Pubdate: Thu, 24 Feb 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Maline Hazle
Note: Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or at SHERIFF SEEKS BILL SUPPORT

Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope is lobbying his backers by mail for
support of a bill local law officers and state legislators are
drafting to ''clarify'' medicinal marijuana law.

''We need your help to obtain clarifying legislation on the medical
marijuana issue!'' says a letter sent to about 50 people so far and
signed by the sheriff.

A first draft of that legislation, written by state Sen. Maurice
Johannessen, R-Redding, should be completed today, a Johannessen aide
said Wednesday.

''Your support could be an important ingredient in the success of the
legislation,'' the letter says, prodding recipients to call or write
to Johannessen; Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, R-Redding, or state Sen.
John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose.

Vasconcellos is the author of another medicinal marijuana bill that is
before the Assembly in Sacramento.

Pope's letters, written on county sheriff's letterhead, started going
into the mail earlier this week and more will be sent out,
Undersheriff Larry Schaller said Wednesday.

Schaller said the mailings are ''relatively limited to some local
supporters and activists'' and primarily an effort to reinforce
Johannessen's proposed legislation.

He said it is ''not uncommon'' for Pope to spend part of his county
budget to seek support from constituents for statewide initiatives
that could help law enforcement.

''This isn't going to be an easy position'' for Johannessen, Schaller
said, speculating that the senator will be criticized by both
''ultraconservatives and from the other side who think he wants to
impede the law.''

''Once it's introduced it's going to snowball statewide,'' Johannessen
aide Dean McEwen predicted. ''This has really gotten a lot of

Johannessen is drafting the legislation at the behest of the sheriff
and District Attorney McGregor Scott, who called on him for help after
a Shasta County jury acquitted Richard Levin, 49, of Redding, in
December on a charge of cultivating marijuana for sale.

Although Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman ordered Levin's pot
returned, the sheriff instead handed it over to a federal agent who
had obtained a seizure warrant on the grounds that possession of
marijuana breaks federal law.

The sheriff and other local lawmen have complained repeatedly since
then that the state Compassionate Use Act approved by voters in 1996
is too vague and that they need guidelines for implementation.

''The proposed legislation will recommend that medicinal marijuana
patients register with the state or county department of public
health,'' the sheriff's letter says.

''The registration would include the name of the referring physician
and patient, the illness treated and the dosage, frequency and
duration of the treatment.

''If marijuana is to be used as a medicine, it needs to be the
responsibility of the medical community, not local law enforcement.
Quantities cultivated would then need to be consistent with the
verified medical use,'' it continues.

That could present problems, said Michael G. Arnold, executive
director of the Shasta-Trinity Medical Society, because Proposition
215, as approved by voters, requires only a physician's
''recommendation'' for medicinal marijuana use, not a

Dosages and frequency of use could push marijuana ''recommendations''
into the realm of marijuana ''prescriptions,'' and ''it is against
federal law, as we understand it, to prescribe marijuana,'' Arnold

In addition, Arnold said he is hoping to convince legislators to at
least consult the California Medical Association before finalizing
their proposal.

''If they're putting it on the medical community, they ought to get
the medical community involved,'' he said. ''It's a very complicated

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Rand Martin, Vasconcellos' chief of staff,
said that Johannessen's legislation isn't necessary because
Vasconcellos' SBA48 already addresses the issues and is ''much more

''The Shasta County sheriff needs to know that we're very aware of the
issue,'' Martin said. ''We recognize that the sheriff has legitimate
concerns and that Sen. Johannessen is responding to those concerns.

''Just because that's already being done, there's no reason to fault
him (Johannessen). We welcome him into the fold.''

But Martin said Pope should be aware that the state Sheriff's
Association helped put together the Vasconcellos bill and supports

Pope is a past president of that association.

Martin acknowledged Pope's push for legislation could be a way to
deflect controversy over not giving Levin back his marijuana.

''The issues law enforcement faces in Shasta County with the courts
are larger,'' he said. ''We're certainly disappointed that when the
court told the sheriff to give it back he called in the federales.
It's really a slap in the faces of California voters.''

McEwen said his boss wants to take ''a sliver of the Vasconcellos
bill'' and focus on that.

''We just want to help law enforcement do their job,'' he
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