CHP Returns Seized Medical Marijuana

CHP Returns Seized Medical Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on January 18, 2006 at 07:52:20 PT
By Brett Rowland 
Source: Hollister Free Lance 
Hollister, CA --  After refusing to obey a court order to return a Los Angeles-area man's medical marijuana for months, the Gilroy-Hollister California Highway Patrol decided last week to return the pot it confiscated during a 2004 traffic stop on Highway 156.The decision came just eight days before a contempt of court hearing was scheduled to determine if area CHP Commander Otto Knorr had violated a San Benito County Superior Court order by not returning the marijuana.
In December, local defense attorney Greg LaForge argued before Judge Steven Sanders that Knorr should return the 4 grams of medical marijuana, or face the possibility of being held in contempt of court because a judge had already issued a court order mandating the marijuana be returned."It's clearly a victory, a court order is a valuable tool and nobody is above the law, especially law enforcement officers themselves," LaForge said Monday. "I think (Knorr) is out of touch with his own department's guidelines, it should have never been set for a hearing."Knorr previously told the Free Lance that while California recognizes marijuana as a medicine under certain instances, the federal government does not. He had said that he was stuck in an apparent Catch-22 between the two laws and had no authority to distribute marijuana for any purpose. But last Thursday, LaForge received a letter from Miguel Neri, a California deputy attorney general, which stated the marijuana taken from 28-year-old Eugene Popok, would be returned. CHP officers had seized the marijuana from Popok during a traffic stop for speeding in October of 2004. LaForge does not know what ailment his client suffers requiring the use of medical marijuana. "This matter raised a number of novel legal issues that necessarily required further analysis by the California Highway Patrol," Neri wrote in the letter. "After such deliberation, the California Highway Patrol has decided in this instance to return Mr. Popok's claimed medical marijuana."Knorr declined to comment on the decision or how it was reached."A decision was made and that's all I have to say," he said. LaForge said that instead of refusing to return the marijuana, Knorr should have immediately contact his boss or the attorney general for direction on the matter.San Benito County District Attorney John Sarsfield was not involved in the legal battle, but said that he could sympathize with Knorr."He had to choice between violating a state law and a federal law," Sarsfield said. "What it really comes down to is the medical marijuana law is extremely poorly written and needs to be clarified otherwise this will continue to happen."Sarsfield suggested the county Health Department look into issuing identification cards for medical marijuana users. If Popok had presented a valid ID card to CHP officers at the time of his arrest, the matter could have been avoided, Sarsfield said.Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was not surprised by the CHP's decision to return the marijuana."It's a situation where law enforcement need not be so pigheaded," he said. "This has happened all throughout California, but in their mind they don't have to follow the law."St. Pierre sees the decision as a victory for medical marijuana advocacy groups, but said more still needs to be done to protect the rights of prescription marijuana users."It's keeping with the precedent," he said. "In the end, the county, town or state has to return the marijuana."However, St. Pierre did worry about the condition the marijuana. If not stored correctly, the marijuana could breakdown rapidly and lose it's medicinal value, St. Pierre said. "(Popok) could be getting back medicine that may not be of any use to him. This guy may have more or less been ripped off of $40 to $50 worth of marijuana," St. Pierre said. "But he could have fought a good legal battle for symbolic purposes rather than being able to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the medicine."Popok will have 60 days to claim the 4 grams of marijuana, according to a letter sent to him by Knorr last week."He should get back what was taken from him," LaForge said. "Now his concern is that he has to spend another $350 to fly back up here to get it."Brett Rowland covers public safety for the Free Lance. Source: Hollister Free Lance (CA)Author: Brett Rowland Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2006Copyright: 2006 Hollister Free LanceContact: editor freelancenews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NORML CHP Standoff Over Medical Marijuana Patrol Won't Seize Marijuana
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Comment #13 posted by whig on January 18, 2006 at 20:11:47 PT
This is pretty big
Keep in mind Richardson is one of the Democratic party political elites that regularly gets asked if he's planning on running for President. What this signifies is that the Dems are now at least willing to stake a dark horse on the MMJ issue.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 19:47:04 PT
NM: Medical Marijuana Goes on Session Agenda
January 18, 2006
 SANTA FE -- Governor Richardson says he will put medical marijuana legislation on the agenda for the 30-day session that began yesterday.Richardson earlier had said he doubted he would do so because the issue is controversial and the session is short.But he said today he had decided there were too many New Mexicans suffering to delay the issue further.The bill would allow patients suffering from certain illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS, to legally use marijuana to relieve their symptoms.The state Department of Health would oversee the program.Similar legislation passed the Senate last year but did not make it through the House.Copyright 2006 Associated Press
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 18:59:09 PT
AP: LA County Panel Approves Regulatory Plan 
LA County Panel Approves Regulatory Plan for Med Marijuana Sites***Wednesday, January 18, 2006 
 Los Angeles (AP) -- A regulatory plan for medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County was approved Wednesday by the Planning Commission.The plan, which would allow cannabis to be eaten and smoked on-site for medicinal purposes, was approved 4-0 by the planning commissioners.The five-member county Board of Supervisors will review the ordinance in the next couple of months, officials said.Advocates argued that smoking marijuana should be allowed at dispensaries because some patients can't find a safe place to do it.Planning commissioners would let dispensaries sell pipes, rolling papers and other equipment used for marijuana. However, the county ordinance does not allow dispensaries to be located within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, childcare centers and religious facilities.California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, which allows certain patients to use marijuana to help treat illness.Copyright: 2006 Associated Press
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Comment #10 posted by OverwhelmSam on January 18, 2006 at 18:49:51 PT
Note to State Law Enforcement Agencies
You are under no obligation to enforce federal marijuana laws. It's up to the Federal Government to enforce their own laws. See Gonzales v Raich. The Federal Government has the right to enforce marijuana laws. End of story.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 10:28:57 PT
Press Release from The Drug Policy Alliance
Call New Mexico Speaker Lujan in Support of Medical Marijuana***January 17, 2006We need your help today. As you know, the Alliance New Mexico has been working hard to get Governor Bill Richardson to issue a message to allow medical marijuana to be considered by our state legislature. Thanks to public outcry from supporters like you, we've had hundreds of letters from our members sent to the Governor. As a result, we think that the Governor is seriously considering the importance of this message. Now, we need you to focus your efforts on another elected official.This morning, the Albuquerque Journal and the Associated Press released statements from the Speaker of the House, Representative Ben Lujan, stating that he "specifically hoped that Richardson won't include the issue of medical marijuana," in his messages to our state senators and representatives. He continued by stating that, "the medical marijuana issue would be best left to the 60-day session next year." However, many of the patients who will benefit from this legislation cannot wait another year. It is critical that Rep. Ben Lujan understands the urgency behind this issue - he must support the Governor and encourage him to issue a message that supports medical marijuana! Here's how you can help speak up for the 81% of New Mexico voters who support this issue: Please take a minute to call the Speaker of the House, Ben Lujan, (505) 986-4782 and urge him to support the Governor to issue a message for medical marijuana. Spread the word, the more calls the better; we need to let him know where New Mexico stands!What to say to Speaker Ben Lujan: (505) 986-4782Patients who would benefit from this legislation cannot wait another year. Many of them are facing serious suffering and death. Speaker Lujan, I support legal access to medical marijuana and I ask you to do the same during this 2006 legislative session.Tips on Making a Call* Most legislators' staff answer their phones during the session
  and log all of the messages
* Be courteous, positive, and brief
* Identify yourself and mention if you are a constituent
* Ask the legislator to support legal access to medical marijuana
* Feel free to briefly tell them why you personally support the billHere is how your support will make a difference:This bill would allow qualified patients suffering from certain serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy--to use marijuana for relief from their symptoms. Feel free to refer to our fact sheet or talking points before you call.Thanks so much for calling - and please feel free to forward this information to other individuals and email lists that might be interested. The more voices that speak up for this legislation, the more likely it is to become law. If you are interested in becoming more involved, please call us at (505) 983-3277. We are coordinating attendees and speakers.Learn More About the BillBecause this year's session is a 30-day "short session," all legislation that is not budget related must be "messaged" by Governor Richardson in order to be heard by our state legislators. We need the Governor to message legal access to medical