Pubdate: Tue, 28 Aug 2007
Source: Arcata Eye (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Arcata Eye
Author: Daniel Mintz, Eye Correspondent
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


HUMBOLDT Recognized as a sign of increasing public acceptance of
marijuana, the county's Board of Supervisors has approved sending a
letter to legislators urging them to support legalizing it.

Supervisor Roger Rodoni's proposed letter to Congressman Mike
Thompson, Senate members and President Bush gained majority approval
at the Aug. 21 board meeting, with the only token of doubt being an
abstention from one supervisor. People speaking during public comment
mostly favored marijuana liberation as well, and when Rodoni
introduced the agenda item, he said it probably couldn't have been
brought into a government forum until now.

Saying that "we've come a long way," Rodoni read the letter, which
begins by pointing out the complications of state laws allowing
medicinal use. That, and the split between state medical marijuana
laws and federal ones that rank the plant as a dangerous, non-medical
drug, puts police in "an untenable situation," the letter continues.

Then it moves on to more practical matters. "Local governments are in
need of identifying stable revenue sources and could benefit greatly
from the legalization and taxation of marijuana," the letter states.
"The time has come to call upon our leaders in federal government to
initiate legislation which will support the legalization of this
multi-billion dollar crop."

The letter concludes by urging the passage of laws that will
"legalize, regulate and tax marijuana."

Supervisor Jill Geist clarified that the letter does not signal an end
to the local enforcement of existing marijuana laws. But she said that
once legal, marijuana can be better regulated. "If you take a look at
just the environmental damage and the illegal buildings that have been
going up, the grading, the impacts to watersheds   these are not
things we can condone," Geist continued. "But I think it's time we
bring it forward, make it a legitimate business with the same laws and
regulations that apply to everything else   including paying taxes."

Most of the 11 speakers in the public comment session agreed. Some
compared marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition. Manila resident Rita
Carlson, a member of the town's community services district, wore a
"No More Drug War" t-shirt and told supervisors that supporting
marijuana legalization jibes with their vows to uphold the
Constitution. Arcata resident Gil Friedman said it's up to local and
state governments to do the right thing when the feds don't.

But one speaker said legalizing marijuana is the wrong thing. "All
you're doing this for is the money," Redway resident Fred Green told
supervisors. "I've been through this at home   I've got an addict for
a son and how do you suppose this all happened?" He explained that
before his son used meth, he started with "this funny little plant
that grows -- marijuana." "You folks sitting there don't have this
problem, I don't think, at your house like I do," said Green.

Supervisor Jimmy Smith was ambivalent, saying the subject is "a very
difficult one for me." A supporter of medicinal use, Smith also
pointed out the environmental impacts of large-scale growing and the
involvement of the "Mexican Mafia." He said the letter might be "a
start" toward addressing those dynamics.

But Smith represents two interests with opposite stances - he's a
member of the county's Juvenile Justice Commission and is also on the
board of directors of the local American Cancer Society - and he
abstained from the vote.

Supervisor John Woolley said that state medical marijuana laws can't
work as they should if federal laws remain as is. Commenting on
Rodoni's assertion that the letter reflects trends, Woolley said
legalization "has been a topic for some time and its timing makes
political sense."

Board Chairman Bonnie Neely described herself as "a strong supporter
of the Compassionate Use Act" and joined Rodoni, Woolley and Geist in
voting to send the letter. But all realize it's not likely to move
legal markers. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors sent a
similar letter to the same lawmakers last spring, and Congressman
Thompson responded by saying legalization will have to wait a little

In a prepared statement, he said legislators have failed to gain
support for the Right to Medical Marijuana Act, a bill that seeks to
allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use without federal
restriction. The bill has been introduced a number of times but has
failed to make it to the floor for a vote.

"Unfortunately, this bill hasn't passed and the likelihood of passing
a bill that legalizes all marijuana is a real long shot at this time,"
Thompson said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake