Several times a week for the past two years, felons on supervision have asked the Washington Department of Corrections for special permission to use medical marijuana, says the Seattle Times. Some requests, which are signed by doctors, are vague, listing just “chronic pain” as the reason for the drug. Others describe agony: anorexia from AIDS or chronic vomiting from chemotherapy. The state turned down nearly all the requests. Seven people have gotten permission – a select group that includes a forger wasting away from AIDS and a white-haired grandmother with fibromyalgia.
Squeezed by conflicting duties of policing felons while not meddling with their medical treatment, the agency has been swept into the complex and ongoing debate about the state’s 12-year-old, voter-approved medical-marijuana law. The pressure on the DOC to permit felons to use medical marijuana is likely to intensify as the medical-pot industry flourishes and polls show public opinion increasingly favoring legalization. New patients are being authorized by the day, and dozens of new marijuana dispensaries are eager to serve them. Advocates for medical pot estimate at least 100,000 patients statewide are approved for its use and about 5,000 people make their living off medicinal pot. The lifeblood of the industry are the doctors’ notes recommending medical pot for specific patients. A frustrated group of advocates, attorneys, physicians and patients says state is ignoring the state medical-marijuana law by substituting its judgment for that of doctors who recommend the drug. The policy, they say, is ripe for a legal challenge.