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Medical Marijuana: Washington State Judge Plays Doctor, Convicts Authorized Patient of Cultivating His Own Medicine

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #553)

A Washington state man with a doctor's authorization to use medical marijuana was convicted of cultivation last Friday after a state judge ruled that his use of the herb to treat chronic lower back pain did not meet the conditions of the state's medical marijuana law. Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie ruled that Robert Dalton's marijuana use did not qualify because he failed to show his pain was "unrelieved by standard medical treatments and medications," such as opiate-based painkillers.

medical marijuana demonstration, DC
Dalton was arrested in August 2007 after detectives with the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team raided his property and found 88 plants growing. Police claimed the plants were more than the 60-day supply allowed by law. But that claim was problematic, since the state Health Department has not defined what constitutes a 60-day supply.

Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Coreen Schnepf argued during the trial that Dalton was receiving relief from opiate pain medications and that he needed to have pain that was not relieved by other medications in order to use medical marijuana. It is not known where Schnepf obtained her medical degree.

Defense attorney Douglass Hiatt argued that opiates sickened Dalton and did not relieve his pain, but Judge Laurie sided with prosecutors, effectively overruling the recommendation of the physician who okayed Dalton's medical marijuana use.

An angry Hiatt said the judge had no business second-guessing the doctor's recommendation. "If Judge Laurie wants to be a doctor, she should go to medical school," Hiatt told the Kitsap Sun. "No patient in this state is safe if she's right."

With the conviction, Dalton's medical marijuana card has been revoked and he now faces up to six months in jail for the felony conviction. His attorneys will ask for the sentence to be suspended pending appeals.

Dalton told the Sun after the verdict that he did not want to use opiates for pain relief because they are addictive. "I don't want to be a drug addict," he said. "That's why I chose medical marijuana." [Ed: It should be noted that opiate use for pain management does not constitute addiction, and opiophobia is itself another evil of the drug war just as is medical marijuana prohibition. For some patients marijuana is a better medicine, for others opioids are better.]

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

i've been attending meetings about medical marijuana in RI and i've come across this opiophobia several times. people bashing opiates like they are some kind of devil. they been brainwashed by all the media against oxycontin.

They think they have to bash opiates for some reason, in order to justify their medical marijuana.

drugs are not inherently bad but usage trends for individuals may be harmful in some cases but people make sweeping statements about the devil being in opium. nonsense......

Fri, 09/26/2008 - 11:16am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

those of us who have HEP-C and chronic pain,can`t risk the damage chemical pain relievers cause. Medical Marijuana treats pain without liver damaging and possibly fatal side affects. Mjon.

Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:26pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I deleted a reply that was made to this comment, because of nasty swear words used by that commenter to attack the person who posted the preceding comment.

The replying commenter, who was anonymous, was angry because, as he claimed, medical marijuana users don't have opiophobia and don't bash opiate use. He or she then proceeded to characterize opiate medical users as addicted -- in other words, to bash opiate use. Bashing of opiate use does happen a lot -- I don't think it's most medical marijuana users by any means, but it does happen a lot. So the anonymous commenter was factually mistaken, in addition to his or her lack of self-awareness. We are support medical marijuana, as well as full legalization of marijuana, but we urge against "marijuana elitism" -- the fact that marijuana is safer than other drugs doesn't mean that those drugs aren't helpful or even crucial for others in some cases.

But the reason for the deletion of the comment was the attacking swear words.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Mon, 11/16/2009 - 8:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Opiates are a medical miracle, when you consider how well they work for surgery, post-surgery, and other severe, acute pain.

Most patients prescribed opiates for legitimate medical reasons do not become addicted. However, patients who use opiates for long periods of time do develop tolerance, and they often have to continue to increase dosage in order to get the same relief. And some patients do indeed develop significant dependence to opiates (but most of the abusers of drugs like oxycontin ARE NOT patients, though the addicts make it very difficult for the people with real pain to receive opiates, because of a few sad, dependent apples).

Cannabis can help to reduce the amount of opiates a patients needs, as the two substances act together in an synergistic fashion, allowing smaller doses of opiates to remain effective for longer periods of time. Replacing opiates with cannabis, if possible, makes a lot of sense, as cannabis is significantly less addictive and less toxic than all the drugs in the opiate family.

Given cannabis is significantly less lethal than all opiates, it is unconscionable that Judges like this ignoramus punish people for following their doctors' recommendation and for using a substance, cannabis, that is enormously safer than ALL opiates and MOST other medication.

I wonder if this Judge has ever read ANYTHING about cannabis as medicine. How can she trample state law and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and get away with this? There's a lot of people out there, like this scary Judge, who know absolutely nothing about medical cannabis, and continue to punish people for following their doctor-recommended cannabis.

Of course this Judge needs to be a doctor, in order to make medical conclusions about what medicines should be recommended by a REAL doctor. Hopefully, this decision can be appealed; and hopefully, this Judge gets in trouble for deliberately undermining her state law and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Screw opioids! Been there done that. Should of never went off my herb and to the pain clinic. They killed me. I shouldn't even be here today because of those crap drugs that detroy your life. I got another chance by the grace of God. I quit that crap and went back to my herb and my health has improved so much and my pain is more under control then it ever was as a mindless zombie.

Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:17pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

While it is absolutely true that not all perscription drugs are negative or can cause a dependency, opiophobia has some ligitimate underpinnings in the fear. While not all OTC or perscription drugs are habit or dependency forming a large percentage of these drugs can have incredible side effects that in some instances can be much worse than whatever the issue it is that the drug is attemtping to cure or allieviate.

