Pubdate: Wed, 24 Apr 2002
Source: Daily Triplicate, The (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Western Communications, Inc.
Author: Jennifer Grimes


Medical marijuana users in Del Norte County can now relax knowing exactly 
what is expected of them from local law enforcement and the county Board of 

Yesterday, the supervisors voted 3-1, with one supervisor absent, to back a 
new policy allowing users to grow 99 plants and keep one pound of the 
processed drug on hand.

Supervisors Jack Reese, Clyde Eller and Martha McClure voted yes while 
David Finigan voted an unprecedented "none of the above," choosing not to 
abstain or vote yes or no. Supervisor Chuck Blackburn was not in attendance.

"The goal was to find something that was workable and would help us deal 
with this poorly written (state) law," said Del Norte County District 
Attorney Bob Drossel.

Drossel was one of a seven-member committee that put the new policy 
together. Sheriff Jim Maready, Crescent City Police Chief Bob West, 
Department of Mental Health Director Mick Miller, and county counsel Bob 
Black were some other members of the committee.

The need for a new set of guidelines arose when local law enforcement 
officials, judges and the users themselves didn't agree on the old policy 
set by Del Norte's district attorney's office.

Six plants, three in the growth stage and three in the budding stage, and 
one ounce of processed drug were the allowances in the old policy.

Users said that wasn't enough for some chronically ill patients and, 
because a policy of enforcement was not clearly marked and agreed upon, 
courts weren't able to make charges stick.

Public complaints to Reese inspired him to form the seven-member committee 
and to ask his board to support the policy the committee drafted.

"Why would some fool politician take on such a hot potato? People were 
telling me the policy wasn't working and that they were being mistreated 
... and evidently the courts were having trouble with it.

"The laws were vague and the state attorney general refuses to comment on 
it," Reese said to an audience of about 25 interested citizens waiting to 
hear if the board would support the new, more lenient guidelines yesterday.

Sheriff Maready and Drossel both warned that marijuana is still an illegal 
drug and every attempt will be made to prosecute violators of the law and 
that legal users with prescriptions will be punished for violating the new 
county policy.

Even with a prescription, no one is allowed to drive under the influence, 
illegally transport or sell marijuana.

Ex-sheriff's deputy and drug task force agent John Fay voiced concern about 
the number of plants allowed in the new policy and against marijuana use in 

And front-lines narcotic enforcement officer A.C. Fields told the 
supervisors his job will likely get harder with a more lenient policy.

"There's no doubt it's a pickle you're in. I believe in medical marijuana, 
but not Prop. 215. It makes it hard with 99 plants and a pound for us to go 
in a house where we've done several controlled buys and can't make an 
arrest," Fields said.

Reese noted that though 99 plants are allowed, the growing area must be 10 
feet by 10 feet.

"Anyone who grows anything knows you're not going to get much out of 99 
plants in a 10-by-10-foot area," Reese said.

Drossel agreed with Reese's assessment.

"We rely on our experts that with that area, you would only be left with 
six good plants," he said.

The supervisors' opinions varied on the topic of legalizing medical 
marijuana and the new local policy.

Finigan commended Reese and the local law enforcement leaders for 
addressing the problem, but said he didn't feel it is an issue for the 
supervisors to decide.

"I don't think this is an appropriate forum. It's a medical issue, not an 
issue for politicians. It should be between a doctor and their patient as 
to amounts," Finigan said.

Supervisor McClure said all of the constituents that have called her were 
for the new policy and her own experience with friends and family who 
benefitted from medical marijuana drove her to support the new policy.

"It's high time we, as a nation, 'fess up to the fact that it brings 
relief," McClure said.

In response to those concerned about allowing 99 plants, she said she is 
willing to take the political heat for giving those in need of the drug all 
the leeway they need.

"It sends a clear message that we are not going to mess with these people - 
that's why the numbers are high," she said.

Supervisor Eller said he leans to the conservative side regarding the 
legalization of medical marijuana, but briefly said he is in support of the 
new policy.

All seven of the committee members who drafted the policy will meet again 
in six months to decide if changes need to be made.
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