According to The Seattle Times, as of November 2, 2008, a 60 day supply of medical marijuana will be considered 24 ounces of usable marijuana plus 15 plants. In 1998, Washington voters approved Initiative 692 legalizing a 60 day supply of marijuana for medicinal purposes. According to RCW 69.51A.010, qualifying patients for medical marijuana use must be at least 18 years of age, a Washington resident, have been diagnosed by a physician as having a terminal or debilitating medical condition, advised by that physician regarding the risks and benefits of using medical marijuana, and advised by that physician that he or she may benefit from the use of medical marijuana. However, the 60 day supply authorized by Initiative 692 was not made clear and has been a source of confusion for law enforcement and patients ever since.
Last year, the Washington state legislature ordered the State Department of Health to establish guidelines for a 60 day supply. The Department of Health’s first proposal of 35 ounces of usable marijuana plus 100 square feet of growing space was referred back by Governor Gregoire for more input from law enforcement and medical experts. Read about this process in an earlier article in The Seattle Times here. Earlier this year, the standards were reduced to 24 ounces of usable marijuana, six mature plants, and 18 immature plants. The standards finalized on October 2, 2008, does not differentiate between mature and immature plants.
Patients and advocates criticize the standards, arguing the amount is inadequate for a true 60 day supply and that the lack of differentiation between mature and immature plants does not accurately reflect marijuana’s growing cycle or ratio between viable and non-viable plants.
Others, including the ACLU of Washington’s drug policy director, appreciate the bright-line rule articulated for law enforcement to follow.
King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg agrees that the rule is helpful, but is not the end of the analysis. Satterberg has stated that his office’s policy is that if someone is legitimately ill or dying of cancer in King County, his office will not prosecute that individual if they have 15 plants or 30. Satterberg has advised King County law enforcement not to confiscate patient’s marijuana supplies, but to take a small sample and some pictures if the legitimacy is questioned. Satterberg has also articulated standards for growers, including cooperatives, against prosecution unless there is evidence that marijuana is not being grown for distribution to ill patients.
Persons convicted of unlawfully possessing or distributing marijuana face serious consequences. For context, 24 ounces of usable marijuana alone is equivalent to approximately 683 grams. In Washington state under RCW 69.50.4014, possession of marijuana less than 40 grams is a simple misdemeanor where persons convicted face a mandatory 1 day in jail and $250 fine. However, according to RCW 69.50.4013 possession of marijuana more than 40 grams is a class C felony where an individual could face up to 5 years of imprisonment and up to $10000 in fines. Additionally, delivery of a controlled substance is also a felony offense.