed Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board, reports Q13 Fox News. Carpenter didn’t mention the fact that under I-502 rules, state-licensed recreational marijuana stores will not be allowed to mention the medicinal uses of cannabis at all.

“If enacted, these recommendations will help provide patients with an adequate, safe and secure source of medical marijuana,” Carpenter claimed in an ironic Monday afternoon press release.

“Among the recommendations are developing a registry for patients and their designated providers, reducing the amount of marijuana qualified patients or designated providers may possess at one time and requiring patients to receive an in-person exam by a qualified health care provider before medical marijuana can be authorized,” Carpenter said.

Safe access to medical marijuana for patients would be drastically reduced if the proposed rules are implemented. Seattle now has about 200 medical cannabis dispensaries, but has been allotted just 21 recreational marijuana stores, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.

We Were Lied To

The move is in direct contradiction of promises repeatedly made by I-502 proponents, including chief author Alison Holcomb of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, that the recreational cannabis legalization initiative would not negatively impact the patient community.

It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the intentions behind I-502 had been honestly presented, from the beginning. But it appears more and more obvious that it was a greedy, arrogant scam from the get go.

The fact that it was solemnly presented as “not affecting patients at all” is particularly galling.

“I was stupid enough to believe Holcomb and company,” medical marijuana patient Ryan Blackhawke told Toke Signals on Monday. “This is the first time I have ever been ashamed of the way I voted. We need real legalization that protects the rights of EVERYONE, not just recreational users and not just medical users.”

“I do research on every issue and candidate before I vote,” Blackhawke said. “This vote was not done in a vacuum. I feel totally betrayed. She lied her lying face off to me.”

Former I-502 Supporter Ryan Blackhawke: "Quote" [Facebook]
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Former I-502 Supporter
Ryan Blackhawke:

“I feel totally betrayed”
[Facebook]

“Lies, lies, lies,” commented Tacoma activist Doc O’Zee. “Then, tagged as an ‘unregulated bunch of fakers’ by those who lied. A whole helluva bunch of us read and duly noted every last bit of fine print — only to be thoroughly shat upon by those working on that fabled legal ounce while slinging some of the most absurd accusations known to man. Because they ‘knew’ we were lying, so they attacked instead of replying to concerns.”

“Some of us took a lot of flak for not supporting it, but then again there are/were some of us who could see what nonsense that measure actually brought to our table,” Port Orchard activist Renae Ely told Toke Signals.

“We used to pay $180 for permission to grow,” said Seattle activist Jared Allaway, referring to the cost of a medical marijuana authorization. “Now we pay $1,000,” he said. “Nice progress.” (Commercial grow licenses will cost $1,000 under I-502; no home growing is allowed.)

You Must Buy Your Medical Marijuana At A Store Where They Are Forbidden To Mention Medical Marijuana

Washington collective operators can only look wistfully over at Colorado, where the first tier of recreational marijuana stores will, by statute, all be owned by existing dispensary operators.

Contrast that to Washington, where recreational marijuana stores will be forbidden to even mention the fact that cannabis has medicinal uses.

Yeah, this is where they plan to send seriously ill patients, many of them brand new to the world of medical cannabis, to get their medicine — to a place where the employees know nothing about medical marijuana, and even if they did, they are forbidden to talk about it. (What about new patients who need guidance to find the proper strains?)

“Great idea,” guys.

It would make a lot more sense to do as Colorado and let people who know about cannabis as medicine dispense it — not amateurs.

After all, should party stores sell Vicodin? It can, after all, be used (or abused) recreationally.

Let’s make the analogy more accurate. Once these party stores start selling recreational Vicodin, then maybe we should outlaw pharmacists from dispensing it, and focus on it as a “get high and party” substance, entirely discounting its medicinal uses, and actually forbidding store employees from discussing it as medicine.

So it’s as if you can buy Vicodin at Party City, folks; not at the pharmacy anymore. And Party City can ONLY tell you about how FUN it is to take it as a party drug, but are not allowed to tell you about it’s pain-easing properties.

Careful Whom You Trust

We’ve been treated, since it became clear that the state was moving to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries due to the passage of I-502, to the spectacle of clueless, braying jackasses like Washington NORML’s Keith Henson and Rectal Russ… I mean Radical Russ Belville averring that dispensaries “were never legal to begin with,” despite the fact that both collective gardens and the exchange of cash for cannabis are both specifically allowed under Washington’s medicinal cannabis law.

Both Henson and Belville actually lifted that line straight from Alison Holcomb. She started repeating the “dispensaries were never legal” meme a few months ago, once the writing was clearly on the wall, and has flogged it ad nauseum ever since.

The unseemly spectacle of reporters like The Stranger‘s perhaps well-meaning but hapless Dominic Holden enthusiastically endorsing I-502 last fall, cluelessly repeating the lies told him by the New Approach Washington crowd, was painful enough at the time. (Dude even wrote a purple-passaged soliloquy about how he’d been waiting “all his life” for this.) It has reached the level of acute embarrassment; one can only imagine if it has truly dawned upon Dom just how painful a primrose path he laid out for patients.

The Stranger's Dominic Holden: Gee, thanks, for getting it completely wrong, Dom
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The Stranger’s
Dominic Holden:

Gee, thanks, for getting it completely wrong, Dom

Now, however, we are entering entirely new territory. Both patient home grows of up to 15 plants, AND patient possession limits of 24 ounces are specifically legal under state law.

How will Holcomb, Henson, and Belville squirm out of just admitting that the medical marijuana law is being gutted in this state? Never mind; who cares?

It comes down to Holcomb’s callow calculus of ambition, in which her rising political star eclipsed the wellbeing of thousands of seriously ill patients statewide.

