Woman sentenced to 60-day house arrest in pot case

January 27, 2007

Gene Johnson, Associated Press

SEATTLE — A Hayward woman and medical marijuana patient who lost her case before the Washington state Supreme Court last fall was sentenced Thursday to 60 days of home confinement after her lawyers argued that she was too sick to spend any time in jail.

Sharon Tracy, 53, said she was "overjoyed" with the sentence handed down by Skamania County Superior Court Judge E. Thompson Reynolds. She also must perform 30 days of community service and pay $3,000 to help cover the cost of her appeal.

"He could have gone ahead and let me go, but it's the best I could have gotten in a bad situation," Tracy said.

Tracy was arrested in 2003 when a detective found her with about

40 grams of marijuana and four pot plants.

At the time, Tracy had been splitting her time between Hayward and Skamania County, on the Columbia River in southwestern Washington. She suffers from coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and migraines, and has undergone reconstructive surgeries to repair a ruptured colon and a congenital left hip deformity. She turned to marijuana to reduce her use of painkillers such as Vicodin.

Though she showed a Skamania County sheriff's detective a valid California medical marijuana card, the judge barred her from presenting a "compassionate use" defense under Washington's medical marijuana initiative because the doctor who gave her the card was not licensed to practice medicine in Washington state.

She was convicted of felony possession of marijuana as well as manufacturing marijuana, and she appealed that ruling. In November, the Washington Supreme Court upheld her convictions in a 6-3 decision.

Prosecutor Peter Banks asked the judge to reimpose her original sentence, 60 days in jail plus 30 days of community service, but later in the hearing said he would not object to having her serve the time at the home of a friend, with electronic monitoring.

"She's a lot sicker than she was two or three years ago," Banks said before the hearing.

A few dozen supporters, some of them medical marijuana patients themselves, attended the hearing, said Tracy's lawyers, David Schultz and Douglas Hiatt. During the hearing they passed a hat and collected more than $500 to help pay the costs of the electronic monitoring, Hiatt said.

Hiatt and Schultz maintained that Tracy should have received no jail time or home confinement because she believed she was complying with the state's medical marijuana law. They noted that three of the Supreme Court justices agreed with her.

"That initiative needs to be clearly interpreted the way voters intended it," Tracy said. "I think I was mistreated. I think I was judged unfairly."

The state's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said it is working with Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, to introduce legislation this year that would clarify legal standards for physician recommendations of medical marijuana and allow Washington patients with out-of-state physicians to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"This case shows why the Legislature needs to act to ensure that qualified patients are able to benefit from the state's medical marijuana law," ACLU legislative director Jennifer Shaw said in a news release. "Despite the clear intent of Washington's voters, seriously ill people still are being prosecuted and convicted for using medical marijuana."



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