Pubdate: Sat, 24 Mar 2001
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Orange County Register
Contact:  P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711
Fax: (714) 565-3657
Author: Maline Hazle, Scripps Howard News Service
Note:  Enclosed official Placer County photo of Sheriff Ed Bonner's 
Marijuana Eradication Team (MET)


Lawsuits Filed By Users And Recalls Targeting District Attorneys Are Growing

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 
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 California voters in 1996.

At least three other district attorneys 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 district attorneys in 
Shasta, Placer, El Dorado, Sonoma and Calaveras counties.

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

At least nine lawsuits 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 plate numbers 
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 using warrants based on allegedly 
fabricated evidence, they raided at least 70 homes suspected of housing 
marijuana gardens or stashes.

Among those busted were Michael Baldwin, a 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 again.

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, or on the size of the plants.

On Feb. 7 state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, reintroduced a bill 
that would specify amounts allowed and establish a statewide registration 
system for medical marijuana users. Similar proposed legislation died last 

Two weeks ago, 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.
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