Pubdate: Sun, 20 Nov 2011
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Rob Parsons


Nate Bradley smokes marijuana.

Inhaling the smoke from the sticky green buds helps him cope with his 
post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

Pot helps him sleep, helps him eat and, he said, has been a more 
effective solution than prescription pills.

However, the former Wheatland police officer believes California 
needs to completely overhaul the Compassionate Use Act, known as 
Proposition 215.

"I'm not a big fan of it, but it's all we have to work with," Bradley said.

But if Bradley is dissatisfied with the state law, local law 
enforcement officials are downright disgusted with the ever-expanding 
list of issues associated with Proposition 215.

"It's caused nothing but confusion since the beginning," Marysville 
police Chief Wallace Fullerton said.

Fullerton said the initiative narrowly passed by California voters in 
1996 was "ill conceived."

"The whole section of law fits onto a single piece of regular paper," 
Fullerton noted. "Any drug policy on one sheet of paper is obviously 
going to be fraught with problems."

Proposition 215 cleared the way for marijuana to be treated more like 
medicine, but it did not reclassify the plant as medicine, creating a 
unique legal limbo between state and federal governments.

"It has to be one of the worst pieces of legislation I've experienced 
in my career," said Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor. "And the 
numerous litigations in our court system over the years has not added 
any clarity, which is what we need - greater clarity."

Sutter County Sheriff J. Paul Parker agreed.

"It's the most misunderstood law I've ever dealt with," Parker said. 
"A lot of people think it's legal (for medical reasons), and it isn't."

The confusion stems from the conflict between state law, which 
sometimes treats the plant as medicine, and federal law, which 
maintains marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic like heroin and cocaine.

Parker noted that Proposition 215 did not technically legalize 
marijuana. It gave card-holders an affirmative defense if detained by 
law enforcement.

It is just one example of the confusion associated with 
quasi-legitimacy, authorities said.

"Everybody - every district attorney, city council and board of 
supervisors in the whole state - everybody has a different idea of 
the way to handle it," Fullerton said.

Parker said one of the biggest problems he has seen is the widespread 
abuse of Proposition 215.

"It was intended for people with horrible, debilitating diseases," 
Parker said. "But we see people who use it for nonspecific back pain, 
insomnia and minor aches and pains."

Proposition 215 is also widely credited for creating a new class of 
violent robberies and burglaries.

Home marijuana gardens have been on the rise steadily since 1996, law 
enforcement officials said, and so have robberies associated with 
those gardens.

Solid numbers on medical marijuana robberies are hard to come by, if 
not impossible, law enforcement officials said. Not all agencies 
classify marijuana garden robberies the same way and many such 
robberies are believed to go unreported.

Four such robberies were reported in October in Yuba-Sutter, 
including one that resulted in a high-speed chase and ended with one 
person hospitalized who was not involved.

Two Olivehurst men were shot and killed in 2005 during a medical 
marijuana garden robbery.

And many people believe that marijuana gardens in residential 
neighborhoods create problems on a day-to-day basis that infringe on 
neighbors even if such violence was not a factor.

Live Oak Mayor Gary Baland said city officials have received numerous 
complaints from neighbors about the strong distinct odor of the 
plants, which has been frequently likened to a skunk. Baland recently 
said the smell prevented some residents from opening windows and 
doors and degraded the quality of life for neighbors not involved 
with marijuana.

However, the city's Planning Commission last week said it supported 
an ordinance that would allow some home grows.

Law enforcement officials also said they have received more 
complaints this year, but, once again, hard numbers were not available.

Yuba and Sutter counties are considering ordinances they hope will 
clarify issues about where a person can grow and how much marijuana a 
person can possess at a time.

But people on both sides of the issue agree those types of solutions 
are like putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds. They said real reform 
can only happen through a consistent policy among federal, state and 
local governments.

"The legislatures can only make small changes or clarifications," 
Parker noted. "For it to really change, it would have to be voted on 
by the people."

Bradley agreed that a comprehensive solution "from the ground up" is 
the only way out of the maze.

Bradley said a better solution would have state-owned gardens that 
distributed marijuana through licensed outlets directly to patients 
and caregivers.

"Those types of regulated businesses would eliminate the need for 
people to grow in their homes," Bradley said. "People would still 
have the right to, but there would be no need."

But, really, Bradley said, "the best solution" is full legalization 
for recreational use.

"Until I am able to buy it at Walgreens, there will always be 
confusion and issues," Bradley said.

Law enforcement officials agreed with Bradley - sort of.

"Strictly from a personnel and resources point of view, yes, it would 
be easier on law enforcement if we didn't have to expend any 
resources at all on marijuana," Fullerton said.

Fullerton, Parker and Durfor were careful to note they do not support 
legalization, but agreed the confusion surrounding the laws today 
needs to be cleared up - somehow.

Bradley acknowledged legalization is a long way from happening - if 
it ever does - but said it would still be a better solution than 
having every city and county drafting unique ordinances year after year.

"Those types of solutions are only like putting duct tape on a 
leaking dam - it's just not going to hold long-term, no matter what 
you do," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom