County Keeps Pot Issue On Its Medical Radar

County Keeps Pot Issue On Its Medical Radar
Posted by CN Staff on August 13, 2006 at 07:28:06 PT
By Gig Conaughton, Staff Writer
Source: North County Times 
San Diego, CA -- First, county supervisors declared war on California's voter-approved medical marijuana law ---- filing an-yet to be heard lawsuit in December to overturn the decade-old law, arguing that it should be superseded by federal law that says marijuana is dangerous and all use is illegal.Now, it appears that county law enforcement has adopted the same aggressive stance, declaring war on medical marijuana dispensaries.
In July ---- even though California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said local police were not obligated to help enforce federal laws that say all marijuana use is illegal ---- representatives of the San Diego County district attorney's office and sheriff's deputies joined raids on several dispensaries and arrested 10 people.Meanwhile, the county's top drug prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Damon Mosler, said last week that he thinks all dispensaries are inherently illegal ---- despite state voters having approved the 1996 "Compassionate Use Act" that made it legal for seriously ill people to use marijuana to ease their pain.Mosler said "There's nothing under (California's law) that allows for retail sale (of marijuana)" ---- meaning that he believes dispensaries are operating illegally even if they're only selling to patients with legitimate recommendations from doctors.The county's aggressive posture has ratcheted up the angst of patients who use marijuana, and for drug advocacy groups, who say regulated dispensaries are the best system for seriously ill people to get marijuana.Those patients and advocacy groups also say that other counties are not targeting dispensaries, and that San Diego County's doing so will force local patients "into the streets" to "score" marijuana from drug dealers."It's just very distressing," Craig McClain, a Vista patient who uses marijuana to help ease the pain of his crushed spine, said recently. "(Targeting dispensaries) is definitely a form of harassment. To me, I'm so overwhelmed. There's nobody brave enough in our government to stand up and help us." Ongoing ControversyEven though 55 percent of California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, the law remains vague and problematic in the state ---- with counties, state officials and law enforcement officers still unsure how to effectively implement it.The 1996 law simply said that seriously ill people had the legal right to "obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes."It did not say how people would get the drug. Instead, it "encouraged" the state and federal governments to implement a plan to safely distribute medical marijuana ---- something that a decade later has still not been done.California legislators passed a law in 2003, hoping to fix the distribution questions and make it easier for law enforcement officers to tell who "legitimate" medical marijuana patients were. The law, Senate Bill 420, ordered counties to create identification card and registry systems.But San Diego County supervisors balked. They decided to ignore SB 420. And in December, they filed a lawsuit to actually overturn the Compassionate Use Act ---- arguing that the state law should be pre-empted by federal law that says all marijuana use is illegal.Critics say the supervisors have mounted their precedent-setting opposition because they simply politically disagree. Each of the supervisors have said they think marijuana is "bad," and that creating identification cards for its use would tell children that drug use was "OK."But the supervisors have maintained they simply feel it is wrong to honor California's law because federal law bans all marijuana use.The lawsuit is important because it marks the first time a county has sued to overturn any of the medical marijuana laws approved by voters in 11 states.The trial court is expected to rule on the lawsuit in November. But whatever the judge decides, officials said they expect that appeals will result in the issue being headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dispensaries 'Visited'Meanwhile, law enforcement in San Diego County, like county supervisors, appears to have taken a more aggressive posture toward marijuana dispensaries. They rode along with federal agents and helped in July's raids and seizures.That, in turn, appears to have made federal drug enforcement agents more aggressive as well. In late July, a week after the raids and arrests, drug enforcement officials "visited" the remaining dispensaries they knew about, to let them know they were violating federal law ---- regardless of California's marijuana laws.Mosler said those dispensaries were warned that federal agents could return with new arrest warrants."I think the key message was, 'We could be back,' " said Dan Simmons, spokesman for San Diego County's federal drug enforcement office.William Dolphin, spokesman for Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access that has advocated on behalf of medical marijuana patients, said: "The understanding I have is that they were not exactly veiled threats, but direct threats of arrest ---- 'We will be back and if your doors are open, we will arrest you.' "Other counties are not taking such actions.Special Agent Joycelyn Barnes of San Francisco's regional drug enforcement office said federal agents there don't bother medical marijuana dispensaries."We try to target the large growers," Barnes said, "because they would supply the dispensaries. The (dispensaries) are not our main focus."Likewise, officials from Riverside County's district attorney's office said they were not targeting dispensaries in that county. Riverside officials said their county was actually trying to adopt rules to guide how dispensaries would be operated legally within their jurisdiction.Mosler, meanwhile, said last week that he believes the recent raids and "visits" by federal and local law enforcement have essentially shut down all the dispensaries in San Diego County, except for "mobile" dispensaries ---- operated out of people's cars. Who's The Target? Mosler said last week that San Diego County empathizes with, and has not targeted for prosecution, medical marijuana users.He said unscrupulous doctors have made fortunes selling phony medical marijuana recommendations for patients who don't need the drug, and that dispensaries could become magnets for crime.Mosler said the dispensary workers arrested in July allegedly sold marijuana to law officers ---- not patients."We've never harassed patients here," Mosler said.He said that under California's Compassionate Use law, patients, or their immediate caregivers, can