Commentary: Medical marijuana and loopholes

It’s 2010, so it must be the Legislature’s fault.

It’s natural, then, to conclude that this week’s little dustup over how people get their medical marijuana must have been caused by “Olympia.”

Emiel Kandi, a former mini-casino owner who now runs a marijuana dispensary in Tacoma, told The Seattle Times, “The Legislature wrote a bad law. I’m a creative guy, and I drove a truck through it. But I haven’t broken the law.”

Whether pot dispensaries break the law or not is subject to interpretation. That’s what led to the confrontation between Tacoma and eight entities last week.

But what isn’t open to interpretation is who wrote the law. It wasn’t the Legislature but the supporters of medical marijuana who wrote 1998’s Initiative 692.

That measure did not legalize medical marijuana. Instead, it created an affirmative defense against possession and use charges. That is, show your permission slip and you are either not charged or not found guilty.

Yet even the most creative reading of the initiative cannot reveal anything that legalizes dispensaries. In fact, initiative drafters intentionally avoided references to how patients might get marijuana other than to say they could produce it themselves. That was done to head off federal pre-emption of the initiative, since the feds continue to say that medical marijuana laws are not allowed.

The loophole Kandi refers to is a section meant to help patients who are so sick or disabled that they can’t procure their own cannabis. In that case, they can designate a “primary caregiver” who can act on their behalf.

To read the complete column, visit www.thenewstribune.com.