Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jun 2001
Source: Oakland Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Author: Cecily Burt and Laura Counts; Josh Richman contributed to this
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Council Member Says Users Are Allowed Too Many Plants 

OAKLAND -- City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente has made no secret he
doesn't support Oakland's medical marijuana ordinance. Now he wants to
drum up support to drastically reduce the number of plants patients are
allowed to cultivate. 

Oakland's medical marijuana policy, adopted in June 1998, allows
qualified patients and care givers to keep 11/2 pounds of pot --
considered a three-month supply. The policy is one of the most liberal
in the state, and De La Fuente wants to bring it in line with other
cities' laws, which allow patients to keep much lower supplies of
marijuana. For example, Berkeley allows 10 plants and Mendocino allows

De La Fuente thinks the total number of immature and mature plants
allowed by Oakland ordinance -- 144 -- is too high and should be reduced
to 15. He plans to bring the issue to Council Rules Committee today to
be scheduled for discussion at a later date. 

"I'm going to amend the ordinance to reduce the number of plants
allowed," he said. "We have the highest number of plants that people are
allowed to cultivate. It's a detriment to our community. I'm not going
after the whole ordinance, just going to reduce the number of plants to
15 from 144. 

"I'm going to ask everyone how they are going to justify the 144
plants," he said. 

Mayor Jerry Brown on Wednesday declined to comment on De La Fuente's
proposal, saying he didn't know the details. 

Councilmember Jane Brunner was the only elected official who returned
calls regarding De La Fuente's plans Wednesday, and she said a limit of
15 plants was too low. A coalition of interests set Oakland's medical
marijuana limit to begin with, she said, and if it needs to be changed,
they should be the one to address it. 

"My mother lived with me the last year of her life at age of 91,"
Brunner said. "She never used (marijuana), but she had several friends
who had cancer and marijuana was the only thing that killed the pain. 

"I am a supporter of medical marijuana," Brunner said. "Some need it,
but those people who are in their 80s and 90s are not going to be
growing it for themselves, they've never used drugs in their lives. So
the (the limit on plants) needs to be high enough so other people can
grow it and sell it to the club." 

Jeff Jones, founder of Oakland's Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, wasn't
pleased to hear De La Fuente was trying to amend the ordinance, but he
wasn't necessarily surprised because the council member didn't support
it in 1998. 

He said Oakland's cannabis ordinance is not a shield for criminals, and
De La Fuente is off the mark if he thinks the law handcuffs police when
it comes to prosecuting others who are dealing pot. 

He said Oakland's policy and the cooperation between police and the
cannabis club results in far fewer problems and lawsuits for the city to
deal with.

Jones said the amount of marijuana patients and care givers are allowed
to have was determined by a working group set up by the city. It
included representatives from the city, the police department and
medical experts. 

"That was their conclusion," Jones said. "The alternative is to have no
limit. The state law does not have limitations." 

State voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of
1996, to ensure that seriously ill people have the right to obtain and
use marijuana for medical purposes. Cancer and AIDS patients use it to
combat nausea and weight loss. Physicians prescribe it for symptoms of
glaucoma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and migraine headaches, and
other chronic illnesses. 

But then-Attorney General Dan Lungren quickly moved to shut down several
cannabis clubs in Northern California that provided medical marijuana to
qualified patients, including the Oakland cooperative, saying the clubs
violated federal narcotics laws. 

The U.S. Supreme Court in May unanimously ruled against the Oakland
Cannabis Buyers Cooperative's claim that medical necessity is a defense
for breaking the federal ban on marijuana, so groups like the
cooperative can be federally prosecuted for growing and distributing

Unwilling to admit defeat, medical marijuana advocates said the ruling
deals only with federal law, not the state laws under which most
marijuana cases are tried. 

The California Supreme Court in March accepted a Tuolumne County case
which could decide whether Proposition 215 provides medical marijuana
users with immunity from state prosecution, or just a defense once
they're being prosecuted. The case could let the court contemplate
standards on how many plants a patient can have before prosecutors can
file felony cultivation charges. 

Meanwhile, a bill by state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, would
create a voluntary registry system with photo identification cards for
patients cleared to possess and use marijuana. SB 187 also would require
the state to develop science-based regulations on how much marijuana can
be possessed for medicinal purposes, but wouldn't directly set such
standards itself. 

The Senate passed it 23-8 June 6, and now it's pending before the
Assembly Health Committee. Gov. Gray Davis this month said he'll wait
for the bill to hit his desk before he takes a position on it, but
although he respects the will of the voters regarding medical marijuana,
he staunchly opposes drug use. When Vasconcellos introduced a similar
plan in 1999, Davis signaled he'd veto it and it was withdrawn.
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