Pubdate: Thu, 4 Sep 2008
Source: Berkeley Daily Planet (US CA)
Copyright: 2008 The Berkeley Daily Planet
Author: Richard Brenneman
Cited: California NORML
Cited: NORML
Referenced: The Attorney General's guidelines
Referenced: Assembly Bill 2279
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)


California Attorney General Jerry Brown has issued new guidelines for 
medical marijuana clubs, but Northern California's leading cannabis 
advocate says they don't represent any major changes.

The new guidelines "could be a healthy development, if they indicate 
the attorney general wants the state to take over enforcement efforts 
and keep the DEA out of it," said Dale Gieringer, state coordinator 
for California NORML.

The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has 
been at the forefront of the effort to decriminalize cannabis, and 
the California group was a leading proponent of Proposition 215, the 
1996 statewide ballot initiative that provided state-level legal 
protection for patients authorized by a physician to use the drug.

But protections provided by 215 and SB 420 are preempted under 
federal law and court case by federal law and the power of the 
Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has 
repeatedly targeted California cannabis clubs of all types.

The conflicts between the two systems were seen in Berkeley, where 
after a July 25, 2007, raid by DEA agents and police on an affiliated 
club in Los Angeles, the agency seized the bank accounts of the 
Berkeley Patients Group, which has operated from a developer-doomed 
building at 2747 San Pablo Ave.

Berkeley has three clubs, Gieringer said, though one now apparently 
exists without an office.

"That's the one that used to operate out of the Long Haul," he said, 
referring to the office building for radical groups on Shattuck 
Avenue near the Oakland border, which was raided last week by campus 
police in search of the source of threatening e-mails sent to campus 

The Berkeley Cannabis Club was evicted by the Long Haul board after 
six years, and Gieringer said members now meet privately to ensure 
their marijuana supplies.

Representatives of the Berkeley Patients' Care Collective at 2590 
Telegraph Ave. declined to comment for this story, and the 
spokesperson for the Berkeley Patients Group was unavailable by 
Wednesday's deadline.

The attorney general's approach has been to wield both carrot and 
stick, promising the maximum protection for member-owned dispensaries 
and raiding those that deal in pot for profit.

On Aug. 25, the same day his office unveiled the new guidelines for 
keeping marijuana use within the boundaries prescribed by state law, 
press officer Christine Gasparac sent out a press release in which 
Brown announced a raid conducted three days earlier at a Northridge 
club described as "a front for massive illegal drug sales."

But Gieringer said California laws, which currently favor only 
"hippie-dippie" coops and collectives, should be revised to include 
for-profit businesses.

"There's no reason they shouldn't be businesses," he said, adding, 
"Isn't it interesting that everyone who makes legal drugs is a 
multinational corporation that makes tons of money?"

Of more significance for Berkeley could be two pending pieces of 
legislation, Gieringer said.

On a state level, Assembly Bill 2279, drafted by San Francisco 
legislator Mark Leno, would bar employers of patients who use 
medically prescribed marijuana from dismissing them for drug use. 
Leno drafted the bill after the state Supreme Court upheld the right 
of employers to fire medical marijuana users if they tested positive 
for cannabinoids.

The measure is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill 
didn't receive a single Republican vote in either house of the 
legislature, Gieringer said.

The second measure, on the Berkeley ballot in November, is Measure 
JJ, which would set clear guidelines for siting marijuana clinics in 
the community.

Gieringer said he believes existing state legislation could be 
redrafted to eliminate inconsistencies and make enforcement easier 
both for the clubs and medical marijuana users and for law enforcement.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake