Alaska Supreme Court affirms registration of medical pot users

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2000

FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a North Pole man's challenge of the registration requirements in the medical marijuana law.

Charles H. Rollins Jr. argued that the law's registration requirement violated his constitutional right to privacy. But the court disagreed in a ruling issued Friday.

The law approved by voters in a 1998 initiative allows those with serious medical conditions to use marijuana with approval from a doctor.

Rollins argued that the state got far too much authority when the law was applied.

"It gave you relief," Rollins said, "but it also stripped you of your power and dignity, because basically you have to go to the state for approval."

Rollins, 40, is considering taking the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and beyond, if necessary, after a cursory reading of the unanimous ruling by the five justices.

Rollins feels passionately about the issue. He maintains that people have certain rights that can't be legislated or judged away.

The sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship is one of those rights to Rollins. And being forced to place your name on a state registry to use marijuana as a medicine violates that trust, he said.

"I don't know if people realize how sacred the right to privacy and dignity is when you're dealing with doctors," Rollins said. "I think a lot of people who are going through a serious illness realize that."

Rollins had appealed a 4th District ruling by Judge Niesje Steinkruger to Alaska's highest court.

The justices sympathized to some extent with Rollins' concerns.

"It can hardly be disputed that the medical marijuana registry requires disclosure of sensitive information," Justice Alex Bryner wrote. "We agree with Rollins that the general publication of this information could be stigmatizing and invasive of the right to privacy."

However, the justices concluded, the drafters of the law anticipated the problem and fully addressed it.

"The medical marijuana law does not require medical marijuana users to divulge any details about debilitating conditions they suffer. And although it does require them to register and identify their approving physicians, the law explicitly requires the department (of health and social services) to keep the registry confidential."

Rollins isn't persuaded and said he may go to federal court.

"I might consider going (the federal court) route," Rollins said. "I feel like they missed the point."

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