Patrick Stiley Article:
Seattle Times Wed, 02
May 2007 8:20 AM PDT
Appeals court reverses marijuana conviction on medical grounds
SPOKANE, Wash. — The conviction of an aging motel owner who said he grew
marijuana to treat his glaucoma has been reversed on medical grounds in what his
lawyer said may be the first ruling of its kind in Washington state.
Loren Hanson, 64, of Pullman, meets the definition of a "qualifying patient"
under the Medical Marijuana Act, adopted nine years ago as Initiative 692, a
divided three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Hanson's lawyer, Frank L. Cikutovich, said the reversal of Hanson's
conviction for manufacturing pot may be the first successful "affirmative
defense" of a medical marijuana case in Washington, one of 11 states that allow
its use with a doctor's recommendation.
Hanson is in poor health and allergic to other medication that could relieve
the eye pressure from glaucoma, which can causes blindness, Cikutovich told The
"We couldn't be more happy" with the ruling, the lawyer said.
Glaucoma is one of the conditions specified by the Washington law, which
allows a marijuana user to be exempt from prosecution under state drug laws by
presenting valid documentation of authorization — essentially a prescription —
from a doctor at the request of law enforcement officials and possessing no more
than a 60-day supply and.
Hanson didn't obtain authorization from a doctor until after his business,
Manor Lodge Motel, was raided by a law enforcement task force that seized 34
mature pot plants on Aug. 24, 2004. He presented the documentation when he
turned himself in to the Whitman County sheriff's office the next day.
Superior Court Judge John David Frazier ruled that Hanson did not qualify for
the exemption because he obtained the authorization after the raid, but
appellate Judges Dennis J. Sweeney and Kenneth H. Kato held that the timing was
irrelevant because — having been absent at the time of the raid — he presented
it at the first opportunity.
"No one suggests any ambiguity in the statutory scheme, so we apply the plain
language of the act," Sweeney wrote.
Writing in dissent, Judge Stephen M. Brown argued that regardless of the
timing of the authorization, the case should have been returned to Superior
Court for a hearing on whether the 34 plants that were seized exceeded a 60-day
supply "because the evidence is sufficient to support guilt before considering
the affirmative defense."
Deputy Prosecutor Byron Bedirian said Tuesday he was still studying the
ruling and had not decided whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Bedirian said he hoped the case would give more clarity to the Medical
"If we can give law enforcement and medical marijuana patients' guidance,
there is utility in that," he said.
Stiley and Cikutovich, PLLC.
1408 W. Broadway
Spokane, Wa. ,
Office Phone: (509) 323-9000