marijuana for our most vulnerably ill citizens. Although he has publicly supported the issue in the past, Governor Richardson has not yet decided whether or not to include medical marijuana in this year's legislative process. Medical marijuana legislation would allow qualified patients suffering from certain serious illnesses - such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy - to use marijuana for relief of their symptoms. The law would require a patient to receive a recommendation for cannabis (i.e., medical marijuana) from his/her doctor. The patient could then apply to participate in the program through the Department of Health, and an independent review board of doctors would consider each application. Upon approval by the board, the patient would receive a registry identification card from the New Mexico Department of Health, certifying that he/she was a participant in the program. By registering in this way, the patient and the patient's primary caregiver would be allowed to possess only enough cannabis to treat the patient. Only providers who already can prescribe controlled substances could recommend patients for the program. The Department of Health will develop regulations for licensed producers within the state, identifying standards for safety, security, and distribution.The new law would not allow medical marijuana use in public, and would penalize lying to a law enforcement officer regarding the medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health would keep a registry of participants so that law enforcement officers could confirm the validity of a patient's registration card. Patients under 18 years old could only participate with parental consent.Sincerely,Reena Szczepanski
Director, Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico
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Comment #8 posted by unkat27 on January 18, 2006 at 09:54:48 PT
80,000+ Arrests already!
Good point, Zandor. Tell it to the lobbyists and Big Pharma that use big money to pay off our "elected reps" to vote against the majority in Congress.Seen the Drug War Clock stats yet?80,036 marijuana arrests already this year, in just 18 days.$2,569,000,000 tax-payer dollars already wasted on this great grandmother of a fiasco.All while Congress continues to vote against the majority and against drug law reforms and legalization. Total BS, a huge mountain of it, that's what the Washington Deceivers are peddling these days, and it stinks to high heaven.
Drug War Clock
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Comment #7 posted by mai_bong_city on January 18, 2006 at 09:48:36 PT
the right decision
i'm pleased about the message it sends and i hope it will help what continues to happen in states where patients are even ID'ed already - the medicine being taken right out of our hands....and nobody wants to fight it.bud peace to you all~*
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Comment #6 posted by Zandor on January 18, 2006 at 09:34:02 PT
Who do you work for???
It's a matter of who does the CHP work for?
What gives them the right to carry a gun and arrest people?
Where do they live and who's laws give them the right to be Cops.The answer is the people of the STATE of California. You work for the PEOPLE of the STATE and not for King George. Your authority comes from the people you are sworn to protect.King George does not pay the salary the people of the state do. There is no question the law the CHP MUST follow is STATE law period.If they can't do that then get rid of them and hire someone else who understands they work for the people of the STATE and not for King George in Washington.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 09:29:15 PT
I have such a hard time keeping up with what is going on in California since most of us aren't from your state. I am sorry to read what happened to him. That is terrible.
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Comment #4 posted by Graehstone on January 18, 2006 at 09:17:34 PT
About time too
Good for them. I know Rudy from the ASA meetings and he is a sweetheart of a guy and it is heartbreaking to hear what had befallen him and the struggles he is going through now. 
San Diego is amongst the most corrupt cities in the State if not the Nation.
And not what it hails itself to be as "Americas finest city."
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 08:38:56 PT
Press Release from MPP
Term Limits Initiative for County Supervisors
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Comment #2 posted by unkat27 on January 18, 2006 at 08:33:24 PT
Long overdue
The marijuana was taken in October of 2004, over a year ago?Two problems with such a late return. One, the potency may have faded from over exposure or it may have grown mold and gone bad. Two, it is possible that the bag was substituted with some other stuff, which may either have no potency or be laced with bad chems. If I were Popok, I'd have the stuff tested before using it, or simply not take the chances and flush it down the can.
In this case, better late than never isn't really worth the trouble, imo.
Vampires and Vultures: The Drug War Profiteers
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Comment #1 posted by potpal on January 18, 2006 at 08:10:51 PT
ot / fyi
Doing it for the children! the debate continues...
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