More MS news articles for Aug 2001

Washington marijuana co-op shuts down under police threat

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

A group that supplies marijuana to people with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other ailments has suspended operations in a dispute over a provision of Washington state's medical marijuana law.

JoAnna McKee, co-founder of Green Cross Patient Co-operative, said Tuesday that Capt. Jim Pryor, commander of the police narcotics division, wrote that Green Cross would have to "cease and desist" its current means of delivering pot.

"We got the letter late Friday, and we didn't open our doors on Monday," McKee said.

The group has halted deliveries to about 20 doctor-approved patients a day, four days a week, while Green Cross lawyers discuss the issue with police and prosecutors, she said. All told the co-op has about 1,500 patients.

Medical uses of marijuana include the relieving of pressure on the eyeball for people with glaucoma and enhancing appetite and relieving nausea for people undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

Prior's letter says state law requires that a person delivering marijuana for medical use "be the primary caregiver to only one patient at any one time," which police and prosecutors take to mean that each patient may have only one caregiver and each caregiver only one patient.

McKee counters that she has acted within the law by dealing with each patient individually, one at a time.

Police Sgt. John Hayes said the letter resulted from recent citizen complaints and a Supreme Court ruling that could cast doubt on the legality of medical marijuana use.

The high court ruled in May that marijuana grown and sold for medical purposes is not protected from prosecution under federal laws but did not overturn any state medical marijuana law.

Washington is one of nine states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since the measure, Initiative 692, took effect in December 1998, no county prosecutor in the state has filed charges over medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana laws are in effect in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington. Nevada's law takes effect Oct. 1.