Pubdate: Tue, 14 Dec 1999
Source: The Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Calaveras Enterprise
Section: Front page
Author: Scott Mobley


Vote Establishes Task Force To Study Issue

Calaveras County may be joining a handful of others in California
protecting medical marijuana patients from a jarring jaunt to the jug.

In a charged vote that split the Board of Supervisors 3-2, officials
directed the county's Director of Health Services to propose a task
force that could draw up guidelines under Proposition 215.

California voters approved that law in 1996, which allows people
suffering from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and other illnesses to use the
federally forbidden drug without fear or arrest and

But advocates say state law enforcement authorities have undermined
the law by arresting patients first and asking questions later.

"I think it is a crime to deny patients those medicines that help them
in their suffering," said Tom Tryon, the supervisor for the Angels
Camp-Murphys area who encouraged constituent David Jack to bring the
medical marijuana issue before the board.

Jack, who for nine years has suffered persistent vertigo, nausea,
seizures and headaches because of a rare tumor on his brain stem, told
supervisors he had tried 30 different medications, but that marijuana
finally stopped his world from spinning and allowed him to function.

The 23-year Angels Camp resident said he medicates by inhaling
cannabis vapor and opposes patients gathering in public to smoke. He
pointed out that the drug has dangerous side effects and may not work
for everyone.

Jack also told supervisors that city Police Chief William Nuttall
would have him arrested for buying, possessing more than an ounce of
marijuana or growing a single cannabis plant.

Nuttall has said that Angels Camp police have never confronted or
arrested Jack because of his marijuana use.

Jack said he has gotten nearly 30 supportive phone calls from local
medical marijuana patients since news of his proposal surfaced last

Yet each said they would attend in spirit only, Jack said, because they
were afraid of law enforcement. (Note: Nearly 20 people showed up for that
meeting and 6 spoke on the issue, which was not mentioned).

Jack asked the supervisors to establish a photo ID system for medical
marijuana patients, set the amount of weed they can cultivate and
provide a legitimate supply source so users who can't grow their own
medicine don't have to buy it from dope dealers.

"These are people who are disabled, seriously ill and dying," Jack
told the board. "They should not have to go to court to prove medical
necessity or out onto the streets for their medication."

Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum said he did not think the
county had the authority to implement Jack's proposals, but added he
favored meeting with Angels Camp authorities and the district attorney
to establish guidelines protecting medical marijuana users from arrest.

Peter Smith, the county's lead prosecutor, also favored working toward
medical marijuana guidelines, though he was less comfortable having
the county decide how much medicine patients might keep on hand.

Smith noted that since Proposition 215's passage, his office has
refrained from prosecuting five marijuana cases where defendants
proved a medical need.

However, the district attorney noted that clearer guidelines would
help with such cases.

Terri Bailey, supervisor for the Valley Springs-Copperopolis area,
voted against the proposal because she thought the state, not 58
counties, should set medical marijuana guidelines.

But Tryon and Jack pointed out that state officials have yet to set
such guidelines despite an Attorney General's task force which
includes Murphys doctor Ryan Thompson, who could not be reached for

Board chair Paul Stein, who represents the West Point and Mountain
Ranch area, also voted against the proposal because he felt it would
short-circuit the regulations that back safety standards for other
powerful prescription drugs.

Supervisors Lucy Thein and Merita Callaway backed the idea of setting
local medical marijuana guidelines to help the sick and dying until
the state draws up its own.

"I really believe everyone there was showing compassion," Jack said
after the meeting. "I felt that the majority of people there,
including law enforcement would like to work something out."
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