Pubdate: Wed, 17 Dec 2003
Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser (CA)
Column: Cannabinotes
Copyright: 2003 Anderson Valley Advertiser
Author: Fred Gardner
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Terence Hallinan has lost his bid for re-election to Kamala Harris, who 
says she will maintain his approach to law enforcement while running a more 
efficient district attorney's office.

Hallinan's humane charging policies have had direct, beneficial impacts on 
the lives of countless thousands of citizens.  Here's one small example, 
hardly ever publicized... "Welfare fraud" is a crime that usually involves 
poor people failing to notify the Dept. of Human Services that they got a 
low-level jobs (so their checks don't get cut off and maybe they'll have 
enough to buy their kid a bike...)  In such cases, Hallinan allowed people 
to avoid prosecution by making restitution to the state. Which meant they 
could hold onto their jobs and their public housing.  To his critics, such 
cases represented "failure to prosecute" and the stats were used against 
him in the media. But in the real world, many of those failures to 
prosecute translated into lives not ruined, homelessness averted.

Inevitably Hallinan will be remembered as the politician who sponsored the 
medical marijuana movement.  In 1991, as a city supervisor, he introduced 
the resolution directing the police and district attorney to let seriously 
ill people use marijuana. Dennis Peron could henceforth say that his 
cannabis buyers club was operating with the backing of the city.

Five years later, as Dennis and friends promoted Proposition 215, the 
statewide medical-use initiative, Hallinan was the only district attorney 
to endorse it. Every major candidate in the '96 election was urging a "no" 
vote -Bill Clinton and Bob Dole; Gray Davis and Attorney General Dan 
Lungren (who was running for Governor).  No-on-215 ads were made by former 
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and ex-presidents Ford, Carter and Bush. 
Lungren ordered a highly publicized raid on the cannabis buyers club in 
August, at the height of the campaign, and then portrayed the vote as a 
referendum on the right of "a San Francisco dope dealer" to do business.

Prop 215 carried by a 56-44 margin. More than five million Californians 
voted yes. But as many were about to learn, winning the election is only 
half the battle; actually getting the law enforced is a whole other thing.

At one minute after midnight on Nov. 6, 1996 -the instant that Prop 215 
became Section 11362.5 of the state's Health & Safety Code- a fax went out 
from AG Lungren summoning every police chief, sheriff, and district 
attorney in the state to an "Emergency All-Zones Meeting" in Sacramento 
Dec. 3 to discuss implementation policies.  In the meantime, Lungren 
advised, continue arresting people for cultivation, possession and 

I took off from work Dec. 3 and drove out to Sacramento with TH. On the way 
he read and commented in detail on an analysis of Prop 215 by a lawyer 
named Kevin Zeese. "I figure I'll be the only one there who's really for 
it," he said. "Why don't you come in with me?" He said when we got there. 
"The office is allowed to send two people, you can be my 'policy aide.'"

So I accompanied him into the lobby of the Sheraton Grand, and signed in 
for the meeting, and we entered the plain, fluorescent ballroom where 
folding chairs and tables had been set up facing the stage. About 300 cops, 
sheriffs, and DAs glared as the Antichrist and his leninist sidekick 
strolled in and took places towards the front. It so happened that Mike 
Mullins, then the DA of Sonoma County, was sitting in front of us (Mullins 
had been my daughter's soccer coach in another lifetime) and I started 
recounting how Mullins had met his wife-to-be, Liz, in April, 1970, at an 
anti-war demonstration on the Marina Green at which Terence had been the 
main speaker. Mullins was then a lieutenant in the military police, 
guarding the gate to the Presidio, and Liz was an attractive face in the 

Suddenly two of your larger cops flanked me and one of them asked, "Are you 
law enforcement?" "He's my policy aide," said Terence.  They wanted to see 
an i.d. with a star, which I don't have, so they marched me back down the 
aisle and I had to debrief Terence on the ride home.

Journalist Pat McCartney describes the "Emergency All-Zones Meeting" in a 
book chapter excerpted in the Winter O'Shaughnessy's (in press): " The 
day's first panel spelled out how local police and prosecutors should 
respond to the new law. District Attorney Mike Capizzi of Orange County, 
once the nominal co-chair of the No-on-215 campaign, advised the assembled 
prosecutors that they could still charge medical users with offenses not 
specifically exempted by the initiative. In fact, he added, they could 
still prosecute offenses named in the measure.

