Medical marijuana laws don't protect everyone, including a Soap Lake grandmother


by & Katie Utehs

Posted on July 22, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 22 at 7:21 PM

SOAP LAKE, Wash. – Washington state’s latest medical marijuana law took effect Friday, but some say it only adds to confusion over the legality of medical marijuana.

A grandmother in Soap Lake, Washington says she followed the law, but is still being prosecuted.  Joyce Dorris, 55, is a grandmother of three.

“I’ve never been arrested in my life.  I’ve had a cleaned record and now somebody who was a friend is making me a criminal,” says Dorris.

Joyce thought she was following all the state rules for medical marijuana by supplying marijuana for a client with a chronic condition.  She says she was only providing for one person, not using herself and only had the allowed amount.

Despite what people think, medical marijuana is not fully protected by Washington law.  Attorney Frank Cikutovich has made his career on it.

“It’s not as legal as you think it is and if you decide to grow it or possess it you put yourself at great risk,” he says.

Cikutovich is not working on Joyce’s case, but explains Washington’s medical marijuana law.

"It's an affirmative defense the same as self defense.  If somebody comes in your house and threatens you, and you kill them, you then can go to trial and say ‘well I did it in self defense.’  Medical marijuana is the same way, ‘I violated the law, however I did it legally,’” he explains.

He also reminds people that at the federal level providers have no argument because any kind of marijuana possession is a federal crime.

Across the state the precedent set is confusion.  The Seattle City Council just passed an ordinance legitimizing medical marijuana providers by creating guidelines for them.  And out of Olympia a new state law went into effect Friday allowing 45-plant collective gardens.

But in Spokane, the Federal Government indicted five men this week involved with dispensaries.

For Joyce in Soap Lake, it’s a system that let her down.

"Health wise it's just tearing us both down and I don't know how to control it, I don't know how to seek help,” says Joyce.

She is scheduled to go on trial in August.