Saturday, May 24, 2008

Medical marijuana: How much is enough?

Excerpt form an article by Carol M. Ostrom
Seattle Times health reporter

A state Health Department proposal that medical-marijuana patients be allowed more than 2 pounds of pot every two months took law enforcement by surprise and prompted the governor to tell health officials to start over.

Faced with a legislative mandate to spell out what constitutes a "60-day supply" by July 1, the department in February briefed Gov. Christine Gregoire's office on its recommendation: Patients or caregivers could possess up to 35 ounces of cultivated marijuana and be allowed a plant-growing area of 100 square feet.

Gregoire promptly directed Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky to solicit more comment from law enforcement and medical providers. "I wouldn't say she was upset" by the amount, said Gregoire's spokesman, Pearse Edwards, but she believed input had been one-sided.

The issue of how much marijuana a patient needs remains one of the most contentious parts of the law voters passed in 1998, which allows patients with certain chronic, fatal and debilitating diseases to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana with a doctor's authorization.

Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, 48, of Seattle, has grown marijuana legally since 1999. Kyashna-Tocha has had five neck and back surgeries and said that using marijuana manages her pain enough so she can engage in daily life. Kyashna-Tocha's moluccan cockatoo Big Bird Bubba sits on her shoulder and travels with her almost everywhere.

Basis of calculation

How did the state Department of Health (DOH) calculate the amount? According to its briefing memo, obtained through a Public Disclosure Act request, the department began with the average dosages given to a handful of patients enrolled in a federal medical-marijuana program.

It doubled that amount, because some patients might eat the marijuana instead of smoking it.

Sunil Aggarwal, a University of Washington medical and doctoral degree student who studies "medical cannabis" there, says the department's calculation used an incorrect multiplier.

Because "oral administration" of medical marijuana is much less efficient than smoking, the limit should be about 71 ounces for 60-day supply, he has told health officials.

The 35-ounce amount is more than permitted in some places that allow medical marijuana use, but less than others. For example, Oregon allows 24 ounces of usable marijuana and six mature plants, while limits in California counties and cities range from 8 ounces to 3 pounds in Humboldt, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties, the Health Department's memo said.

Via: The Seattle Times