Pubdate: Tue, 08 Aug 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W.  Scripps
Address: PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397

Action Seeks Protection For Medical Users

A medical marijuana patient's wrongful arrest lawsuit against Shasta County,
two sheriff's deputies and a jail doctor was amended Monday to add District
Attorney McGregor Scott as a defendant.

At the same time, the suit was expanded to become a class-action suit on
behalf of all the county's taxpayers and medical marijuana users.

The new action asks the court to forbid criminal prosecution or other
sanctions for possession or cultivation of marijuana unless it is determined
that the suspect is not a medical marijuana user or caregiver.

"We're not asking for money. We're asking for justice from law enforcement
and an end to the waste" caused by prosecuting medical marijuana patients,
said Oakland attorney William Simpich, who filed the original suit in

Simpich represents Richard and Kim Levin of Redding, who were arrested in
1998 after deputies peeked over their back fence and allegedly saw marijuana
plants growing in their yard.

Charges against Kim Levin, 35, later were dropped. Richard Levin, 50, who
has a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana to ease back and other
medical problems, was acquitted in December of growing marijuana for sale.

The February Shasta County Superior Court lawsuit seeks $25,000 for the
Levins, court costs and attorney's fees, but Simpich said the couple have
spent much more than that to win their acquittal.

In court documents Simpich filed Monday, he added allegations that Scott,
whose office prosecuted Richard Levin, is violating the state Compassionate
Use Act when Scott prosecutes medical marijuana patients at public expense
and that he and the county are breaking the law by spending public money to
prevent patients from "lawfully obtaining and using marijuana for medical

Scott said Monday afternoon that he had not yet been served with the
complaint, which makes specific comment "difficult."

But, he added, "an unfortunate part of this job is being named as a
defendant in frivolous lawsuits."

A section of the state Government Code grants prosecutors immunity from
civil suits that arise from their decisions to prosecute criminal cases,
Scott said.

"I fully expect that I and my office will be out of this (suit) at the
earliest possible time," he said.

Earlier Monday, Simpich amended another suit he filed against Tehama County
and Sheriff Clay Parker on behalf of seven medical marijuana patients whose
crops were confiscated and destroyed by drug agents last year.

In that case, two more plaintiffs, Frank and Daphne Kitchens, were added and
the district attorney's office was added as a defendant. District Attorney
Gregg Cohen was not named.

Calling Shasta and Tehama counties "the problem counties" in California,
Simpich suggested that law enforcement officers are using medical marijuana
busts as "revenue enhancers" because they seize money, guns and other
possessions from those arrested.

"If somebody is selling marijuana that's the time to arrest them," Simpich
said. "They should not be harassing people who are getting their medicine.
Those are investigations that are needless."
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