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High Court Sides with Non-Card-Carrying Medical Pot Patient

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The Washington state Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card.

In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

The case involves an Olympia man named William Kurtz who was paralyzed due to a hereditary condition. In 2010, police raided Kurtz’s home and found marijuana plants. He was charged with manufacturing and possession, and later convicted.

Kurtz had never obtained a medical marijuana card. As a result, he was not allowed to make the case in court that he needs pot for his medical condition. The state Supreme Court says the lower court erred.

“It’s for those few people who fall through the cracks and haven’t complied by crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s as to the medical marijuana act,” said Seattle attorney Suzanne Lee Elliott, who represented Kurtz in his appeal. “But believe me, you are far better off to go see your doctor, comply with the law and have your documentation in order.”

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Susan Owens said she sympathizes with Kurtz. But she added this medical necessity defense is no longer appropriate since patients in Washington have a legal way to grow and use medical marijuana.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.