Pubdate: 22 Feb. 1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register
Section: Metro,page 6


Will the state Legislature take any action this year to implement
Proposition 215 (now Section 11362.5 of the state Health and Safety
Code), the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters more than two
years ago?

You might think no problems would remain after all this time, but they
do. The initiative laid out the outlines for a compassionate policy,
but in the absence of guidelines and implementing legislation numerous
patients with recommendations from their doctors are still unable to
obtain medicine to which they have a legal right. Some-like Marvin
Chavez in Orange County and Steve Kubby in Tahoe - are being arrested
and taken to jail.

Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer ran as a supporter of Prop.
215 and has promised to reverse the foot-dragging policies of the
previous attorney general. He has appointed a task force headed by
Democratic state Sen. John Vasconcellos of San Jose to recommend
implementation policies, but the task force has held only a
preliminary general meeting.

If new laws are to be passed this year, they must be introduced in the
legislature by this Friday. A couple that would be helpful have yet to
find principal authors.

Sen. Vasconcellos plans to introduce a bill that failed to win passage
last year to have the state government sponsor a research project by
the University of California on the medical efficacy of marijuana. His
office thinks it has a better chance of passage this year. While more
research is welcome, the potential danger is that the project will
give  foot-draggers an excuse to delay the implementation of the
clearly expressed will of the people until the research project is
completed - as long as three years.

Sen. Vasconcellos will also introduce what Rand Martin, his chief of
staff, described as a "slot bill," which would be available to
incorporate the recommendations of Attorney General Lockyer's task
force when they are finalized in a few months.

Dennis Peron, the principal author of Prop. 215 and former proprietor
of a cannabis "buyer's club" in San Francisco, has developed two bills
and had them reviewed by the legislative counsel. One would simple
change the current law against marijuana sales by adding four words:
"except for medical purposes." This would accomplish what most voters
thought they were doing when they voted for 215 - creating a "white
market" for medical marijuana so patients who can't grow it themselves
are not forced to rely on the black market, as is still the case now.

Mr. Peron's other proposal would declare that it is the desire of
California to follow the lead of the federal government on the
"scheduling" of marijuana as a controlled substance. The feds now
place marijuana on "Schedule I," reserved by law for uniquely
dangerous drugs with no therapeutic value, but that could change in
light of an Institute of Medicine report expected this month. If the
federal government reschedules marijuana to make it legal for licensed
physicians to prescribe it (as is the case with cocaine and morphine),
California would have to take independent and time-consuming action to
change state law unless a law like this is already in place.

So far Mr. Peron has not found a principal sponsor for either
proposal. Some legislator should do so this week so they will at least
have a chance to be considered.

Judging by our conversations with legislative aides in Sacramento last
week, most professionals in Sacramento still view an association with
the medical marijuana issue as slightly kooky. But voters in every
state who have faced initiatives - and that's 20 percent of the
population of the United States as of last November - have supported,
by large margins, making marijuana available to patients whose doctors
believe they could benefit from it.

It's long past time for the politicians to catch up with the people.
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MAP posted-by: Derek Rea