MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Senate Committee Kills Bill
The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee threw out a bill last week that would have placed a two-plant limit and other restrictions on the use of medical marijuana, the Scripps Howard News Service/Denver Rocky Mountain News reports. Under the measure, proposed by state Sen. Maurice Johannessen (R-Redding), patients would be restricted to growing two indoor or six outdoor plants and could not posses more than 1.3 pounds of the drug. In addition, the bill would have required doctors prescribing marijuana to record dosages, quantities and frequency of use and to limit recommendations to one year. Proponents of the measure argued that 1996's Proposition 215 was too "vague" and forced local police to decide where to draw the line. Joined by law enforcement officials from several other counties, Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope and District Attorney McGregor Scott told the Senate panel that there is an "emergency situation" in both the law enforcement and patient communities. But opponents argued that patients need varying amounts of marijuana to help relieve pain and pointed out that "crops are fickle and hard to predict." Another pending bill introduced last year would authorize county health departments to establish growing and possession guidelines. Passed by the Senate, the measure is awaiting House consideration (Hazle, 4/6).
The Senate measures are an attempt to iron out inconsistencies across the state in policing medical marijuana use. The Washington Times reports that while some county sheriffs refuse to recognize the law, others "either do nothing about medipot or appear to encourage its use." In Los Angeles and Placer counties, law enforcement officials have arrested high-profile medical marijuana activists, while residents of Arcata simply need a written or verbal prescription from any doctor to obtain a medipot identification card from the sheriff's office. After verifying the prescription, the police chief issues patients a photo ID allowing them up to 10 flowering plants. And San Francisco is set to become the "first major metropolis with its own system of legalized marijuana." In the middle of these extremes is Sheriff Tony Craver of Mendocino County, who vows never to arrest users or growers of medical marijuana. "[I]f Janet Reno wants to come in here and arrest me for giving the people what they already voted for, I say fine. If you're sick, you shouldn't have to worry about arrest or being hassled by the cops or having your property seized just for doing something that is legally protected." Federal drug enforcement officials, including Gen. Barry McCaffery, scoff at medical marijuana, calling research that shows potential benefit for patients "a crock." Because federal laws supersede state laws and marijuana use still constitutes a crime on the federal level, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) has had a difficult time setting consistent standards for legal marijuana use and growth (Elias, 4/9).