Medical marijuana use lands locals in court

A pair of medical marijuana cases were heard in Kitsap County Superior Court this week, both concerning patients taking the controlled substance for pain management under a doctor’s supervision.

Pamela Olson of Ollala, who was arrested last May, and Robert of Bremerton, face prosecution for their use of the drug, for which they received doctor’s approval. Robert’s lawyer Douglas Hiatt requested that Robert’s full name not be published, as it could endanger his employment.

Kitsap County prosecutors, who have turned a blind eye to several medical cases over the last several years, are pursuing these particular cases because, according to Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Kelly, “We have evidence in both cases that they were dealing.”

Attorneys for both defendants deny this assertion.

As a result, Kitsap County has become part of the nationwide debate about the use of marijuana in the treatment of pain, the means for distributing and growing the substance, and exactly how much a patient needs to manage their symptoms.

At the center of the debate is an argument over “plant count” and how many live plants translate to an amount of usable medicine. For instance, Olson was arrested with plants that added up to more than 19 pounds.

This, according to her attorney Scott Moriarty, could yield less than a pound of usable product.

The guidelines for use allow patients to hold a 60-day supply at one time. Since Olson bakes rather than smokes to administer the drug, her holdings could fall within these recommended limits.

But on Tuesday, Judge Leila Mills ruled that Olson would not be allowed to use a medical defense, setting her up for a possession or distribution charge.

Moriarty subsequently filed a motion to reconsider this ruling. If Mills declines to reconsider the motion, he plans to ask for a continuance, as the Department of Health will soon set concrete 60-day limits.

Moriarty feels Mills’ ruling to come up with a doctor’s prescription for the amount needed for Olson’s treatment is a legal impossibility.

Since marijuana is illegal, a doctor can recommend but not prescribe the drug.

Moriarty said prosecutors have no solid evidence that Olson herself was dealing. The only evidence comes from a confidential informant, he said, and that shouldn’t be enough to convince a jury of her guilt.

Robert also has been accused of dealing, a charge Hiatt vehemently refutes.

“They have absolutely no evidence,” Hiatt said. “He was asked about what he would do if he had more than he could use and he answered that he would give it away to little old ladies who could use it if he could do so legally. This was repeated to others, where he was quoted as saying he had already given it to the little old ladies.”

Aside from jeopardizing his retirement, Robert’s property — five acres he has owned for years — could be confiscated if he is convicted of dealing or distributing drugs.

Moriarty recommended that Olson use more traditional methods of pain control while the case is pending, saying, “I have told her that it doesn’t make sense to use marijuana while she is in the crosshairs of the prosecutor.”

Hiatt said he does not know how Robert is handling his pain.

“I always advise my clients to do what their doctors recommend and we will sort out the legalities at a later time,” said Hiatt, who has worked with medical marijuana cases for several years.

Hiatt acknowledges there is a potential for abuse in medical marijuana cases, but it is less than for medications like morphine or percocet.

“If a patient has some medical marijuana and their grandson takes some off of the top, the grandson is breaking the law and the patient is not discharging their responsibilities,” he said.

Hiatt takes issue with the notion that any medical marijuana patient is “getting high,” since the prime motivator is pain management.

The Olson trial is scheduled to begin May 5.

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