Saturday, March 21, 2009

Medical Marijuana Trial Draws Activists To Kitsap

The trial of an Washington man accused of exceeding the allowable limit for medical marijuana is finishing its second week, and is drawing attention from throughout the state.

Bruce Olson, 54, is an approved medical marijuana patient who has four ailments that qualify him for such treatment, according to an expert witness for the defense.

Still, Olson was charged with illegal possession of marijuana with the intent to sell when Kitsap County detectives found 48 plants in a growing operation in May 2007.

Both Olson and his wife are medical marijuana patients, but have faced the same distribution charge. The law about acceptable quantities of medical marijuana has been more strictly defined since Pamela Olson’s trial.

Pamela Olson is now serving probation, having pleaded out to avoid jail time. As part of her sentence, she is not using the medical marijuana that she claims is necessary to ease her pain.

The case has become a flashpoint for medical marijuana advocates, or what Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge characterizes as “a well-organized lobby whose purpose is to see the laws changed.”

Approximately two dozen people, mostly advocates or medical marijuana patients, are observing the trial and showing their support.

About 15 of them have taken residency in a local bed-and-breakfast, doubling up on rooms while they attend every minute of the trial.

One attendee, Ellen Van Bockern of Maple Valley, was attending for personal reasons, since she hoped to begin a grow operation for a sick friend.

“I want to grow marijuana legally,” she said. “If they get off, then I can start my own operation and help my friend.”

Attendees maintained the law was wrong, and that Olson was being singled out for special treatment. A common argument is that governments who prosecute these crimes are wasting taxpayer money.

“Kitsap County doesn’t have a lot of money,” said patient Steve Elliott, a Kingston resident.

“This prosecution is wasting money left and right. And if they are prosecuting Bruce, then they can come after me.”

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