Pubdate: Tue, 15 May 2001
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  http://www.redding.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/360
Author: Maline Hazle, Record Searchlight

DA SAYS RULING SUPPORTS U.S. AID IN DRUG SEIZURES

Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that federal drug laws make no 
exceptions for medicinal marijuana use justifies calling federal drug 
agents to seize pot even if medical users are exonerated in state court, 
Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott said.

"They have spoken quite clearly that this (marijuana distribution) is still 
a violation of federal law, regardless of what California has done" in 
approving Proposition 215, Scott said.

He also said that the opinion validates a controversial decision made by 
Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope in January 2000 to call federal drug agents 
rather than obey a Superior Court judge's order to return 41 plants and 22 
ounces of processed pot to acquitted medical marijuana user Rick Levin of 
Redding.

Pope's decision was "absolutely appropriate," Scott said. "It (the drug 
use) was still a violation of federal law."

Eric Berg, the Redding attorney who successfully defended Levin, strongly 
disagreed.

"All state officials are sworn to uphold state law unless some superior 
appellate court orders them to do otherwise or unless the law is found to 
be invalid by state court or federal court," Berg said. "Sheriff Pope is 
not allowed to pick and choose which state laws he wants to follow, which 
court orders he wants to follow."

Berg said Proposition 215, approved by California voters in 1996, always 
has been found to be valid and that Monday's Supreme Court ruling didn't 
change that.

The Compassionate Use Act makes it legal for patients to use marijuana with 
a doctor's recommendation.

The court was not ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 215, 
rather on whether distribution of the drug violates state law, Berg said.

"I think that this whole notion that the federal government has pre-empted 
states' rights to regulate marijuana is completely inconsistent with the 
fact that the states for years have regulated marijuana," Berg said. 
"People are prosecuted all the time for selling and possessing."

Sponsors of Proposition 215 agreed with Berg, saying Monday's ruling has no 
effect on California and eight other states that permit patients to grow 
and use marijuana as medicine.

"Since virtually all low-level marijuana cases are prosecuted under state 
laws, the nine states now regulating patients' use of marijuana will 
continue to do so," said Bill Zimmerman, director of the Santa Monica-based 
Americans for Medical Rights, in a statement released Monday afternoon.

Levin, whose home-grown marijuana sparked the Pope controversy, said 
cannabis club's such as the Oakland cooperative that sparked the Supreme 
Court ruling charge too much money for pot anyway.

The ruling, he predicted, will prompt more cooperative cultivation between 
patients.

But, as Scott noted, the court ruling specifically mentioned both 
distribution and manufacturing  growing  marijuana.

Some legal experts do not expect any changes in the federal approach to 
marijuana growing  essentially one of leaving small growers in the hands 
of state and local law enforcement.

Scott's office has prosecuted several other medical marijuana users, 
winning convictions in some cases, dropping others. Since the Levin case 
both the sheriff and the Redding Police Department have returned seized 
medical marijuana to patients after cases were dropped or when charges were 
not filed.

Scott said the ruling "will not directly impact how those cases are handled 
on a daily basis."

Redding Police Chief Bob Blankenship said Monday that he will wait for 
Scott's instructions about whether to return medical marijuana in future cases.

Scott declined to say what those instructions will be.

"We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D