October 9th, 2009-- Thanks to the efforts of ACLU Attorney Alison Holcomb, ranking members of the Office of the King County Prosecutor along with a Narcotics Division Captain and other officers from Seattle Police Department and the East Side Task Force, sat down with Green Cross Founder Joanna McKee, Green Buddha Director Muraco Kyashna-tocha, and Lifevine Director Martin Martinez to discuss the development of general guidelines for collective cultivation of medical marijuana in The Emerald City.
During this landmark meeting, Seattle Police introduced two documents that outline current policy governing medical marijuana gardens operated by patients and designated providers. Both documents rely on the WA Department of Health determination of the 60 Day Supply – 15 marijuana plants of any size and up to 24 ounces of dried medical marijuana per patient.
The DOH limits are defined under law as "presumptive" limits that may be overturned by patients who prove they need a greater amount, yet the Seattle Police Department considers those figures to be binding and enforceable as if they were strict limitations. Sadly, this current Seattle Police policy directs officers to seize and destroy any number above 15 live plants, the presumptive amount defined by WA Department of Health guidelines.
Martin Martinez noted that the current SPD policy limits possession to "15 plants"(period), whereas the written policy should be revised to define the limit as "15 plants per patient".
The entire purpose of these meetings has been to initiate a change in current law enforcement policy to include collective cultivation, the common practice of combining resources among patients for uniform access and affordability of medical grade cannabis. Martin pointed out that if he and Joanna were to grow marijuana together, they would be allowed 30 plants under DOH guidelines, and if Muraco were to join in that medical garden, the three patients would be allowed 45 plants collectively. Martinez suggested that the 15-plant limit must be applied per patient, not per location.
At that point, representatives of SPD and the King County Prosecutor's office nominally agreed that when they discover a marijuana garden involving more than one patient, they shall revise their limitation to reflect that number of valid patients. Those officers verbally pledged that they would consider the total number of marijuana patients involved with a garden before yanking all but 15 plants. However, as noted by Martinez, that verbalized policy is not reflected in current documents, therefore, an officer in the field may have no guidance in that regard.
IN CONCLUSION, ALTHOUGH THE SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS VERBALLY AGREED TO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF PATIENTS WHO GROW MARIJUANA COLLECTIVELY, THERE IS NO GUARENTEE THAT POLICE OFFICERS IN THE FIELD WILL EVEN BE AWARE OF THAT VERBALIZED POLICY.
Marijuana patients and providers in King County who grow their medicine in collective garden sites, should be advised that while the Prosecutor has adopted a policy of not prosecuting such individuals, he will review these situations on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the King County law enforcement agencies have yet to adopt any formal policies regarding collective gardens, so the officer in the field has no official guidance other than the current SPD policies that only address individual patient gardens.
Further developments of this crucial dialogue will be published as they transpire.