Pubdate: Sun, 15 Feb 2009
Source: San Bernardino Sun (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Author: Sheriff Rod Hoops
Note: Rod Hoops is San Bernardino County sheriff-coroner.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


I read with interest the guest commentary written by F. Aaron Smith
regarding the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's policies
on medical marijuana. (Re: "Medical pot policy needs change," Feb. 2.)

As incoming sheriff, I will take the opportunity to review our
practices and policies in regard to a number of issues. I appreciate
Mr. Smith's opinion, and as a public servant, value any citizen's
input when it comes to how we do our job.

The county of San Bernardino is a party to a lawsuit which is asking
for clarification of the conflict between federal laws which prohibit
the possession of marijuana under any circumstances and the state's
medical marijuana law which allows possession to authorized users and
their caregivers. This action is being litigated by salaried county
counsel at no additional cost to taxpayers.

When one of our deputies contacts an individual in possession of less
than one ounce of marijuana, that individual is issued a citation.
They are not taken into custody. This action is not impacting our
already overcrowded jails. If the individual has a medical marijuana
card, then its existence is documented in the report that is turned
over to the District Attorney's Office. As in any case, the matter of
guilt or innocence will be decided by the court.

It is my personal opinion that the medical marijuana law is flawed.
This is not to say that marijuana has no medicinal value, only that
the initiative was poorly thought out, made no allowances for how
marijuana is to be supplied and distributed and gave far too much
discretion to physicians to prescribe it for any ailment or condition,
real or imagined.

In the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Raich, the court ruled 6 to 3
that the federal government has the power to arrest and prosecute
patients and their suppliers even if the marijuana use is permitted
under state law because of its authority under the Federal Controlled
Substances Act. After the ruling, federal agents raided three of San
Francisco's 40 medical marijuana dispensaries. Nineteen people were
arrested and charged with running an international drug ring and
selling the drug Ecstasy as well as marijuana.

The Sheriff's Department is caught in the middle of a conflict between
state and federal law. Our deputies who work on joint federal task
forces are sworn to uphold both state and federal law and are faced
with a dilemma as to which law to enforce. I eagerly await a final
decision from the courts and am hopeful of a ruling by spring.

As your sheriff, I will follow whatever direction I am given by the
Supreme Court.

Rod Hoops is San Bernardino County sheriff-coroner.
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