Widespread concerns have been expressed in the US over laws governing medical marijuana following some violent incidents in Washington.
First a man was thrashed by some persons who were trying to steal marijuana plants from his property. He died of the injuries. Then a prominent medical marijuana activist shot an armed man who is accused of breaking into his home in a suburban area near Seattle where the activist grows and distributes marijuana plants. The intruder is said to be in a critical condition. He and four others have since been arrested.
Steve Sarich, the activist, runs a group called CannaCare out of his house. He suffered minor wounds from a shotgun blast fired by the intruder.
Even before he was robbed on Monday, Mr. Sarich had complained that the police were not doing enough to protect him, claiming there was a previous robbery attempt in January too.
But Sgt.John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff's Department, reacted impatiently, remarking, "Any person making medical marijuana is going to be a target because they have a valuable commodity."
Police are also unhappy with the man as they had found 385 plants in his house after the shooting. Sarich himself has claimed that he and his girlfriend are authorized to have up to 50 plants each but they had less than 100 plants in the house they shared.
The police confiscated "everything over and above what the prosecutor believes is legal," Sgt Urquhart said and added, "Mr. Sarich had baked goods with marijuana in them, frozen goods with marijuana in them, chocolate goods with marijuana in them...He had green butter, which we believe is laced with marijuana. As we interpret state law, he was not in compliance."
Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998. Under state law, marijuana can be recommended for medical use by physicians but the state does not play a formal role in regulating and distributing the drug.
While some states allow dispensaries or cafes, most medical marijuana in Washington is distributed from private homes or small offices that are supposed to grow or stock only a certain amount of the drug and serve only one patient at a time, wrote William Yardley in New York Times.
State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a Democrat from Seattle who has pushed to ease sanctions on marijuana use, says growers face dangers both of being robbed and of how they will be treated by the police.
She and another lawmaker are promising to introduce legislation next year to protect access to medical marijuana and also protect those who grow it.
But a bigger issue is how to deal with those who misuse the permission given on medical grounds.
Some advocates for legalizing marijuana in general say that medical growers hurt their efforts by not working within legal limits and also by not building a relationship with the police.