ACLU and Supporters Issue Guide on Medical Marijuana

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
June 24, 1999 12:00 am

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SEATTLE — The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups that support an initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use in Washington issued a guide yesterday to explain the law to patients, physicians and others, the Associated Press reported today.

The 13-page guide, written in a question-and-answer format, explains who is eligible to use marijuana for medical purposes under the law, what it is used for, how to document doctor recommendations, and other issues.

It also includes the full text of the law and a suggested form for doctors to use in recommending marijuana use. The Washington Citizens for Medical Rights, Americans for Medical Rights and the ACLU of Washington were responsible for producing the guide.

ACLU of Washington Legislative Director Jerry Sheehan told the wire service that he hoped the guide also would help police and prosecutors better understand what the law covered.

Sheehan said he had seen a newspaper article quoting an Eastern Washington sheriff saying, `We don’t know what the law means, so we’ll arrest people and let the court sort it out.’

“So this will hopefully help law enforcement understand that this is the law for them to enforce, too,” Sheehan said. The only arrests of people using marijuana for medical reasons since the law went into effect were in Tacoma, he said.

In January, a blind AIDS patient and his mother were arrested after Tacoma police found three marijuana plants in their home, but the Pierce County prosecutor’s office decided not to press charges after determining they would be covered by the new law, the AP said.

In May, a Tacoma man was charged with unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance after authorities found 157 marijuana plants at his home. David Teatsworth, 43, said he was growing the marijuana for 11 patients covered by the medical marijuana law, which allows patients too sick to grow their own marijuana to have a caregiver do it.

The guide defined a caregiver as someone responsible for the housing, health or care of the patient, including family members, roommates and close friends. The caregiver must be designated in writing. The law doesn’t address whether someone can grow marijuana for more than one patient.

In February, the ACLU of Southern California urged the federal government to allow best selling author Peter McWilliams to use physician-recommended marijuana as part of his treatment for AIDS. See the ACLU’s news release at /news/1999/n021899d.html.

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