Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2001
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Maline Hazle, Record Searchlight


Lawsuits and legal actions alleging abuses under California's Compassionate 
Use Act are becoming more common as medical marijuana users continue to 
balk at what they say are arbitrary rules enforced by local anti-drug warriors.

At the same time, more medical marijuana users appear to be fighting 
against criminal charges, rather then settling for reduced charges.

Already one district attorney, Paula Kamena of Marin County, faces a May 22 
recall election over her allegedly "inhumane" interpretation of Proposition 
215, approved by voters in 1996.

At least three other district attorneys, including Shasta County's McGregor 
Scott, are unofficial recall targets named by the American Medical 
Marijuana Association, which helped get the Kamena recall onto the ballot.

Jay Cavanaugh, the nonprofit group's Los Angeles coordinator, helped 
orchestrate the Kamena recall vote - and helped target Scott and district 
attorneys in Placer, El Dorado, Sonoma and Calavaras counties.

Sonoma and Calavaras have, at least temporarily, been dropped from the list 
because "opportunities have arisen for productive talks, we hope," 
Cavanaugh said. "We don't want to spend the money unless their behavior 
can't be changed any other way."

In Shasta County, Scott, Sheriff Jim Pope and other county officials face 
two lawsuits. Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker and that county were sued 
last year on behalf of seven medical marijuana patients whose crops were 
confiscated and destroyed in 1999.

Even more suits - at least nine - are pending in Placer County, where drug 
agents allegedly planned raids after staking out the parking lot of a 
Sacramento gardening supply store that specializes in hydroponics and organics.

Placer County drug agents are accused of recording license plates belonging 
to store customers, then tracing their owners through the state Department 
of Motor Vehicles.

Armed with addresses, the investigators checked power usage records; and 
armed with warrants based on allegedly fabricated evidence, raided at least 
70 homes suspected of housing secret marijuana gardens or stashes.

Among those busted were Michael Baldwin, a Rocklin dentist, and his wife, 
both of whom had recommendations for medical marijuana use.

In 1999 a jury deadlocked on the charges against the couple, but Placer 
County District Attorney Bradford Fenocchio said they would be prosecuted 

Then a highly publicized trial against former Libertarian gubernatorial 
candidate Steve Kubby and his wife resulted in a jury that hung 11-1 
against conviction on marijuana-growing charges, but convicted Steve Kubby 
on possession of minute amounts of psilocybin and mescaline found during a 
1999 search of his home.

On March 2, a Placer County Superior Court judge reduced those charges to 
misdemeanors and dismissed remaining pot charges at the district attorney's 

At the same time, Fenocchio filed a motion to block the Baldwins' retrial.

Those actions prompted the American Medical Marijuana Association to scale 
back their recall push, Cavanaugh said.

The Shasta Patients' Alliance touted criminal court victories last week, 
too, after Superior Court Judge Richard McEachen issued a tentative 
dismissal of charges against Josh Bushey and Thomas Ladewig, both of Anderson.

Last year Ladewig was the driver of a van carrying Frank Port, an Anderson 
medical marijuana user disabled by skeletal birth defects, and Port's 
caregiver, Bushey.

When stopped by Redding police the three were carrying 24 marijuana plants 
that they said they intended to plant for Port and another patient.

Marijuana possession charges against Port, who is confined to a wheelchair, 
were dismissed last summer; but Ladewig and Bushey, charged with marijuana 
trafficking, were to be tried separately.

McEachen ordered the charges dropped if the men are not arrested during the 
next year.

Wednesday, Craig Bateman of Redding agreed to plead guilty to driving under 
the influence of marijuana. Superior Court Judge Gregory Caskey ordered 
that 37 grams of marijuana and $11,000 seized from Bateman last year be 

Bateman, who carried an Oregon medical marijuana recommendation, was moving 
to California and carrying proceeds from a real estate sale when stopped by 
the California Highway Patrol.

Charges of possession and transportation of marijuana for sale were dropped 
after Bateman's Oregon doctor testified that he is a legitimate medical 
marijuana user.

District attorneys, police and deputies blame Proposition 215's "vagueness" 
for their enforcement problems. The law set no limits on the number of 
plants a patient can grow or possess, nor on the size of the plants.

On Feb. 7 state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, reintroduced a bill 
that would specify amounts allowed and establish a statewide registration 
system for medical marijuana users.

Similar proposed legislation died last year.

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court agreed to decide whether 
Proposition 215 creates automatic immunity from prosecution or can only be 
offered as a defense once a person is charged.

The justices also will consider standards for determining how many plants a 
patient can have before felony cultivation charges can be filed.
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