Pubdate: 04, Jan 1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 1998 The Orange County Register


The new year grants a chance to clear the air of the haze of confusion
hanging over Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative voters
passed in 1996. And incoming Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer has turned on
the fans, signalling that a new view of the issue is being taken by
the state's top law enforcement officer.

Under Mr. Lockyer's predecessor, Dan Lungren, virtually no leeway was
given to local counties and cities in the implementation of the law.
Mr. Lungren even called in federal drug enforcement officials to crack
down on medical marijuana distributors.

Although the wording of Prop. 215 is not always clear, its intent is
to allow a physician to give a permission slip (not a prescription) to
suffering patients, who then should be able to legally obtain the
medicine. Unfortunately, Prop. 215 doesn't specify how patients can
get the medicine, which is still illegal to sell or buy. This policy
disconnect has led to crackdowns on cannabis buyers' clubs, including
at least one in Orange County.

Mr. Lockyer says he's going to implement the will of the voters. "That
means cooperating with local communities if they have different
approaches," he told the San Francisco Examiner last week. "So San
Francisco would be different than Kern County. I think [Mr. Lungren']
was overly zealous in continuing to oppose [Prop. 215] even after the
people had adopted it. I joke that there are days when I thought Dan
had a copy of 'Reefer Madness' at home."

That's good news for the many people suffering from glaucoma,
leukemia, cancer or other ailments that seem to be aided by smoking
the herb. During last year's political campaign, we twice met with Mr.
Lockyer and were touched by his compassion for his mother and sister,
both of whom died of leukemia. He wondered to us why suffering
patients can be given morphine, but not marijuana, if that's what can
ease their pain.

"I'm impressed and delighted with the vision and courage that Bill
Lockyer has shown on this issue," Steve Kubby told us; he's co-author
of Prop. 215, publisher of Alpine World and was last year's
Libertarian Party candidate for governor. "In addition, his approach
of doing it on a county-by-county basis, rather than on a statewide
basis, is exactly what's needed right now. Lockyer said it best:
Lungren saw himself as the pinnacle of law enforcement, but Lockyer
sees himself as a support   for communities district attorneys and
local law enforcement."

Mr. Kubby also was impressed with Mr. Lockyer's "private discussions
with people like the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club. That's the first
time an elected official I've heard of has gone right to the patients
and asked them for their views. So he has a track record with medical
patients, and we respect him and appreciate him."

Mr. Lockyer's job won't be easy. He still has to deal with federal
drug enforcement authorities, who insist that marijuana has no
medicinal value and should not be recommended by doctors. A crackdown
could include revoking a physician's federal license to prescribe medication.

But Mr. Lockyer, unlike Mr. Lungren, is a member of the same party as
President Clinton, the Democrats.

And as the No. 2 elected official in the nation's largest state, Mr.
Lockyer's voice will be heard in Washington on this issue - especially
after last November's election, when five other states voted to allow
medical marijuana.

Clearly, Americans want marijuana allowed as a medical treatment. In
California, it's time to make Prop. 215 work. 

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MAP posted-by: Rich O'Grady