MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Patients Protected from WA Police
While Washington state law allows for the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, federal law still states that possessing marijuana is a crime -- a conflict that has Seattle police confused, reports the Seattle Times. But U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer, Washington's top federal prosecutor, attempted to clarify the issue by writing a letter in August to Seattle police vice and narcotics Cmdr. Tom Grabicki. The letter is just now "circulating beyond police circles." Pflaumer wrote that she sympathized with the "uncomfortable position" in which this "complex and contradictory area of drug enforcement" had placed the police. But she made it clear that her office was not interested in receiving any medical marijuana cases from the Seattle police department involving patients with "60-day supply or less" of marijuana. Moreover, Pflaumer acknowledged that established policies prohibit her office from prosecuting "qualified medical marijuana patients" under federal law. "Given our limited funding and overwhelming responsibilities to enforce ... federal offenses, we simply cannot afford to devote prosecutive resources to cases of this magnitude," she wrote. But Seattle police department legal advisor Leo Poort noted the letter doesn't change much for the department; he said, "No matter what the policy is, I can't change the fact that [possession of marijuana is] in violation of federal law." Medical marijuana advocates have praised the letter; Dr. Frances Podrebarac, a Seattle medical marijuana patient, said he thought the letter says "that the Seattle police have been told that they can in good faith leave patients alone ... [and] that the federal government is not interested in the police department arresting patients." Since late summer, police, the ACLU and others have tried to establish guidelines to assist police in determining who constitutes a qualified marijuana patient. An major obstacle to the guidelines, however, is the definition of what a "60-day supply" of marijuana for one patient is. Poort noted that without guidelines, the police must rely "on [their] own experience and knowledge" when deciding what is a reasonable supply of marijuana. Podrebarac, supporting the adoption of guidelines for patients, noted that without some medical marijuana rules, patient "live in fear of being busted." He added, "Everyone seems to say they're not interested in putting patients in jail, but we're a year out (from passing the state law) and patients still don't have any rules" (Ostrom, 12/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.