The Constitution, state law and the medical marijuana debate | Editorial

If you noticed the front page of this edition of the Kent Reporter or checked the website, medical marijuana became the hot news item Tuesday.

I had been planning to begin a series of stories on the subject in the next two weeks. The city changed that plan in short order by sending letters to four local medical marijuana businesses stating dispensing marijuana to more than one patient at a time is illegal under state law. The city requested the businesses shut down.

OK, the series  starts now.

I followed the logjam in the Legislature this past session when the lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Chris Gregoire attempting to clean up the state’s medical marijuana legal language. The governor vetoed most of it, citing the conflict with federal law and stating state employees could be placed at legal risk.

Many were arguing against the governor’s decision Tuesday after the Kent City Council meeting. Most reasoned the federal government had better things to do than arrest medical marijuana guys.

I personally wouldn't want to base my bucket of money on that bet. Governments are people, and they can be fickle and unpredictable.

Clearly written laws are the best protection for all.

Mayor Suzette Cooke and the governor are pushing the federal and state lawmakers to figure out a thorny legal questions. At the center it is lining up as states’ rights versus federal authority.

This country’s relationship with marijuana has been traveling a rocky road since the 1930s, when it was outlawed.

I remember when I was a child my grandmother was watching a big band on her black and white RCA television. She pointed out the drummer to me.

“He was a great musician, but he got in trouble and it ruined him,” she said.

It was Gene Krupa. He was arrested for possession of a couple of joints in 1943 and sent to jail.

I don’t think it ruined Krupa, but that was the perception of many in those days.

This country has been struggling with the place marijuana plays in our society for decades and Kent suddenly became a focal point of the legal, medical and philosophical argument.

This is a fascinating Constitutional battle. Our country has wrestled with many states’ rights issues over the past two centuries. We are a people that has nearly always found a way to compromise and come to an agreement. Not always with big smiles by all, but we have found a way through the forest. The one time we failed to compromise led us to the Civil War.

My initial sense about the medical marijuana debate is the issue is much more complicated than medical applications.

Listening to some of the speakers Tuesday night it was clear marijuana gave relief from pain and suffering that no other drug provided.

But there is another side to this debate, and we have to come to grips with it at some point as a society, either at a local and state level or at the federal.

Marijuana is a recreational drug for many. Let’s not kid ourselves about this. There are folks of all ages using marijuana as others use alcohol.

Do we as a society want to continue to make this a criminal offense? If legalizing marijuana is the answer, what does our society look like then.

One statement made Tuesday at the meeting rings true. All drugs have side effects. That includes marijuana.

This is a subject that needs public participation at all levels. The political leaders need to hear from folks from both sides of this argument.

The city of Kent has opened up an opportunity for discussion, debate and introspection. During the next installments of the series I will try to find some facts and truths we can all use to navigate both the Constitutional and philosophical arguments of this issue.

I was driving to the office Monday and I saw a young girl, about 15, walking along the street carrying a backpack full of books and a violin.

For a moment my Mr. Grumpy side melted. That young girl shows the hope ahead for our country – for all of us.

We have to work to get these things right now, because there are kids carrying backpacks full of books and violins that deserve our best.

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