Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jan 2000
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Contra Costa Newspapers Inc.
Address: 2640 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Author: Maline Hazle, Scripps-McClatchy News Service


A State Senator Hopes A Cap On Legal Medical Growth Will Help Sheriffs
And District Attorneys Enforce The Law

REDDING - As California sheriffs and police continue to wrestle with the
medical marijuana law, state Sen. Maurice Johannessen said he will draft a
law to set limits on the amount of the drug that can be grown for medical use.

"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," said Johannessen, R-Redding.

Controversy has swirled around enforcement of Proposition 215 since it was
approved by voters in 1996.

Although the law allows patients and their primary caregivers to grow and
use "reasonable" amounts of marijuana if their doctors recommend it, it
sets no limits on how much can be grown and how much may be possessed for
personal use.

A wide range of interpretations has followed. In Tehama County, for
example, patients are allowed to grow 18 seedlings but can keep only six
plants that are beginning to bud. Once the plants mature they can keep
three. Other counties have said patients can keep three-month supplies of
marijuana but haven't specified how much that is.

The issue roils on in Shasta County, which has no guidelines for the amount
of marijuana patients can grow or possess. A jury acquitted Richard Levin,
49, of Redding last month on charges of growing marijuana for sale. Last
week, Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman ordered sheriff's deputies to
return marijuana confiscated when Levin was arrested, but federal
authorities seized the drug Friday.

It's those kinds of back-and-forth interpretations of the law that
Johannessen said he wants to eliminate.

"I do not support marijuana use, but it's not my decision. It was made by
the people when they voted," Johannessen said. "But it isn't fair to let
the sheriff and the district attorney hang out there just because the
Legislature doesn't have the guts" to clarify the law.

Johannessen's planned legislation can't come too soon for local law

Sheriff Jim Pope asked for the senator's help after the flap over Levin's
case, undersheriff Larry Schaller said.

"It's clear we need to clarify what is a valid prescription and what is a
legal quantity of both processed marijuana and marijuana by prescription,"
Schaller said.

Trinity County Sheriff Paul Schmidt agreed.

"We've been hoping the state would do something like that. It's very
difficult for law enforcement to decide. I mean, what do you do?" Schmidt
asked. "This should have been done before the legislation was even passed."

Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott, whose office unsuccessfully
prosecuted Levin, said he supports Johannessen's effort.

"Absolutely. We welcome any effort at the state level to address statewide
problems that are present in this statewide law," Scott said.

Johannessen said he will consult with law enforcement and others in an
attempt to develop reasonable guidelines that can be imposed by every
county in the state.

The bill will be introduced as "urgency legislation" so that if it wins
legislative approval it could go into effect as soon as it is signed by the
governor, he said.

"In two or three months we could be done," he said.

A law proposed last year by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, would
establish a program to issue identification cards to medical marijuana
users who request them. Ostensibly, the cards would alert police that the
holder is allowed to use and possess marijuana. That bill is currently
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