Pubdate: Fri, 04 Feb 2000
Source: Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Calaveras Enterprise
Contact:  15 N. Main Street/P.O. Box 1197, San Andreas, CA  95249
Fax: (209) 754-4396
Author: Scott Mobley


Local law enforcement authorities say a Calaveras County jury's recent
decision to acquit a medical cannabis cultivator won't stop them from
going after people they suspect are illegally growing the weed.

"We certainly don't want to interfere with legitimate use," said
Dennis Downum, Calaveras County sheriff. "But there are probably nine
frauds for every medical user and we are having a hell of a time
weeding them out."

Prosecutors had accused William Roth Harrison, 50, of Vallecito, of
possessing and growing cannabis for sale.

Authorities seized 64 plants at two outdoor gardens in September, 1998
and arrested Harrison despite his recommendation from a local and Bay
Area doctor that he use marijuana to treat his chronic pain, nausea,
vertigo and tinnitus.

Prosecutors argued that Harrison had enough pot to smoke an ounce a
day for a year, which is way too much. The  jury's decision to acquit
him didn't compel them to change their minds.

"I think that's a significant amount, more than any human can smoke
and still function," said Peter Smith, Calaveras County's district

Downum said a doctor's note would not have kept deputies from
arresting Harrison, because he had planted so many plants.

Smith, meanwhile, said he respects the jury's decision, which will
make his staff look harder at amounts in the future.

But the acquittal won't make his office back off prosecuting people
possessing more pot than medically necessary.

William Logan, Harrison's attorney, argued that his client grew far
more than he would smoke in a year to insulate himself against the
risks of cultivation, which include theft and predation by animals in
addition to arrest.

State voters in 1996 passed Prop. 215, which legalized possessing and
growing marijuana for folks with a written or oral doctor's

But the law never spelled out how much cannabis was appropriate for
medical marijuana users.

That's left patients, doctors, and law enforcement officials in a
quandary, both Smith and Downum said.

Downum noted that the jury might have decided differently had it some
criteria for appropriate medical marijuana use.

Tehema County, in the northern Sacramento Valley, recently decided to
let medical marijuana patients grow up to six plants, Downum said.

Both Downum and Smith will be on a task force to develop medical
marijuana guidelines in this county.

But both would prefer state guidance on the issue, which Downum
expects within the year.

San Francisco, Mendocino and Humboldt counties have also developed
Prop. 215 guidelines, while Shasta County, under pressure from a
lawsuit, is working out a policy.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week approved
identification cards for medical marijuana patients that would let
them get high grade cannabis from dispensaries without fear of arrest.

Mendocino County already has such a program. 
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart