Pubdate: Fri, 16 Dec 2011
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Record Searchlight
Author: Jim Schultz


The director of the local chapter of a nonprofit organization seeking 
to reform California's marijuana laws has been booted for his angry 
outburst during Tuesday's meeting of the Shasta County Board of 
Supervisors after they banned medical marijuana dispensaries in the 
county's unincorporated areas.

Russ Belville, the Portland-based outreach coordinator for the 
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said 
in an apology issued to the supervisors that James Benno of Redding 
is no longer a representative of NORML.

The chapter also is under suspension, he said.

"They can't represent us anymore," Belville said in a telephone 
conversation with the Record Searchlight. Based in Washington, D.C., 
the national organization has approximately 150 independent chapters, 
Belville said.

He declined to say what the local chapter would have to do to have 
the suspension lifted.

In his apology to supervisors, Belville, cited a Wednesday Record 
Searchlight editorial.

"While our organization and our opponents (not inferring the board is 
among them) may have strong disagreements about marijuana laws, 
nobody benefits if we cannot address our disagreements civilly," he wrote.

Benno cursed at supervisors as he rose to leave the meeting Tuesday 
where they were discussing an ordinance they later unanimously 
adopted to ban marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated county.

Chairman Les Baugh called for a sheriff's deputy to restore order as 
Benno stormed out of the chambers.

"As the officer in charge of approving Mr. Benno's application, I 
personally apologize to you all that I did not better screen this 
applicant," Belville wrote in his apology to supervisors.

Several medical marijuana advocates in the audience at Tuesday's 
meeting apologized to supervisors for Benno's behavior.

Benno, who was in Oakland Thursday, said he was not representing 
NORML at Tuesday's meeting.

"I was there representing myself," he said.

Told he was no longer a representative of NORML, Benno sounded unconcerned.

"That's fine," he said.

Benno, who's also been accused of violating the city's medical 
marijuana cultivation ordinance, was given an eviction notice last 
week, but an agreement was reached between him and his landlord that 
will allow him and his family to stay at their Riviera Drive rental 
home through the Christmas holiday.

Benno's attorney, Alexander Henderson, told the city's Administrative 
Hearings Board on Wednesday it appears the city has targeted Benno's 
landlord, Robert Ballard, to force his client to move.
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