Pubdate: Thu, 14 Feb 2002
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 2002 The Orange County Register


For the first time in months, it appears that Santa Ana medical marijuana 
activist and patient Marvin Chavez could be moving toward a satisfactory 
resolution of his legal problems.

It can't come too soon. Localities like Orange County would do well to get 
their act together on the state law that authorizes patients to use 
marijuana, because it looks as if the federal government is beginning a 
heavy-handed crackdown.

Mr. Chavez, you may recall, was charged with cultivation for distribution 
and sale of marijuana after the Santa Ana police raided his home and 
confiscated the marijuana plants he was growing.

The founder of the Orange County Patient Doctor Nurse Support Group, who 
has a recommendation as a patient to use marijuana medicinally, says he was 
growing it all for his personal use, and his cultivation is protected under 
Prop. 215, passed by the voters in 1996. Wednesday, after months of 
preliminary legal maneuvering, Judge Gary S. Paer, after a proceeding in 
which Mr. Chavez finally agreed to be represented by a particular public 
defender and some legal issues were sorted out, set a date of March 5 for a 
preliminary hearing.

Marvin Chavez will soon have his day in court.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a cannabis dispensary and several growers were 
raided by federal agents in San Francisco, in what is seen as a sign that 
the Bush administration plans to get tough on medical marijuana patients.

On the same day, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance adopting 
the recommendations of its Medical Marijuana Task Force, setting up a 
voluntary patient identification system along with controls over 
cultivation and distribution.

Why the apparent confusion?

Because state law and federal law, as the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged 
in its decision last year that federal law contains no provision for a 
"medical necessity" defense, are simply different.

State, county and city officials are sworn to uphold state law - indeed, 
required by the California Constitution to do so. Federal officers are 
charged with enforcing federal law.

We hope the Chavez case provides an impetus for Orange County to move in 
the direction San Diego has taken: developing an ordinance to facilitate 
the rights of patients and respect the interests of law enforcement under 
state law, preferably after sober consultation with all interested parties.

The struggle to change federal law and policies will continue, and it would 
be folly to predict the outcome. In the meantime, Orange County's duty is 
to respect and implement state law.
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