Why is Governor Gregoire Lying About the Medical Marijuana Workshops?

Governor Gregoire appeared on KUOW’s The Conversation yesterday and discussed a number of topics, one of which being the ongoing effort to establish medical marijuana limits for Washington State (to listen to the show, open up the Recent Shows dropdown and select the 5/22 entry, skip ahead to about 35:10). She admitted that the Department of Health will not have set limits by the July 1 deadline, but wasn’t very truthful about why the deadline will be missed. Here’s what she said:

The question for doctors is “how much should a person need on a daily basis?” And we’re trying to get our arms around that, and frankly struggling because there doesn’t seem to be any science around this.

So we went out and did a bunch of public hearings, and patients and patient advocates showed up. But we didn’t have any physicians who came to testify to say “here’s what I think is a reasonable amount to prescribe on any given day.” We had no law enforcement show up to say “Whatever you do, let us tell you what is enforceable from a law enforcement perspective and what is not.” So that’s why we’ve stepped away from the initial recommendation to say – ok, does this work? Is this right? And if it’s not right, what is?”

I’ve been in communication with several people who were at these workshops and they can easily refute the Governor’s claims here. One of them is third year UW medical student Sunil Aggarwal, who has done research and contributed to a peer-reviewed article on medical marijuana dosing. You can see him speaking at the Seattle workshop right here:

Aggarwal also sent me this list of three peer-reviewed papers on dosing:

Aggarwal SK, Kyashna-Tocha M, Carter GT. Dosing Medical Marijuana: Rational Guidelines on Trial in Washington State. Medscape General Medicine.2007;9(3):52. Epub 2007 Sept 11.

Carter GT, Weydt P, Kyashna-Tocha M, Abrams DI. Medical marijuana: rationalguidelines for dosing. IDrugs. 2004;7:464-470.

Russo E, Mathre M, Byrne A, et al. Chronic cannabis use in the compassionate investigational new drug program: an examination of benefits and adverse effects of legal clinical cannabis. J Cannabis Ther. 2002;2:3–57.

Contrary to Gregoire’s claims, written testimonies were submitted to the workshops by Dr. Gregory Carter (here) and Dr. Ethan Russo (here). In addition to this testimony, several nurses also spoke.

An even bigger lie is about law enforcement officials not being present. At the Vancouver workshop, members of the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force were present and even spoke. At the Yakima workshop, Yakima County Prosecutor Ron Zirkle was in attendance, but did not testify. The Governor is making it appear as if members of law enforcement and the medical community were left out of the process. They weren’t. In addition, the law enforcement officials who did show up and testify (in Vancouver, at least) said that setting the limits shouldn’t be up to them, but instead up to the medical professionals.

This is part of what bothers me the most about this situation, possibly even more than the lying. Law enforcement shouldn’t be a required party in an exercise that deals with establishing a figure based upon science (and to be fair, neither should activists). And most law enforcement officials recognize that. But Gregoire continues to insist that they’re an integral part of setting the limits and is willing to endanger the deadline over it. This is just irresponsible considering that medical marijuana patients in this state are still being hauled into court by those same law enforcement officials because of the lack of clear limits.

Other states have gone through this exercise and established limits. It can be done, and there’s scientific evidence out there to go on. At this point, I’m finding it very hard not to conclude that the Governor is interfering in this process for reasons that she’s reluctant to be honest about and that’s why it’s being delayed. If I receive any statements or information from Gregoire’s office, I’ll post an update here.