Tri-City medical marijuana patients worry about DUI rule

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldDecember 9, 2012 

Tri-City medical marijuana patients are worried the passage of Initiative 502 will mean the end of their ability to legally drive.

While state officials say the law is silent on medical marijuana patients, it does set a level for driving under the influence of marijuana that many patients are concerned they cannot meet.

The DUI provision included in the new law is what Kennewick's Hippies store co-owner Tim Adams said caused him and other medical marijuana patients to vote against it.

Adams is permanently disabled, with a back and shoulder injury that developed from vertebrae broken when he was a child.

Marijuana is a much better option than pills that Adams said he has been prescribed.

Prescription pills, he said, will put him on the couch for days with severe side effects, while marijuana allows him to continue his everyday life. Medical marijuana alleviates some of the pain and allows him to take the pills that doctors prescribe without suffering the same nauseating side effects.

The DUI provisions mean someone would have to wait for four to five weeks after smoking marijuana to be sure they would pass the blood test, he said.

The body releases toxins in waves, so that limit may still be in the bloodstream, even though the person does not feel any effects, Adams said.

Other than the DUI provision, not much should change for medical marijuana patients.

Patients still have the rights they did under state law prior to I-502, said Mikhail Carpenter, a state Liquor Control Board spokesman.

JT, a Benton County medical marijuana patient who acts as a dispensary for Tri-City patients, doesn't expect to see much change for him. He asked to remain anonymous because marijuana is still illegal federally.

JT said he delivers marijuana to 10 patients a month. The patients have to show him their permit and valid ID before he will sell to them.

He also requires patients to fill out a form from Ninja Medical Cannabis that allows him to verify their condition with their doctor and check their doctor's credentials. As part of the form, they acknowledge that providing false medical information is a felony, he said.

The state law requires that only one patient be helped at a time, but it allows JT to sell to multiple patients as long as he meets with them separately.

Although collective gardens for medical marijuana patients were authorized by a 2011 state law, the Tri-Cities do not allow them.

Richland and Kennewick have moratoriums on collective gardens for medical marijuana patients, which is not affected by I-502, officials say.

The Kennewick City Council will discuss collective gardens at its meeting Monday.

Richland's moratorium will expire in six months, and West Richland's expired earlier this year, officials said.

The Pasco City Council decided to ban medical marijuana gardens in June and amended the city zoning codeto state that the city won't allow anything that violates local, state or federal law.

The state Legislature in 2011 passed a law allowing collective gardens, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of it. The state law is at odds with federal law that makes growing or possessing marijuana illegal, no matter if it is for medicinal purposes.

Cities put the issue on hold to see if legislators would act during the 2012 session to clarify the 2011 law. But the recent session came and went with no changes to the law, so Pasco decided not to wait.

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