Pubdate: Sat, 17 Mar 2001
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Website: http://www.redding.com/
Forum: http://www.redding.com/disc2_frm.htm
Author: Maline Hazle, Record Searchlight

MEDICAL USER SAYS SHERIFF, DA HAVE ARBITRARY RULES

Claiming they maliciously abused the law in searching his house and taking 
his marijuana plants, a Montgomery Creek man is suing Shasta County Sheriff 
Jim Pope, District Attorney McGregor Scott and two of Pope's deputies.

And in a separate action earlier this week, a San Francisco Bay area doctor 
who writes medical marijuana recommendations filed a $400,000 claim against 
Shasta County, charging Scott, Pope and other officials retaliated against 
his medicinal marijuana work by having him hauled before the state medical 
board last year.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Shasta County Superior Court on behalf 
of Robert Vanoy, who has a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana use.

But rather than protect him from criminal prosecution and other legal 
sanctions, as required by California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act, Pope, 
his deputies and Scott have used their own arbitrary medicinal marijuana 
guidelines to harass Vanoy, the suit contends.

The suit, which seeks $25,000, court costs and attorney's fees, is the 
second civil action filed against Pope and Scott by Oakland attorney 
William M. Simpich. Also named in the action are sheriff's deputies Jim 
Farmer and Jerry Shearman, members of the county's Marijuana Eradication Team.

Simpich's first suit, filed in February 2000 on behalf of medicinal 
marijuana user Richard Levin, 50, and his wife, Kim, 36, both of Redding, 
names deputies Tom Barner and Jerry Ashman.

That suit later was expanded into a class-action suit on behalf of all the 
county's taxpayers and medical marijuana users. The case is expected to go 
to trial in late summer.

Vanoy's case differs in that, unlike the Levins, he was not arrested. A 
spokeswoman for Scott said Friday that Vanoy's case was referred to the 
district attorney for possible prosecution, but was rejected specifically 
because he was a medical marijuana user.

Charges against Kim Levin later were dropped, but Levin went to trial and 
was acquitted of growing marijuana for sale in 1999.

Vanoy could not be reached for comment, but the suit contends that on Aug. 
27, 1999, Farmer, Shearman and an unidentified third deputy searched his 
house and property without a warrant, confiscated his marijuana plants and 
seized two firearms, guns that belonged to a neighbor.

Two months later, according to the suit, Shearman called Vanoy and said the 
guns would be returned if he promised not to sue.

But when the guns had not been returned by mid-2000, according to the suit, 
Vanoy called the sheriff's office to ask where they were.

Then, on July 27, Shearman and two other officers went to Vanoy's house, 
saying that the "district attorney sent them . . . to check up on him" and 
ensure that he was complying with the county's medical marijuana 
guidelines, which allow no more than two plants, the suit says.

When Vanoy told them he was growing plants for himself and another patient, 
the officers confiscated four of the eight plants they found growing at his 
house, according to the suit.

The suit attacks the guidelines, the searches and the continuous visits 
from deputies, arguing that they "thwart rather than facilitate" legitimate 
use of marijuana.

The guidelines are "wholly improper" and used "in an arbitrary and 
irrational manner," part of "a relentless campaign against marijuana in any 
form" the suit says.

Simpich said officers ought to be able to articulate the reasons they're 
searching houses without warrants.

"It's that kind of drug war mentality where the ends overtake the means 
that's so frustrating," he said. "What I find with these medical marijuana 
cases is there's a continuing history of abuses from not following search 
and seizure laws. . . . It's everything that's wrong with the drug war  
encapsulated."

Sheriff Pope declined comment Friday, saying that he has not seen the suit.

"I don't know anything about it," Pope said.

Scott, who was out of town Friday, said through a spokeswoman that he has 
not seen the suit and referred queries about it to the Shasta County 
counsel's office.

County Counsel Karen Jahr did not return a call seeking comment on the 
Vanoy suit and the $400,000 claim Simpich filed against Shasta County on 
Monday on behalf of Tod Mikuriya, a Berkeley doctor who has made hundreds 
of recommendations for medical marijuana use statewide.

In addition to Pope and Scott, that claim names the Shasta County Board of 
Supervisors and the county Probation Department.

Mikuriya charges that he and several patients were hauled in front of the 
state medical board last year in retaliation for his recommendations and 
court testimony on behalf of Shasta County medical marijuana patients.

If the county denies the claim, Mikuriya can sue.
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