Doctor and Patient Fight Washington Pot Law

     SEATTLE (CN) — A doctor and patient claim Washington's new medical marijuana regulations merging the industry with recreational pot markets violate their right to doctor-patient confidentiality.
     The law, which requires existing dispensaries to operate from a licensed retail pot shop and reduce patient possession amounts, will go in effect July 1.
     Dr. Gregory Carter and his patient Eric Mevis sued the state in Federal Court last week, saying the new rules are unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment rights of physicians and patients.
     Doctors are forced to violate federal law and patients are required to incriminate themselves under the new law, according to the complaint.
     "This action seeks a declaration that physicians and patients have the right, protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to communicate in the context of a bona fide physician-patient relationship, without intervention by the defendants, about the issue of marijuana as medicine," the lawsuit states.
     The new law, known as the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, uses regulations in place for recreational pot use and adopts them for medical marijuana.
     Patient possession limits will be significantly reduced from 24 ounces to three ounces, and the number of plants a patient can grow is down from 15 to six. All medical marijuana dispensaries will also be forced to operate from a licensed retail pot shop or close.
     Carter is currently a medical director for a Spokane rehabilitation hospital. Mevis suffers from an incurable neurodegenerative disorder and uses medical marijuana for palliative care.
     They say the new regulations will also force them to give up doctor-patient privacy.
     "Now as a precondition to either arrest protection or in the alternative the right to assert the affirmative defense, the act now requires that the physician affirmatively prescribe the amount of marijuana that the patient needs. The form requires the physician to divulge the medical condition of the patient, that the patient is forced to reveal to non-health care professional that works at a marijuana retail outlet store, with an endorsement at a marijuana retail outlet store," the complaint states. "The requirement that the form be used and a non-medical third party participate in the process impermissibly infringes on the doctor patient relationship."
     Marijuana retailers are not authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the Drug Enforcement Administration to dispense a schedule I controlled substance, according to the lawsuit.
     Carter and Mevis say the new system will require them to break federal law.
     Carter also claims the regulations interfere with his ability to properly treat patients by "arbitrarily" setting marijuana limits.
     "Dr. Carter would need to state the amount on the authorization form for plaintiff Mevis which would exceed the non-scientific standard that only allows for 15 plants, arbitrarily set by the legislature," the complaint states. "This simply is not enough marijuana to treat his illness. If plaintiff Mevis does not register his authorization, he will only be entitled to possess the same amount of legal marijuana afforded under the State's recreational law, and be able to grow 4 marijuana plants. He will only be entitled to assert an affirmative defense and not receive arrest protection."
     Mevis says he will have to disclose possibly incriminating and private medical information to receive a required identification card for marijuana access.
     "By enacting the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, the legislature codified its desire to interfere with a physician's ability to practice medicine without fear of punishment, or be denied any right or privilege, for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes," the lawsuit states. "By enacting the Cannabis Patient Protection Act, the legislature codified its desire to ensure that all seriously ill Washington residents are forced to participate in a state sanctioned database or face criminal sanctions."
     Carter and Mevis want an injunction preventing the bill from taking effect until the court can decide on constitutionality. They are represented by Douglas Hiatt in Seattle.
     Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that before passage of the bill, Washington's medical marijuana industry had been "completely unregulated."