Gallows Humor

It would be grimly funny that greedheads like Muraco of Seattle’s Green Buddha dispensary will soon be out of business, by their own doing. (Muraco was one of the first dispensary owners to “go over” to the I-502 side.)

But for everyone else in the medical marijuana community, of course, not so goddamn chuckle-worthy.

Washington State Takes A Black Eye

It is, of course, deeply obscene to make it nigh-impossible for seriously ill, financially poor patients to get relief from the only strains that work.

Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition: "Quote" [KOMO News]
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Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition:
“I want to know which of these elected officials promised to lock up cancer patients and multiple sclerosis patients in their last campaign”
[KOMO News]

Making the scenario even more tragic is that many of the strains which work the best for patients, including high-CBD strains that provide enormous pain and inflammation relief, but don’t get you high, will almost certainly not be available in “recreational” marijuana stores focused on the party market.

Doubly unfortunate is the fact that concentrates such as Rick Simpson Oil won’t be sold in state-licensed recreational pot stores. There are patients whose lives depend upon a steady source of RSO.

Good old “compassionate, green Washington” will be taking a huge black eye on a very public stage; with home growing and collectives taken away from patients, suddenly state officials look like a bunch of greedy, inhuman shysters.

“I want to know which of these elected officials promised to lock up cancer patients and multiple sclerosis patients in their last campaign, and promised to take away their medicine, and their right to a medical defense in court,” Steve Sarich told Toke Signals on Tuesday. “You can bet that we’ll be mentioning that when they’re up for reelection.”

“If you think these current recommendations are bad, please understand that they always leave the worst, most heinous, changes for amendments on the floor of of the House and Senate,” Sarich told us. “That way, there’s no public comment. And don’t think that anything remotely positive will end up in the bill. The ‘fix’ is in, and the Governor will sectional-veto anything that the LCB doesn’t want in the bill.”

“If they’re counting on creating a division in the community this year that they can exploit, they’re more delusional than ever in Olympia,” Sarich said.

How high a body count is the state of Washington willing to accept? How many patients will die before Washington’s “enlightened” image becomes threadbare?

Holcomb Isn’t Sorry

Alison Holcomb was unrepentant on Monday, claiming that taking away collectives and home grows from patients is actually a good thing.

“What Initiative 502 does for patients is offer them something that they haven’t had before, which is quality control over the product that is being sold to them,” Holcomb said, neglecting to mention that the ultimate in quality control is growing your own, which is being taken away. “They’re going to know who’s growing it, where it came from,” she said. (The irony here is incredibly thick and obnoxious.)

“And it will be available to them whenever they want it in a licensed store that’s legal under the law,” Holcomb said. “They won’t have to worry about crossing the threshold and getting arrested.”

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the cruel irony of Alison’s statement. “They won’t have to worry about crossing the threshold and getting arrested.” It’s not immediately obvious how Holcomb believes that reducing the patient possession limit from 24 ounces to 3 ounces means patients “won’t have to worry about crossing the threshold.”

And if patients dare to try to grow any for themselves, that “threshold” just changed from 15 plants to zero. How many seriously ill patients, who can’t afford the strains in state stores — or who are unable to get the strains and/or concentrates they need there — will be arrested for growing their own, as they’ve been allowed to do for 15 years now under RCW 69.51a, as amended by the Legislature.

Despite those hollow assurances of not harming patients, now it seems that state officials believe that the two marijuana distribution systems — recreational and medical — can’t exist side by side, especially since the I-502 stores will be heavily regulated and taxed. It comes down to a matter of competition, and state officials seem determined to remove any competition from the equation.

Eliminating the Competition

Lawmakers are concerned that the medical system — which they have already claimed is mostly fake, anyway — will be a rival that undercuts the recreational marijuana distribution system’s ability to collect those fat tax revenues that have state officials salivating.

Rep. Christopher Hurst thinks "99%" of medical marijuana patients are faking
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Rep. Christopher Hurst thinks “99%” of medical marijuana patients are faking

“What they’re doing is they’re trying to eliminate medical,” said Seattle activist Steve Sarich of the Cannabis Action Coalition. According to Sarich, greed is the reason.

“What better way to get rid of the competition; you just make them illegal again,” Sarich said. “We are not going to make 200,000 patients in the state of Washington criminals again. That is not what the voters voted for.”

One reason that state lawmakers have been so cavalier about destroying medicinal channels of access to cannabis has already become quite obvious: Many or most in the Legislature, prominently including former narcotics cop Rep. Christopher Hurst, have already decided (without any, you know, scientific studies or actual numbers to back them up) that most patients are faking it. Hurst even mentioned a figure of “nine out of 10 medical marijuana patients” being liars, a figure which he apparently pulled out of thin air.

The Liquor Control Board glommed onto marijuana to replace their lost industry; they made such a mess of dispensing alcohol, voters effectively fired them from doing so anymore. Now they’ve been put in charge of cannabis. What could go wrong?

Most of the politicians in Olympia are too ignorant on the topic to understand what’s happening; few, if any, of them understand how ridiculous this makes the state look, to be fostering recreational drug use, whilst simultaneously outlawing a voter-approved system which has worked for 15 years to provide safe access to seriously ill patients.

I can tell you that vindication is way overrated, in this instance. I’ve never been so sad to be proven right.

Comments Accepted Through November 8

The full set of draft recommendations can be found here.

The Liquor Control Board will be taking public comment on the new proposed rules for several weeks; written comments may be submitted to  through November 8. Once the rules are “finalized,” they will be given to the Legislature in January for approval.

Date                              Milestone

Oct 21
Nov 8
Dec TBD
Draft recommendations submitted for comment
Deadline for written comments
Liquor Control Board will consider adoption of recommendations
Jan 1, 2014 Deadline for the Liquor Control Board to submit recommendations to the Legislature

 

 

 

 

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