Pubdate: Tue, 03 Apr 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.
Author: Thomas D. Elias, Special Correspondent


Warn Against Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Patients

San Rafael, Calif. - Medical marijuana advocates who won public approval
of their cause in a 1996 California ballot initiative now are turning
to recall campaigns against county prosecutors who refuse to accept
the legalization of "medipot."

Already, activists for the American Medical Marijuana Association have
qualified a recall of Marin County District Attorney Pamela Kamena for
a May 22 vote. They're also circulating recall petitions in
neighboring Sonoma County, where District Attorney Michael Mullins is
about to try a group of local pot growers who say they sell
exclusively to the San Francisco Cannabis Users Cooperative, a medipot
users group that's legally recognized by the city of San Francisco.

The activists have served "official warnings" on half a dozen other
district attorneys, threatening recall campaigns if they don't cease
prosecuting patients who smoke marijuana to ease the pain and nausea
of some illnesses, and the dealers and growers who provide them with

"We see recall actions as a means of convincing local prosecutors to
comply with Proposition 215," said Steve Kubby, founder of the medical
marijuana association. "This isn't a vindictive thing on the part of
patients. It's a matter of survival."

But opponents say it's just a case of pot users wanting to coerce law
enforcement into letting them do their thing-whether for medical
purposes or not.

The initiative, which legalized the use of pot by patients with a
doctor's recommendation, passed in 1996 by 56 percent to 44 percent
and has produced confusion and controversy ever since. Some U.S.
attorneys and judges and many local sheriffs and prosecutors refused
to recognize it.

One of the district attorneys who has been warned of impending recall
is Bradford Fenocchio, who supervised the prosecution of Kubby and his
wife for marijuana possession in Placer County, near Reno, Nev.
Kubby's physician testified that he needs pot to combat a rare form of
adrenal cancer. The case ended in a hung jury on all felony charges,
and prosecutors said they wouldn't retry it.

The recall in leafy Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge
from San Francisco, comes despite what Kamena calls her "progressive
view" about medipot. Her office has issued guidelines exempting small
amounts of pot from possession prosecutions.

"These people want you to believe this is about medical marijuana,"
she said at a news conference. "It is not. This process is about the
rule of law and the entire legal process." She wondered publicly if
the funds for the recall drive, which cost about $15,000, came from
drug dealers, something Kubby denied.

Lynette Shaw, director of the medical marijuana association's Marin
County branch, responded that even when medipot patients are not
prosecuted, authorities in the county frequently confiscate their
supplies. "After they get arrested and lose their pot and go through
all these hoops, only then are they let go," she said. "Paula Kamena
gave the green light to the cops. They're harassing these poor
patients to death."

Other district attorneys who have been warned by the medipot advocates
include those in El Dorado, Orange and Shasta counties.

Opponents of the Marin County recall say the petition signature drive
that qualified the issue for a vote was misleading. The petitions,
they say, did not mention medipot, but attacked Kamena for prosecuting
a woman convicted of falsifying a court document in a child custody

Retired county Judge William Stephens, a Kamena supporter, maintains,
"The primary interest of those seeking to advance the petition is to
have the district attorney look away when marijuana is used."
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