Washington Appeals Court Clarifies State’s Medical Marijuana Law, Upholds Conviction
The Washington state Court of Appeals in Spokane on Tuesday upheld a man's marijuana possession conviction in its first interpretation of the state's medical marijuana law, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. The appeals court rejected on two counts the appeal of Arthur Shepherd, who pled guilty to marijuana possession in March 2000 but appealed on the grounds that Washington's medical marijuana law should have "protected him from prosecution" because the marijuana he was growing was for a friend, John Wilson, who has a "debilitating spine condition." The law, which passed in 1998, made it legal for doctors to "recommend" marijuana to patients with AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other conditions causing "intractable pain" and for citizens to possess marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. However, Shepherd lost the appeal for "failing to follow [the law] precisely," the Post-Intelligencer reports. The law requires that the recommending doctor indicate that marijuana "would likely" help the patient, whereas Wilson's doctor indicated only that it might help him. In addition, because no specific amount of marijuana was recommended to Wilson, Shepherd, who was growing 15 marijuana plants, could not prove that the amount he possessed was only a 60-day supply, the lawful limit. The appeals court also suggested that doctors' recommendations for medical marijuana include the specific amount of marijuana recommended. State law enforcement officials "welcomed" the suggestion. "If it's a medical issue, then the medical community needs to tell us what the [legal] amount is," Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said. Selling or purchasing marijuana in Washington is still illegal under all circumstances (Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.