Local medical marijuana activist/attorney Douglas Hiatt is at it again, this time with a suit filed on behalf of a doctor and a patient seeking an injunction to stop the July 1 implementation of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052). Eric Mevis, a 43-year-old patient suffering from a rare neurodegenerative disorder, and Dr. Gregory Carter, a Spokane-area physician who works with medical cannabis patients, claim that the implementation of SB 5052—which will eliminate the medical marijuana market by combining it with the recreational one—will cause serious and immediate harm to medical marijuana patients, as well as the doctors who issue them authorizations.
The suit seeks to invalidate the state statute on pot by arguing that pot is federally illegal and that federal law preempts state law. (Such lawsuits are typically unsuccessful.) In this case, the suit centers on the state’s controversial authorization form, which it argues violates doctor-patient confidentiality and forces the patient to implicate himself in a federal crime. The form requires doctors to disclose the patient’s medical condition, while the patient is required to reveal the information to a recreational cannabis store worker. (Recreational stores are not authorized by the federal government to dispense of schedule 1 drugs, the suit notes.)
“Due to fear caused by these new requirements,” the suit reads, “Dr. Carter felt compelled and coerced into censoring his conversations with patients, curtailing severely the information he felt able to provide to patients regarding the risks and benefits of medical marijuana. Dr. Carter has reviewed the mandatory marijuana authorization form and believes that he will violate federal law if he is forced to use the form. He has since told his patients that he could no longer write authorizations for medical marijuana and this is due entirely to the changes made by SB 5052.”
Kristi Weeks, policy counsel for the Washington Department of Health (DOH), has previously assured me that the state’s physician review board, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC), is on board with the form, and that doctors have no cause to worry about their licenses being revoked.
However, Nicole Li, a local attorney who practices medical licensing law, says doctors do have cause to worry about their practice under the new system. While the medical marijuana authorization form that the state is requiring may be okay with MQAC, Li says that doesn’t excuse doctors from their legal obligation to warn patients about potential privacy breaches.
“This is putting providers at risk,” she said. “Is MQAC really just going to decline to prosecute providers when they use this form? They can’t give someone blanket protection. The legislature has charged them with upholding the licensure standards, so they can’t ever say, ‘Well, in this case it’s okay to break patient privacy.’” Li is currently developing a protective waiver for doctors who choose to use the form. However, many simply aren’t, she says.
“I tell all my clients, ‘Don’t authorize. If you’re authorizing, you’re putting yourself at risk,’” she said. “The only people authorizing still are naturopaths, bless their hearts, they just have no frickin’ clue.”
(The authorization form states: “An authorization for the medical use of marijuana does not provide protection from arrest unless the patient and designated provider, if any, are entered into the medical marijuana authorization database and hold a recognition card.”)
Asked for comment on the suit’s allegations, Weeks offered only this: “Anyone can file a lawsuit. We continue to implement SB 5052 and HB 2136 as directed by the legislature.”
Stay tuned, July is sure to be an interesting month for medical marijuana.
Ohio Legalizes Medical Marijuana
Last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, making his state the 25th to do so. While this is historic, it is also largely symbolic: The actual system to deliver cannabis medicine to patients won’t be set up for two years after the bill takes effect, reports The Cannabist.
Also, the law is, like Louisiana’s, a relatively tepid one. It only allows for vaporizing cannabis products, doesn’t allow any form of smokable flower, doesn’t allow patients to grow their own, and allows employers to continue enforcing drug-free workplace policies regardless of medical marijuana status, according to The Cannabist.
But still, 25! Staid Republican governors signing pot bills! Progress!
UW Students Get Credits for Cannabis
The University of Washington’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project held a symposium today titled “Marijuana Policy in Washington State: Moving Forward.” Students who went received a smattering of credits for attending various lectures and panel discussions by notable cannabis figures including Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board director Rick Garza and Goodship Edibles CEO Jody Hall.
In the cosmic irony department, Ian Eisenberg spoke on a panel about diversity in the cannabis industry, worth, of all things, 0.75 “ethics” credits. I’ll just go ahead and let you make all the obvious jokes yourselves on this one.
Canadian Company to Start Moving Bricks Across Borders…Legally
Tilray, the massive Canadian medical marijuana manufacturer famously profiled on VICELAND’s corporate cannabis special, just received the first international export permit for cannabis, reports the CBC. The medical cannabis giant received permission from Health Canada to export cannabis products to Croatia, where medical cannabis was recently legalized.
Someday, when shipping containers full of bud are zipping back and forth across the oceans, this will seem far from momentous, but as of right now, it’s the first time cannabis will legally travel across international borders. Baby steps and all.
(Full disclosure: Tilray is owned by Seattle area venture capital firm Privateer Holdings, which owns Leafly, whose news arm I freelance for.)
Melissa Etheridge Joins the Ranks of Onstage Activists
Melissa Etheridge, a noted proponent of medical cannabis, smoked a joint onstage at a High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Michigan recently, and apparently it’s kind of a big deal. It’s great that she’s using her celebrity for not only LGBTQ rights but also to normalize cannabis for the mainstream (celebrity-branded cannabis wine tincture, anyone?).
But, while we’re on the topic of celebrity medical cannabis activists, I've gotta give Ghostface Killah his due. He has his own line of medical cannabis products—Wu Goo—and he’s been lighting up on stage pretty much forever. Back in 2007, on tour with Rakim, he implored the crowd at the Showbox to produce a blunt. Obviously, someone had one stashed in their shoe, and he proceeded to smoke that sweet, sweet contraband despite security’s urgent pleas for him to cease. In a parka, no less.
I’ll leave you with this bizarre, wonderful video of Ghostface squashing his out-of-left-field beef with reviled pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli while simultaneously hawking his Wu Goo CBD oils, aided by his his mother, his sister, and another unidentified but very angry woman. All three have benefitted from medical cannabis, and all three clearly don’t take no shit from nobody, least of all punk-ass Martin Shkreli.