Pubdate: Tue, 14 Dec 1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register
Contact:  P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711
Fax: (714) 565-3657


It would be premature to detect a trend in two recent decisions by the
Orange County District Attorney's office not to prosecute key people
involved in the Orange County medical marijuana movement.

The cases against continuing to prosecute Jack Schachter and David Herrick
were so strong that it would have been extraordinary to the point of
vindictiveness to decide otherwise.

The more interesting question -- whether the district attorney's office and
the rest of law enforcement in Orange County are ready to implement the
medical marijuana law California voters approved in 1996 or to engage in a
rearguard action against it -- has yet to be answered satisfactorily.
Several developments besides the decisions in the Schachter and Herrick
cases leave room for cautious optimism.

Jack Schachter was a co-founder of the Orange County Patient Doctor Nurse
Support Group, along with Marvin Chavez, whose six-year prison term is now
being appealed.

The evidence that Mr. Schachter was involved with sales was sketchy at
best. And, as Deputy District Attorney Jim Tanizaki conformed to us, he is
terminal with lung cancer and other ailments.

To continue to prosecute him would have been cruel and pointless. David
Herrick, a former San Bernardino law enforcement officer, had his
conviction on marijuana-sales charges overturned for prosecutorial
misconduct. He has already served his time in prison.

Even if a new trial resulted in a guilty verdict, Mr. Tanizaki says, he
wouldn't receive more jail time. What would be the point?

To our knowledge, no medical marijuana patient has been arrested in Orange
County since Marvin Chavez was convicted about a year ago. However, as
retired nurse Anna Boyce, accompanied by Steve Kubby and other patients,
has reminded county supervisors at several meetings recently, patients
still live in uncertainty and sometimes in fear, and will continue to do so
until clear and sensible guidelines, understood by all parties, are
developed and implemented at the county level.

Guidelines would benefit law enforcement officers as well. Right now, a
police officer who finds somebody growing marijuana plants has difficult
decisions to make on the spot, with little guidance.

Is he obligated to inquire about a doctor's note? What would constitute a
valid doctor's recommendation? How many plants are "too many"? If a
decision is made to arrest the person and let the courts sort it out,
should the plants be confiscated? Guidelines developed in consultation with
doctors and legitimate patients would help to answer these and other

Mr. Kubby has formed the American Medical Marijuana Association to
encourage constructive action at the county level.

He and Ms. Boyce have met with Sheriff Mike Carona and other county officials.

Other AMMA members have met with officials in San Diego, Humboldt, Ventura
and Calaveras counties, encountering attitudes ranging from cautious
opennees to eagerness.

So, even if the Schachter and Herrick decisions were unique to their own
circumstances, a broader, healthier approach to fairly implementing Prop.
215 might just be developing. 
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