Washington approves medical marijuana necessity

In Top Stories by David Silverberg

Washington residents arrested on marijuana charges can argue they needed it for medical reasons, even if they didn’t follow the requirements of the state’s medical marijuana law, the Washington Supreme Court said recently.

In a 5-4 opinion, the justices said voters did not get rid of the “medical necessity defense” when they passed the medical marijuana law in 1998. Thus, anyone arrested for using marijuana in the state can argue to the court they require the plant for medical purposes, whether they’re approved for the medical marijuana program or not, according to this news report.

The state medical marijuana law allows people to use marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS or intractable pain.

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the “majority that people who fail to follow the medical law can nevertheless argue in court that they needed the marijuana for medical reasons, but in order to do so, they must also show that complying with the medical marijuana law was not a viable alternative for them,” as media reports suggest.

“It’s for those few people who fall through the cracks and haven’t complied by crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s as to the medical marijuana act,” says Seattle attorney Suzanne Lee Elliott.