Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 22, 2013

Friday Odds and Ends: Buds, Knutson and the Bellingham Twelve

Hello Loyal Readers,

Right now, I am dodging waves on a stony Lapush beach, but through the magic of the internet, I am still able to bring you your weekly feature, the Friday Odds and Ends.

Councilman Gene Knutson

Under the category of not getting the memo, a hospital down in Gig Harbor called the cops on a patient for possessing a perfectly legal bag of marijuana. The patient, Matthew Zimmerman, had come in for a routine check-up and the nurse asked if he had any marijuana on him. He said yes, and she expressed her disapproval but continued with the prep for the doctor. After the doctor visit, Zimmerman left the hospital to find a Gig Harbor police officer waiting for him at the door. The officer spoke with Zimmerman, confirmed that he was not impaired in any way, shrugged and left.

This raises a whole slew of issues as we move forward with legalization. What the nurse did, calling the cops on someone for a perfectly legal circumstance, is a serious violation of patient-doctor confidentiality. Zimmerman has filed a complaint, but I know this won’t be the last situation like this in Washington state as some are slow to accept the relegalization of marijuana.

Next up, the city councilman from my ward, Gene Knutson, announced his plans to run for reelection. He has served for over two decades on the Bellingham City Council and has announced that this term, his sixth, would be his last. So far, no one has announced running against him, so I imagine he will have a pretty clear path for reelection, but you never know . . .

For your weird factoid of the week, I bring you the results of the biennial Healthy Youth study out of the Department of Health. The good news is that drinking and smoking rates have continued to drop among all youth since 2010.  However, buried in this little study, and I have to tip my hat to The Stranger for catching this, is the fact that 7% of 10th graders report smoking a cigar in the last month. Really? More than 1 in 20 sophomores are busting out a stogie on a monthly basis in between listening to Mumford and Sons and studying for the SATs? I bet if they could grow facial hair, they would try to shape it into an oil baron mustache.

Bob Burr being arrested as part of the Bellingham Twelve

Bob Burr being arrested as part of the Bellingham Twelve

Finally, Judge Smiley handed down his ruling on the Bellingham TwelveThe Bellingham Twelve were arrested for chaining themselves to the train tracks to stop the shipments of coal through our community. Their legal defense, handled by the ever-lively Larry Hildes, rested on the concept of necessary harm; the idea that sometimes it is necessary to commit a small crime to prevent a much larger one. For example, an intoxicated person might need to drive to escape a kidnapper. In this case, the Bellingham Twelve were claiming Necessity Over Climate Change, this action was necessary to stop the larger crime of destroying our planet. Judge Smiley ruled that was not a legal defense in this case.

But here’s the interesting wrinkle in all this. I have heard that the state is very closely monitoring this case because they do not want to inspire other civil disobedience up and down the rail line. At a city council meeting, Bob Burr asked point blank if the city attorney had been in communication with the attorney general’s office on this case, the city flatly denied it, but I wonder if Judge Smiley was weighing those future implications when he denied the Bellingham Twelve their legal defense.

It is another situation where all aspects of this struggle over the Gateway Pacific Terminal are being closely monitored by activists, unions, legal personnel and politicians up and down the I-5 corridor. Hopefully, Whatcom County will put its best foot forward while we are in the spotlight.

That’s it for me today. I hope to have some fun articles next week, but in the meantime, enjoy the first days of spring!



  1. From my brief days as a tenth grader,
    I seem to remember using a cigar to intensify the sick feeling we’d get from a swiped bottle of Boone’s Farm or Mad Dog.
    We all preferred weed but the cops were too eager on that trail,
    so in a pinch the putrid smoke from a turd-stick did the deed to woozy us.
    My heartfelt apologies to the 70 year-old lady manning the counter at the 7-11 we victimized regularly.

  2. I believe state law requires health care providers to notify cops whenever they suspect criminal activity.
    This fun fact seems to run counter to any privacy concerns,
    meaning you really have none.
    A great strategy for making trouble on purpose through a counselor or other neutral health-related party when you’re mad at a partner or need quick revenge.

  3. Great job. Thanks.

    Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2013 13:48:20 +0000 To:

  4. Hi Riley, My daughter reads the palm card translations for me after they are done. She thinks your writing is fantastic and would like to be put onto your political junkie blog email list. Her name is Camellia Phillips and her email is Thanks!! Daydre

    • I signed her up, she should get a confirmation email soon.

  5. […] seat continues to be a hot race. Nooksack administrator Roxanne Murphy is facing off against Bellingham Twelve advocate Bob Burr and newcomer Allen Brown. Full disclosure: Murphy has asked for my advice as part of her […]

  6. […] Now it is time for the fireworks. Bob Burr and Roxanne Murphy square off and they come out with big grins. Murphy gives another shout out to Evergreen College (Go Geoducks!) and explains that while she has lots of personal experience with the difficult challenges facing our city, “But I’ve never been to jail!” Drawing contrast with Bob Burr as a member of the Bellingham Twelve. […]

  7. […] Council seat, will they simply ignore those races in the future? Already, Michael Lilliquist and Gene Knutson got a free pass this year, what about in 2015 when Jack Weiss and Cathy Lehman will be up for […]

  8. […] Burr, part of the Bellingham 12 who engaged in peaceful resistance by chaining himself to railroad tracks to stop the coal trains. He also ran against Patty Murray in […]

  9. […] has been a passionate voice for the people. While I don’t always agree with his tactics, he has always labored for the people to protect the commons – those resources that belong to […]

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