Fuzzy Guidelines Create Medical-Pot Haze 

Fuzzy Guidelines Create Medical-Pot Haze 
Posted by CN Staff on May 11, 2005 at 08:15:49 PT
By Josh Kleinbaum, Staff Writer 
Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Winnetka, Calif. -- As state and county health officials grapple with regulating medicinal marijuana and police struggle with handling patients who use it, Wayne Schulte is trying to figure out how he got caught in the middle of it all. Schulte, a 43-year-old contractor, has a doctor's recommendation for marijuana to relieve stress. He says he grows pot for four other patients to ease his financial burden. He believes he's done everything right.
But police took a different view and booked Schulte in April on felony suspicion of unlawfully planting and cultivating marijuana. The City Attorney's Office eventually reduced the charges to suspicion of misdemeanor possession. "Here I am trying to get my head right, and the last month has just been hell," said Schulte, a member of the Winnetka Neighborhood Council who pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday. "I've done everything by the law, as far as I can tell. "Here in Los Angeles, there aren't any firm guidelines. How can I do the right thing if I don't know what the right thing is?" Schulte's case illustrates the continuing challenges and concerns over medical marijuana and confusion between police departments and district and city attorneys, who ultimately decide what charges to pursue. California voters approved medicinal-marijuana usage in 1996 and the Legislature approved guidelines for usage in 2003, directing state and county health officials to implement an identification-card system for patients and caregivers. But the state's law is at odds with federal anti-drug legislation, and the Supreme Court is considering that contradiction now. The state is waiting for the Supreme Court's decision to implement its card system. In the meantime, however, without a county-run identification-card program, officials do not know how to determine whether someone really is a medicinal-marijuana patient. Fake prescriptions are common, and many people have used the same fake prescription written by a San Francisco-based doctor 10 years ago, officials said. "It's an area that's not well-defined at this point," LAPD Sgt. Kevin Kurzhalf said. "This law just came about in 2004, and these issues are just starting to be raised." When reviewing a prescription, Kurzhalf said, police consider whether the quantity of marijuana would be justified for personal use. But that does not protect people like Schulte, who say they grow marijuana for other patients. The law has provisions for caregivers but has a vague definition of who qualifies. No caregiver case has reached the appellate level to set a precedent, said Bruce Margolin, an attorney and author of "The Margolin Guide to Marijuana Laws." "We're in a stage of new territory where the law is being developed as we speak," Margolin said. "This case, involving this guy being a caretaker, has all kinds of hurdles." Police would not comment on the specifics of Schulte's case. He said police raided his house April 7 after smelling marijuana, and ignored his protests that he's a medical-marijuana patient. Police confiscated 30 marijuana plants. Schulte was booked on suspicion of planting and cultivating marijuana, a felony charge. Bail was set at $30,000, and Schulte paid a bondsman $3,150 to get out of jail. "How can they show up and say they smell marijuana and use that as probable cause when they know you're a patient?" Schulte said. "My rights have been violated. I've been locked up in jail. I'm broke because I had to pay the bondsman. This is a nightmare. It's not helping me. It's like I went backwards two years in my therapy. I took a giant step backwards." In the month since Schulte's arrest, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said there was no evidence that Schulte used the marijuana for commercial purposes and handed the case to the City Attorney's Office, which would not comment on the case. A trial is set for June 6. Schulte said he obtained his prescription in December from Medicann, a company run by Dr. Jean Talleyrand that specializes in medical-marijuana prescriptions. John Kuhny, the company's business manager, confirmed that Schulte received a prescription and said many of the company's patients have trouble with law enforcement. "Patients who follow the law, in theory, should have no problem with the law," Kuhny said. "Some district attorneys continue to prosecute patients who have valid recommendations. We, like many others, are constantly trying to educate the public and its representatives that just because someone has marijuana doesn't mean the person is committing a crime." With confusion surrounding medical-marijuana laws, Councilman Dennis Zine asked city officials to prepare a report focusing on distribution centers, including small-time caregivers such as Schulte. If the Supreme Court rules that medicinal use of marijuana is legal, Zine wants the city to consider zoning restrictions for distribution centers to prevent them from popping up next to schools and parks. "We need to find out what the actual rules are and what the court interprets," Zine said. "You can have it for personal use, and the physician makes a written recommendation, but how do you get all of this together? Everything from dispensing, the locations, the use -- all of those are unanswered." For Schulte, marijuana is just part of a chemical battle against stress. He said he has a strong type-A personality, and is also taking Prozac, Vicodin, Buspar, Propranolol and Trazodone. He believes the marijuana is making a difference. "All I know is I tried it, it helped me, and I'm doing the best I can," Schulte said. "I'm just trying to live my life without getting upset, and that's hard to do in Los Angeles." Source: Los Angeles Daily News (CA)Author: Josh Kleinbaum, Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles Daily NewsWebsite: josh.kleinbaum dailynews.comMedicinal Cannabis Research Links Medical Marijuana Archives
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