SPOKANE, Wash. – The conviction of a motel owner who said he grew marijuana to treat his glaucoma has been reversed on medical grounds.
The decision may be the first successful "affirmative defense" of a medical marijuana case in Washington, one of 11 states that allow its use with a doctor's recommendation, the man's lawyer, Frank L. Cikutovich, said.
Loren Hanson, 64, met the definition of a "qualifying patient" under the state Medical Marijuana Act, even though he did not have a prescription at the time his motel was raided, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Hanson is in poor health and allergic to other medication that could relieve the eye pressure from glaucoma, which can causes blindness, Cikutovich told The Spokesman-Review.
Glaucoma is one of the conditions specified by the Washington law, which allows a marijuana user to be exempt from state prosecution by presenting valid documentation of authorization — essentially a prescription — from a doctor at the request of law enforcement officials and possessing no more than a 60-day supply.
Hanson didn't obtain authorization from a doctor until after his business, Manor Lodge Motel, was raided in August 2004 and 34 mature pot plants were seized. He presented the documentation when he turned himself in to the Whitman County sheriff's office the next day.
Appellate Judges Dennis J. Sweeney and Kenneth H. Kato held said the timing of the prescription was irrelevant because Hanson presented it at the first opportunity, since he wasn't at the motel when it was raided.
Dissenting Judge Stephen M. Brown said the case should have been returned to Superior Court for a hearing on whether the 34 plants exceeded a 60-day supply.
Deputy Prosecutor Byron Bedirian said no decision had been made about further appeals.