MEDICAL MARIJUANA: State Senator Will Draft Legal Limits Law
State Sen. Maurice Johannessen (R-Redding) announced last week that he will draft a law to establish legal limits on marijuana growth for medicinal users, the Scripps-McClatchy News Service/Contra Costa Times reports. He hopes the measure will help guide law enforcement officials, who have been left on their own to interpret 1996's Proposition 215. "State legislators, in their usual fashion, have been diving for cover on this issue, leaving the sheriffs in the state and the district attorneys hanging out there," Johannessen said, adding, "I do not support marijuana use, but it's not my decision. It was made by the people when they voted." After talking with law enforcement officials to create "reasonable guidelines that can be imposed by every county in the state," Johannessen said he plans to introduce the measure as "urgency legislation," allowing it to take effect immediately, should the Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis (D) approve it (Hazle, 1/24).
Pot ID Cards
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, supervisors today are expected to approve a measure allowing city health workers to issue ID cards to qualified medical marijuana users and their caregivers. Supervisor Mark Leno, who proposed the program, hopes the new law will make it easier for local law enforcement officials to identify "legitimate users." He said, "Many groups came to me expressing a desire to be able to recommend, provide and use cannabis without fear of harassment or persecution. The police also asked for a way to distinguish legitimate users from illicit ones." ID cards would be available to patients for a "modest fee" and would be valid for two years. In order to protect privacy, each card would feature a "unique serial number" corresponding to the patient's state driver's license, state ID or passport, rather than a name and address. San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, the state DHS and medical marijuana advocates lauded the measure. "The legislation is going to help patients be more protected and enable Proposition 215 to work without further harassments to patients," Jeff Jones of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative said. But ACT UP of San Francisco worries that the "card program will herald a new era of pot arrests," since it only differentiates between legal and illegal users but does not guarantee "the safe procurement of the product for people who need it." ACT UP member Michael Bellefountaine also questioned officials' plan to charge a fee for the ID. In addition, city police oppose the proposal. Spokesperson Sherman Ackerson explained, "The department supports the notion of people needing marijuana for medical reasons. But Police Chief Fred Lau hasn't really been invited ... to work out these details, and it's his view that we need to sit down with city officials ... because there are .... abuses that can happen with this thing." Under Leno's proposal, abusers would be fined $250 and jailed for three months (Wilson, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/24). A bill proposed last year by state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose) that would create a similar program statewide currently is stalled (Scripps-McClatchy News Service/Contra Costa Times, 1/24).