Pubdate: Sat, 26 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

Medical marijuana advocates call Johannessen's plan too restrictive

Legislation he says will ''clear up the cloud of smoke hovering over''
medicinal marijuana use was introduced in Sacramento on Friday by
state Sen. Maurice Johannessen, R-Redding.

Based on guidelines proposed by former state Attorney General Dan
Lungren in 1998, the measure would make it illegal for a medical
marijuana patient to grow more than two outdoor plants or six indoor
plants at one time.

Those guidelines apparently are almost identical to a proposal
expected to be released by Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope next week.

Under Johannessen's plan, a patient who chose to buy marijuana rather
than grow it could have no more than 11/3 pounds at any time.

In addition, the bill includes a number of other restrictions,
including a provision that doctors shall not recommend more than a
quarter-ounce of marijuana a week for medical use.

That's about six one-gram joints a week.

''Law enforcement officials want to do their jobs and they're calling
for guidelines,'' Johannessen said in a prepared statement. ''I will
work with law enforcement and medical groups to ensure that there is
proper uniformity in our medical marijuana laws.''

Proponents of medicinal marijuana immediately slammed the measure,
Senate Bill 2089, calling it too restrictive.

''It's totally unrealistic. It sounds like it gives them just about
carte blanche to arrest anyone who grows marijuana for medical use,''
said Dr. Tom O'Connell, a San Francisco Bay area physician who is a
medicinal marijuana proponent. ''That's impossible. This is insane,''
said Richard Levin, 49, of Redding, who was acquitted of cultivation
of marijuana for sale in December. ''I'll have to be out there buying
on the black market every week because I won't be able to grow it.''

Pope called on Johannessen to draft the legislation after Levin's

Levin had 41 marijuana plants and 11/2 pounds of processed pot at his
house when sheriff's deputies searched it on May 6, 1998. Levin has
said he smokes about an ounce of marijuana a week.

Levin said the biggest problem with limiting amounts of marijuana is
that one plant can be three times as potent as another. Since there
have been no studies to pin down potencies, patients using a less
potent strain might need to smoke three times as much as patients
smoking more powerful pot, he said.

Johannessen's bill would impose a number of other rules, including
requirements that doctors who recommend marijuana specify the illness
for which it is recommended, dosage, quantity and frequency of use.

Recommendations would be valid for no longer than a

''The failure of a physician to comply with the requirements of this
section shall constitute unprofessional conduct,'' the bill reads.

Before they could plant marijuana, patients with valid physicians'
recommendations would be required to register with the state
Department of Health Services. ''With the patient's consent,'' that
information would be forwarded to law enforcement officers in the
patient's hometown, the bill proposes.

Pope's plan, apparently based on the same Lungren guidelines, was to
have been released this week. It also has the approval of Redding and
Anderson police and Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott and
has been in the works for weeks.

''We're not ready to discuss it yet,'' Undersheriff Larry Schaller
said Friday. ''We're handling it internally first before it's

Redding Police Chief Bob Blankenship said he signed off on the
guidelines Friday and they follow Lungren's.

But unless Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, is altered by
Johannessen's bill, the local guidelines will remain just that,
Blankenship said.

That is because the voter-approved initiative steers clear of
specifying amounts, doses or many other restrictions on medicinal
marijuana use.

Other cities and counties have adopted their own widely disparate

In Oakland, for example, patients can keep on hand 11/2 pounds of
marijuana, considered a three-month supply, and may plant and maintain
up to 60 outdoor plants until they have 30 flowering plants. Indoor
gardens, which yield smaller plants, may have 96 plants until 48 of
those plants flower.

Once the specified number of plants flowers, the others are supposed
to be destroyed.

Blankenship offered a ''thumbnail'' of how the more restrictive
guidelines will work in Redding.

''Officers will use discretion on each individual case. Each officer
will weigh the information available at the time against the
guideline,'' he said.

Blankenship said that he, like Pope, is anxious to see Proposition 215
given more specific language because now ''it's a crapshoot with each
county having all kinds of different rules. It's not fair to the
public, not fair to police officers.''

Another ''clarifying'' bill, one that contains no limits on numbers of
plants or allowable pot poundage, already is on the state Assembly
floor. It is sponsored by state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose,
whose chief of staff said earlier this week that Johannessen's bill is

Senate Bill 848 would require the state Department of Health Services
to run a voluntary identification card program for qualified patients,
using county welfare departments to make the program local.

Levin's attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, said at a press conference
earlier Friday that Pope has shown disregard for Proposition 215 since
it was enacted in 1996.

''The law says there's no sanction or prosecution'' for medical
marijuana use and ''that's supposed to be the end of it,'' Berg said,
accusing Johannessen of giving Pope ''a kind of political cover'' to
justify prosecution of medical marijuana users.

Besides, Berg said, ''Johannessen can't change the law. (Gov.) Gray
Davis can't. The only people who can change the law are the people
through a later initiative.''

Johannessen aide Dean McEwen said Friday that he believes that his
boss is ''only implementing the law, not changing it,'' and that
legislative analysts ''would have flagged it for us'' had it crossed
that line.

But he said Johannessen would be ''more than willing'' to draft an
initiative if necessary, or to make other changes in the current
proposal that other legislators deem necessary.

''This is a starting point,'' McEwen said. ''We're not wedded to this
- -- we're throwing them (guidelines) out like rice.''
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