"'There's no reason to concede' charges of possession for sale or 
furnishing marijuana, Capizzi told the gathering. One handout at the 
meeting summarized the impact of Proposition 215 on existing Health & 
Safety Code sections. Attorney Diana L. Field summarized Capizzi's position 
in a memorandum to the California Police Officers Association. "In the 
meantime, the view of the Orange County District Attorney's Office is that 
police and prosecutors should continue to provide vigorous enforcement of 
the laws as written," Field informed the association's 3,600 members.

"The linchpin of the state response that day was 'Proposition 215: An 
Analysis,' written by Senior Deputy A.G. John Gordnier. The 13-page opinion 
effectively advised police and sheriffs to continue arresting medical 
users. The new law would not protect a medical user from either arrest or 
prosecution, according to Lungren's top aide -as if voters intended 
patients to go to jail and defend themselves in court in order to use their 
medicine. Gordnier cautioned, however: 'Because of the language of Section 
11362.5 (b)(1)(B), some defense counsel will contend that the statute is an 
exemption from prosecution as to patients and caregivers....'

"The disdain of law enforcement for medical marijuana was exemplified by 
the distribution at the All-Zones meeting of 'Say It Straight,' a paper 
prepared by CADCA, asserting 'There are over 10,000 scientific studies that 
prove marijuana is a harmful addictive drug. There is not one reliable 
study that demonstrates marijuana has any medical value...' And 'The 
harmful consequences of smoking marijuana include, but are not limited to 
the following: premature cancer, addiction, coordination and perception 
impairment, a number of mental disorders, including depression, hostility 
and increased aggressiveness, general apathy, memory loss, reproductive 
disabilities, and impairment to the immune system ...'

"As one of the final acts of the All Zones Meeting, Lungren appointed a 
'Proposition 215 Working Group' that would include state narcotics 
officers, district attorneys, sheriffs - and federal Assistant U.S. 
Attorney [Nancy] Simpson and two DEA agents."

Driving Back

According to Terence on the drive home, Lungren had said that he'd be 
flying back to Washington, D.C., to meet with Janet Reno, Barry McCaffrey 
and other federal officials. "He said they were planning 'a coordinated 
response' -a coordinated response to block California law! And he's the 
attorney general of California!"

About Lungren's "narrow interpretation" Terence said, "he means 'narrow as 
a noose!'"

Terence said he had raised his hand during a question session following the 
first panel of the morning, and "basically made a little speech reminding 
them that the voters had spoken and that they ought to respect that... I 
told them we had a plan in San Francisco that had been working, and we were 
confident it would work, involving the Department of Public Health... And I 
told them that it wasn't a hoax, that marijuana really did have medicinal 
effects... and to think of it and treat it as a medical matter, not a law 
enforcement matter."

Several of his fellow DAs suggested that Hallinan be given a speaking slot 
in the afternoon to describe the San Francisco approach in more detail. 
Senior Deputy AG John Gordnier  assented, but after the lunch-break told 
Hallinan that "the boss" -meaning Lungren-had nixed the offer.

"So I had to make my points from the floor," said Terence, "but I didn't 
let that stop me. Basically I told them to not consider it a problem, just 
turn everything over to their health departments. I told them they had a 
chance to get marijuana off the street and have a safe a controlled 
distribution system instead of a public nuisance...  I think I got through 
to at least some of them. I could tell I did."

Let us not underestimate the importance of Terence Hallinan's lone presence 
in Sheraton Grand ballroom. From that meeting stemmed efforts by law 
enforcement in more than 50 counties to block the implementation of Prop 
215.  If there had been unanimity, if there had been no voice of reason, no 
implicit threat of word getting out to reporters and the voters that Law 
Enforcement was openly plotting to block implementation... How far would 
they have gone?  How many more cultivators, distributors and patients would 
have been arrested and prosecuted in the intervening years?

His successor is committed to upholding Hallinan's progressive policies, 
but there can only be one Jackie Robinson.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom