Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jan 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Doni Greenberg, 


Just for principle's sake, I'll be glad when those 41 marijuana plants are
returned to Richard Levin - even if they are dead.

We, the voters, approved Proposition 215 in 1996, allowing patients to use
marijuana with a doctor's approval. I voted for it. It seemed the
compassionate thing to do. I figured what happened next was between doctors
and their patients.

Since its passage, Proposition 215 has reminded me of when Cinderella's
stepmother said yes, Cinderella could go to that high-falutin' ball. (Wink,
wink). Glory be, what do you know, first Cinderella had to clean the castle
with cleanser and a toothbrush. Next, she was locked in her room. Finally,
she had nothing but rags to wear. But sure, she could go to the ball.

Well, for patients who need marijuana to ease their symptoms, the good news
was the voter approval of Proposition 215 ensured they could use marijuana.
(Wink, wink). What followed was a steep uphill battle for those patients
who actually tried to take advantage of Proposition 215.

First, they had to find a doctor willing to prescribe marijuana. Next, they
had to tiptoe around the long arm of law enforcement that hated Proposition
215 and continued to view pot as the stepping stone leading to heroin and
all evils - not a potential medicinal aid. Finally, Lord help the patients
who did get a doctor's OK, only to learn they live in counties where
officials had done nothing but scratch their heads since 1996 regarding
handling the initiative.

In Tehama County, officials established Proposition 215 standards in
November, which is better late than you-know-what. They set their
guidelines after conferring with marijuana experts, the state attorney
general's office and Proposition 215 proponents. Consequently, Tehama
County marijuana patients know the rules: they can grow 18 seedlings, but
can only possess six vegetating, budding plants. If Tehama officials
discover patients with more pot than they're allowed, drug agents will
remove the excess. Nobody gets in trouble.

In 1998, the city of Oakland passed a resolution supporting the use of
medical marijuana and gave the go-ahead for patients to have a three-month

Here in Redding, 49-year-old Levin was arrested in May 1998 by Shasta
County sheriff's deputies after they found 1 pounds of pot in his bedroom
and 41 marijuana seedlings growing in his back yard. On Dec. 15 a jury's
verdict to acquit Levin marked the first time in Shasta County history -
perhaps even the state - that a medical marijuana defendant was acquitted
since Proposition 215's approval.

Here in Shasta County, law enforcement deals with marijuana-using patients
on a case-by-case situation. But on a case-by-case situation, how in the
world are patients to know how many seedlings are too many seedlings - more
than law enforcement would consider reasonable?

It would be terrific if California adopted statewide Proposition 215
guidelines. This would avoid the possible scenario of having next-door
counties with conflicting Proposition 215 regulations: In one county it
might be okey-dokey to grow an acre of marijuana, while the next county's
regulations might require that patients possessing 1 ounces of pot are
handcuffed and hauled to jail.

Regarding statewide guidelines about seedling standards, I can't help but
put on my gardening hat and recall that I always plant more basil seedlings
than I'll really need. While I may only want four bunches of basil, I
assume not all the seedlings will make it, so I'll plant eight, just for
good measure. Maybe growing marijuana is similar. Maybe some patients are
better gardeners than others.

Personally speaking, though I've never cottoned to the idea of using
mind-altering substances, I've always believed the use of marijuana should
be an adult, personal decision - just like tobacco and alcohol.

Just think, if adults' use of marijuana had never been criminalized, we'd
have more room in jails and prisons for real criminals. And most of all, if
adults' use of marijuana had never been criminalized, Proposition 215 would
never have been necessary in the first place.

Doni Greenberg's column appears each Wednesday and Sunday. She can be
reached at  or 225-8237.
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