legally grow their own marijuana.But Dolphin and patients like McClain said shutting down the dispensaries amounted to harassing medical marijuana patients."The fact, really and truly, is that it is the most ill people who need dispensaries (to buy marijuana)," Dolphin said. "Say you've just started chemotherapy and you've become violently ill. You're probably too sick to plant a garden. You can't wait for plants to mature. And most folks don't have the space to grow plants."He said the county's action would essentially force patients out into the streets to find "black market" dealers.McClain, whose spine was crushed by falling steel girders in a construction-related accident in 1990, said he does not want to grow marijuana at his home in part because he is afraid federal agents would raid his family's house.McClain smokes marijuana a few times each day to help relax debilitating spasms that plague his screwed-together spine.Mosler said he genuinely empathizes with McClain and other San Diego County residents who say they need marijuana to help them battle pain from cancer, burns, injuries, eating disorders and other ailments.But Mosler said he also regards medical marijuana dispensaries as illegal ---- even if they are selling only to legitimate patients. He said California's still-debated medical marijuana laws don't allow for "dispensaries" that earn profits by selling medical marijuana.Indeed, the Compassionate Use Act only says that it "encourages the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need."McClain said that clearly is not happening in San Diego County."For some reason, San Diego County has taken it upon itself to be the vanguard of this ignorant movement," he said.Dolphin agreed."No one wants their cancer-stricken grandmother going out on the street corner trying to score some marijuana," he said. "The will of voters was more with the patients."Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)Author: Gig Conaughton, Staff WriterPublished: August 13, 2006Copyright: 2006 North County TimesContact: letters nctimes.comWebsite: http://www.nctimes.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Americans For Safe Access Get OK To Oppose MMJ Challenge The Pot To The Patients Judge: County's Marijuana Suit Should Go To Trial
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Comment #6 posted by Richard Zuckerman on August 15, 2006 at 10:37:16 PT:
Is the area a high crime area? Are the cops bored? Is there an arrest quota? Have there been many altercations in the area? How many drunk driving arrests and convictions? How many murders, robberies, rapes, thefts? 
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on August 15, 2006 at 06:19:48 PT
The WoSD is Becoming a Political Liability
The War on Some Drugs is becoming a political liability. Witness: Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski fighting to survive politically. Their continued activist support for unpopular wars is an insult to their constituents. We have the prohibitionists' numbers now. They can no longer hide in the shadows and do their nefarious dirty-work. They can no longer ignore the will of the majority, which favors medical cannabis for those patients who need it to ameliorate their suffering. The San Diego Supervisors are signing their own political death certificates, suicide by lies. The voters should show zero tolerance for this expensive fear-mongering which is harming the poorest, sickest and weakest members of the community.
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Comment #4 posted by museman on August 14, 2006 at 11:35:34 PT
"What kind of person could adopt a livelihood that demands destroying other people's lives?"Macho men with tiny minds and smaller wee-wees, and macho women with deep deep problems.Sick people every one.
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Comment #3 posted by whig on August 13, 2006 at 19:47:53 PT
We need to remind progressives that cannabis is the foundational issue -- if you will take power away from the authoritarians, and propose to manage the enforcement powers of the state without becoming authoritarians yourself -- you must end cannabis prohibition.Are you going to provide medicine to the sick, but not allow us to take what works?Are you going to let people practice their religion, but not let us take our sacrament?Are you going to force us to stop?Are you going to end this war?
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Comment #2 posted by mayan on August 13, 2006 at 17:42:25 PT
Grow Spines
Special Agent Joycelyn Barnes of San Francisco's regional drug enforcement office said federal agents there don't bother medical marijuana dispensaries.That's because the DEA would be run out of town. If the citizens of San Diego would grow spines and demand the immediate resignation of their county supervisors and the immediate witdraw of the DEA then this issue would be at least partially resolved. I just can't believe anyone would put up with such arrogant,unlawful "supervisors."Wayne, I beleive the feds are absolutely terrified of a legitimate,effective system of medical cannabis distribution being set up in California. If California was allowed to become a successful model it would encouage many other states to adopt medical cannabis laws and the populace would notice that the sky had not fallen. The war on cannabis in all of it's forms would be all but lost.Yes,this war on cannabis (medicinal,industrial,recreational)
is priority one for fed leo's because the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries (among others) pay for it. What kind of person could adopt a livelihood that demands destroying other people's lives?
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Comment #1 posted by Wayne on August 13, 2006 at 07:49:45 PT
my God..
Are there NO child predators in San Diego that they could be going after? Is the crime rate in San Diego so low that they have plenty of spare time to go after dispensaries? And will it really make a dent in helping them to achieve their "goal" of a drug-free society? I say that the good people of San Diego who still have a brain left should be protesting their asses off and calling this DA on his bulls**t lies.This proves my point: law enforcement doesn't give a s**t about traffickers anymore. They just want to go after users and dispensaries because they're easier targets. In my mind, it amounts to a de facto surrender in the WoD. Instead of using their resources as they're meant to be used and going after traffickers and smugglers, they have resorted to shooting fish in a barrel... The public needs to realize this and there needs to be some visible outrage. If the PTB succeed, this will spread like plague through every county in California.
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