Washington State’s Pot Paradox

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from TIME Magazine,

Marijuana is legal in Washington. But that doesn’t mean it won’t land you in jail.

Harvey, 70, logged 30 years as a long-haul trucker before retiring here in 2006. By then, all those miles had worn out his knee and he suffered from gout. To ease the pain, a doctor suggested cannabis. So Larry and his wife Rhonda began tending a plot on their 34-acre (14 hectare) homestead outside Kettle Falls, a pinprick near the Canadian border that bills itself as the home of “1,640 friendly people and one grouch.” Rhonda, … struggles with arthritis. … “I couldn’t believe it the first time I tried it,” Larry says. “In five minutes, the pain was gone.”

Until pot brought a new kind of pain. On July 28, the Harveys–along with two family members and a friend who shared the garden–will go to trial on federal drug charges. The defendants are doctor-authorized patients who say they used the drug for palliative purposes, as the state’s medical-marijuana law has permitted since 1998. Each faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. Barring a plea, they will almost certainly be convicted.

while the Obama Administration has urged law enforcement to let the legalization experiments play out, that guidance isn’t always followed by federal prosecutors. Which means legal marijuana isn’t exactly legal.

Even within Washington State, the standards seem to shift from city to city. Just down the road from the Harveys, a medical patient posts glamour shots of his towering plants on Facebook. In Spokane, on the state’s eastern edge, billboards point the way to dispensaries.

“Marijuana is legal here, but what exactly does that mean?” asks Jane Korn, the dean of Gonzaga Law School in Spokane. “Nobody really knows.”

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