Pubdate: Fri, 30 Mar 2012
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight


Many a Californian has read the latest political news from Sacramento 
and wondered, "What the heck was the Legislature thinking?"

Unfortunately, law-enforcement officials and the courts are asking 
themselves the same question - in a literal way: What was the 
Legislature's intent when it passed a law nearly a decade ago 
authorizing medical-marijuana patients to "collectively or 
cooperatively" grow cannabis?

Were the lawmakers thinking of community gardens? Or did they aim to 
allow grower-patients to form lucrative cannabis collectives akin to 
Diamond Foods, the California-based nut colossus?

At stake in that question are uncountable millions of dollars in 
revenue for collectives, but also the liberty of people like Tehama 
County residents Joseph Froome and Daniel Ludwig, who were arrested 
in 2009 after a raid of what they say was a medical-marijuana 
collective but Tehama County prosecutors argue was an operation 
illegally growing marijuana for sale.

Until this week, various Tehama County judges have largely sided with 
the prosecutors' strict line that selling marijuana violates the law. 
But a Southern California Court of Appeal ruling issued just last 
month, People v. Colvin, gives the Froome and Co. defense new life.

In the case, William Frank Colvin, an employee of a 5,000-member Los 
Angeles collective, was convicted of driving a pound of marijuana 
from one dispensary branch to another. Police and prosecutors 
maintained that the law does not exempt that act - transporting drugs 
- - from criminal penalties, and that the collective was far larger 
than the law ever envisioned. In brief, they argued, most members 
were simply shoppers and not active members, making the organization 
a commercial entity retailing cannabis, not a "collective." 
Prosecutors say the same about Froome.

The court in the Colvin case curtly dismissed that argument, likening 
cannabis co-ops to grocery cooperatives where some members might work 
in the store but "not everyone who pays a fee to become a member 
participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it." State law 
doesn't require patients to pull weeds or fertilize and irrigate 
plants "collectively," nor does it set any limits on collectives' size.

Of course, it could. "It may be that the Legislature, in trying to 
implement voters' wishes, envisioned small community or neighborhood 
gardens," the court ruling notes. "That may be good policy." But it's 
not the law.

Whatever the law does say, profit-minded growers and dealers will 
push its limits. The state should find a way to curb that barely 
legal trade while allowing access to bona fide patients who find 
relief from marijuana. And the push to forbid the sale of medical 
marijuana makes little sense. From aspirin to Zoloft, medicines are 
purchased with money - often at tremendous cost. It's not obvious why 
cannabis should be any different.

Wherever the state's elected representatives decide the line should 
be drawn, the chaos in the courts needs resolving. Patients shouldn't 
live in fear. The police should have a reasonable sense of who they 
can arrest for what. The lawyers involved seem to be making it up as 
they go along.

In December, Attorney General Kamala Harris called on the Legislature 
to clarify what collectives the state should allow and fill in other 
gaps in the law. It should hurry up and get on the job.

Because, in all seriousness, a lot of people need to know what the 
Legislature was thinking.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom