Thursday, April 05, 2007

Medical pot bill passes; foes urge more legislation

The Associated Press

The state House late Wednesday passed a measure clarifying the state's medical marijuana law and addressing supply issues, but medical marijuana advocates and patients opposed to the measure argue it does nothing to help them.

The measure, which was passed on a 64-30 vote, requires the state Department of Health to determine the quantity of marijuana that could reasonably be considered a 60-day supply. The bill passed the Senate last month, but because it was amended in the House, it must go back to the Senate for concurrence.

Steve Sarich, executive director of CannaCare, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said that doctors - not the state - should determine the supply a patient needs.

"Does the state determine how many birth control pills you take, or how much Percocet you need?" he asked.

Initiative 692 passed with 59 percent voter approval in 1998. It gives doctors the right to recommend - but not prescribe - marijuana for people suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other conditions that cause "intractable pain."

But state law limits the amount of marijuana an individual can possess for medical use to a 60-day supply. People found with marijuana still can be arrested, but if they prove it's for medical purposes they can avoid being charged with a crime in the state system. That does not protect them from federal prosecution, however.

But Sarich said the bill is lacking.

"This bill provides no significant protection for patients whatsoever," he said.

The measure also would require the Health Department to come up with recommendations on how the state can provide safe access to marijuana for patients and present those suggestions to the Legislature in July 2008.

Sarich said he and others were upset that key elements of the original bill were removed in the Senate, including a provision that would have allowed cooperative growing operations. Senate Bill 6032