Opiophobia is not completely about the potential of becoming addicted. Its also about the detrimental side effects that can come with these drugs....kidney failure, new symptons caused by the drugs, a complete change in function while taking the drugs and so forth. I cant even begin to list all teh side effects that so many drugs, not just opiates, have on the human body.

Now, in this particular case the judge has basically said that you MUST use OTC or perscription drugs before you are allowed to use marijuana for medical needs and prove that conventional drugs are inneffective before moving to Marijuana. In a nut shell taking a patients right to be in controll of thier own health away and putting it squarely in the hands of a JUDICIAL system declaring that a person does not have the right to self determine thier treatment or wiegh thier own risk vs. reward on the treatment that they choose. If an opiate has negative side effects, or side effects that you don't as an individual like or are willing to accept, this court has ruled "too bad, you have to go through all of that and PROVE it doesn't work before we will honor your doctors perscription".

Opiophobia does exist, it is legitimate for a variety of reasons and the court has no right to determine what risks you choose to take or not take from a legal standpoint. Maybe opiates are what this judge believes in, but with no medical knowledge to stand upon, only legal standpoints, the courts have no right to determine that a person should be forced to use something they don't want to before they are allowed to use something that they choose to and works FOR THEM>


Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:22pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Much saddened by this court case. Here we have all the elements for a "legal justification by medical necessity defense" in a state with medical MJ laws in place. But the judge clearly has her bias and 'bit the bait' which the prosecutor offered as a justification to convict this patient. Clearly prejudicial, reactionary, and illogical.

I am a pain-patient and use both Darvaset ( an opiate ) and medical cannabis, as well as supplementing them both with over-the-counter Advil. All 3 work in conjunction, synergistically, and make life tolerable. Wouldn't know what I'd do without any of the three.

Doctors and researchers are being pressured NOT to advocate lab studies and more research. The government and the present administration are dead-set against it.

I think the above posted paragraph from "Scary Judges" needs re-stating:

"Cannabis can help to reduce the amount of opiates a patients needs, as the two substances act together in an synergistic fashion, allowing smaller doses of opiates to remain effective for longer periods of time. Replacing opiates with cannabis, if possible, makes a lot of sense, as cannabis is significantly less addictive and less toxic than all the drugs in the opiate family."

I have found that MJ helps so much, that you can use less darvaset and advil. No wonder the lobbyists pressure the lawmakers to keep it illegal.....we'd end up buying less medicines!!!

Let's stop convicting patients for using medicine.

Fri, 09/26/2008 - 4:25pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

FDA-approved medications kill tens of thousands of patients EACH YEAR, not each day.

But we're still waiting for the first cannabis-induced death in thousands of years. So maybe some of the doctors dragging behind in the Science Department can explain to me how a virtually non-toxic substance that has never killed in thousands of years is more dangerous than addictive medicines that kill thousands each year...

End the Insanity.

Sat, 09/27/2008 - 9:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It appears this article and discussion has been blanked out of Google News and most of the regular Google.

When I tried to select this article from the first page of Google News, I got taken to a blank/default page.

Did Drug War Chronicle get pressure to remove this, or is it just a technical glitch?

This type of "judicial treason" from ill-informed and misguided "authorities" needs to be shared with the rest of the world. If Judges are now allowed to decide our medical care, can doctors now officially act as Judges?

Please put the article back up, if you can. tx

Sun, 09/28/2008 - 10:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The 2nd beast with 2 horns that came out of the sea(first was roman empire) with many tounges (languages) and settled in a unpopulated area that people blindly follow is the US government. I am NO BIBLE banger but the US government is the BEAST people blindly follow. One horn is government other is false religion.


Mon, 09/29/2008 - 5:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been disabled and living in Washington State almost all my life. The disabled part has only been for the last 6 years. I've been changed from one medication to the next until i feel that I'm the one they are testing them on! It is not only the pure pain relief that medical marijuana gives the patient!
That is only one part of the many benifits to using this natural herb as a medication:
1) Relief from some pressure and pain.
2) Relief from the pure boredom of being at home stuck most of the time.
3) Relief from the stomach troubles that the medications they put you on give you!
4) An ability to eat something when your medicatioins take away 100 percent of the desire to feed yourself!
5) The lies about the affects of this plant on the human body and mind are worse than any of the facts!
6) When compared to most of the items used for recreation like ciggarettes and alcohol there is no comparing the death totals! Marijuana does not kill you!

These are only a few of the points that can be made, the list almost never ends! If historicaly the US had Presidents that grew this and used it as well as it never being the driving force behind anything more than trying to get it to the people that want it. There shouold be reclasification of this item to place it in the natural herb order not schedule 1 narcotics likle meth, and other terrible drugs. Alcohol causes more driving related accidents than anything yet in the state of Washington the US Gov gets their chunk of the money from it's sales! All state owned legal!
As for being a gateway drug? Who came up with this study? If you have a mind that wants to understand things first hand and have an adveturous streal in you there is a strong chance you'll be trying more than marijuana! Marijuana is very seldom the first thing tried and for sure not that last tried in most cases by those that seek to change the way they see the world around them!

In closing the benefits outway the downside to the point that any state that adopts a legal stand on marijuana would be a rich state in no time with lower crime and more stable communnities! Also this product can be sold in the form of a ciggarette like item in packs of 10-20 or in other quantaties with a portion of the sales going to help schools, build roads, help out the nations debt! This is a this that will come to pass, are we ready for that change? I think it can be done if done right!

Tired of living with this argument!

Sat, 02/07/2009 - 10:11am Permalink

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