In Seattle, a city known for lush greenery in a large urban landscape, the Department of Neighborhoods and the not-for-profit P-Patch Trust manage large community gardens where neighbors dig in with their friends to grow fresh produce in 70 different neighborhoods. Grateful growers in The Emerald City return the favor by donating more than 7 tons of produce to community food banks serving thousands of homeless and needy residents every year.
What a perfect world it would be if terminally ill people could simply ask mother nature to bestow her favor upon them in the bold sunlight of a more humane era! Unfortunately, medical marijuana growers cannot take part in that wonderful community garden program. The prohibition of marijuana under US federal law continues to restrict the rights of medical marijuana users and creates a black market environment that demands outrageous prices for poor-quality cannabis. In Washington, where the federal government seizes over 10,000 pounds of pot per year, pot plants growing freely in the great outdoors are doomed to eradication long before the medicinal flowers are ready for harvest.
Along with federal prohibition, WA State law specifically prohibits public display of marijuana. While a few lucky folks might have a hidden corner of a high-fenced yard completely secure and private, most marijuana patients will likely never know that luxury. Medical marijuana gardens are secret gardens hidden away in basements and small rooms with locked doors and covered windows. Some patients know all too well that the lifesaving medicine can be a very dangerous possession coveted by robbers who have no mercy for defenseless prey.
Medical marijuana is legal under WA law, but remains very difficult to obtain for most patients. The sheer cost of maintaining an indoor garden with high-voltage lighting and industrial venting is a complex technical and financial investment that few sick people can afford. Some patients join cooperatives, or dispensaries, where medical users purchase marijuana in bulk from growers. Without a doubt, the medical marijuana shops that operate in WA are far more benign than the billion-dollar industry including hundreds of for-profit marijuana dispensaries operating in California. But in WA state, medical marijuana cooperatives are not legal. Cannabis dispensaries are merely tolerated by busy police officers in Seattle and a few other towns, but many areas have banned dispensaries altogether.
Patients who use medical cannabis on a daily basis need a stable supply of natural healing cannabinoids, which cannot be obtained from other common sources. Commercial cultivation techniques often include harmful pesticides and inorganic fertilizers that can cause serious health risks with repeated exposure. Even if medical-grade cannabis were available ?on the street? most sick people simply could not afford the outrageous price of illegal pot.
Buying and selling marijuana is illegal. However, if Mary has a medical authorization, and Jane also has the legal right to possess marijuana, the law says Mary, Jane and a few of their seriously ill friends, up to 10 in total, may share resources and cultivate their medicine together. WA state law now has a provision P-Patch-type gardens of up to 45 plants, where sick people may grow affordable, high-quality cannabis, free from black market and legal hazards, under WA state law, RCW: 69.51A.
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