Thursday, August 28, 2008

NORML News of the Week 8/28/2008

This Week's News from NORML

1) Pot Compounds Reduce Multi-Drug Resistant Infections, Study Says Cannabinoids Show "Exceptional" Antibacterial Activity Against MRSA

2) Massachusetts: Three Out Of Four Voters Favor Marijuana Decrim Measure

3) California: Attorney General Issues Guidelines Recognizing Patients' Medi-Pot Use

1) Compounds Reduce Multi-Drug Resistant Infections, Study Says Cannabinoids Show "Exceptional" Antibacterial Activity Against MRSA

Novara, Italy: The administration of natural plant cannabinoids can significantly reduce the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (aka MRSA), according to preclinical data to be published in the Journal of Natural Products.

Investigators at Italy's Universita del Piemonte Orientale and Britain's University of London, School of Pharmacy assessed the antibacterial properties of five cannabinoids - THC, CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromine), and CBN (cannabinol) - against various strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria, including MRSA.

"All compounds showed potent antibacterial activity," authors determined. Researchers noted that cannabinoids showed "exceptional" antibacterial activity against EMERSA-15 and EMERSA-16, the major epidemic MRSA strains occurring in UK hospitals.

Authors concluded: "Although the use of cannabinoids as systemic antibacterial agents awaits rigorous clinical trials, … their topical application to reduce skin colonization by MRSA seems promising. … Cannabis sativa … represents an interesting source of antibacterial agents to address the problem of multidrug resistance in MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria."

According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, MRSA is responsible for more than 18,500 hospital-stay related deaths each year.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director. Full text of the study, "Antibacterial cannabinoids from cannabis sativa: A structure-activity study," will appear in the Journal of Natural Products.

2) Massachusetts: Three Out Of Four Voters Favor Marijuana Decrim Measure

Boston, MA: Nearly three out of four Massachusetts voters support a statewide ballot initiative that seeks to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis by persons age 18 or older, according to a Channel 7 News/Suffolk University poll of 400 registered voters.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said that they would vote "yes" on the November ballot measure, which would replace criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of no more than $100. Only 22 percent of respondents opposed the proposal.

Among respondents over 65 years of age, 70 percent said they backed decriminalization.

The strong poll numbers indicate that the measure "is all but certain" to pass in November, the poll's authors declared in a press release.

If voters approve the measure this fall, Massachusetts would be the first state to enact the decriminalization of marijuana since Nevada's legislature did so in 2001 and the first to do so by voter initiative.

Currently, twelve states have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization -replacing criminal sanctions with fine-only penalties for minor pot violators.

Michigan voters will also decide on a separate statewide initiative this November that seeks to legalize the medical use of cannabis for qualified patients. If enacted, Michigan will become the thirteenth state since 1996 to authorize the legal use of medical cannabis, and the ninth state to do so by voter initiative.

For more information, please contact NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre at (202) 483-5500, or visit the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy

3) California: Attorney General Issues Guidelines Recognizing Patients' Medi-Pot Use

Sacramento: State and local law enforcement should not arrest state qualified patients who possess, cultivate, or travel with medical marijuana, according to new guidelines issued this week by the California Attorney General's office.

According to the guidelines, authorized patients and primary caregivers may possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana, and may maintain no more than six mature plants or 12 immature plants, unless a doctor recommends more. However, a recent decision by California's 4th District Court of Appeals determined that legislators could not legally impose limits on the amount of medical cannabis patients may possess. State Attorney General Jerry Brown is appealing the decision.

The guidelines encourage patients to participate in the California Department of Public Health's registration program to obtain a medical marijuana identification card. Currently, the cities of San Diego and San Bernardino are challenging the legality of the ID-card program.

Under the new guidelines, the distribution and non-profit sales of medical cannabis is permitted by qualified "collectives and cooperatives." By contrast, the guidelines warn that 'storefront' business that engage in the for-profit sales of medical marijuana "are likely operating outside the protections" of state law.

"We are not going to harass legitimate clubs," Brown said. "[But we will] target … those clubs that are part of a larger criminal operation."

Full text of the Attorney General's guidelines:

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500, or Dale Gieringer, CA NORML Coordinator, at (415) 563-5858.

NORML and the NORML Foundation: 1600 K Street NW, Suite 501, Washington DC, 20006-2832
Tel: (202) 483-5500 • Fax: (202) 483-0057 • Email:

Michigan will vote on legalizing medical marijuana on Election Day.

By Marqui Mapp
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 7:51 p.m.

Watch story video (1:48):

MARQUETTE -- Michigan could be the 13th state added to the list of those who've legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Voters will have the chance to legalize the drug on November's ballot, but many residents TV6 talked to agreed to disagree on the subject.

"I think that if they could regulate it well and if they taxed it enough, it'd be good income for the government," said Adam Reitz of Traverse City, who believes it's a personal matter between a patient and his doctor.

"From what I've read, there are better alternatives," claimed Mark Coltman of Harvey, who believes the drug can lead to substance abuse.

There are, in fact, other treatments for patients who are suffering from chronic pain or undergoing chemotherapy, but Marquette physician Dr. Karen Eldevick says after 21 years, she still believes it's the most effective.

"There are multiple prescription products already available for nausea, but sometimes they just don't work or they're quite expensive," Dr. Eldevick said.

Jim Harrington of the Marquette County Health Department believes its risks outweigh the benefits as even limited use of medical marijuana could ultimately endanger our teens and children.

"It creates an environment where marijuana use is safe and acceptable," said Harrington, the health educator for the department. "And what we've seen in other states and other places, when you have cultural acceptance of it, even though it's technically for medical use, it increases usage."

What's interesting about this debate is that medical marijuana is already available in tablet form. Dronabinol is a pill that's created in a lab and is very expensive compared to marijuana, which can be grown in your home at little cost, but is much more difficult for the government to regulate.

Although Eldevick agrees abuses can occur if the dispensing of this drug is not properly monitored, she says marijuana should still be made accessible to those who need it.

"Realize that your fellow human being may be in great illness and may need this product," she insisted.

The vote on the issue will be held on Tuesday, November 4.

Arcata waits on dispensary codes in light of AG guidelines

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 08/28/2008 01:16:28 AM PDT

The Arcata Planning Commission decided to delay the approval of Arcata's dispensary guidelines in order to factor in recently released state guidelines on medical marijuana.

Commissioner Paul Hagen said more time is needed to evaluate the Office of the Attorney General's guidelines since there are several definitions that are lacking from Arcata's current draft code.

"These guidelines came out on Monday, we met on Tuesday and they require some thought," Hagen said. "You really have to read these things over carefully and think about what the AG is trying to do."

The Planning Commission has been deliberating on the language of the dispensary guidelines for months. The guidelines aim to impose restrictions on how dispensaries operate in hopes of curbing 215 card abuse.

Although the commission was planning on approving its guidelines Tuesday, the release of the AG's guidelines delayed the approval. The commission will be meeting again on Sept. 23.

While not law, the AG's guidelines are given great weight in court, so it is important to be in line with them, Hagen said.

"The more of the AG's guidelines that we have in the land use codes, as appropriate, the more our code will withstand legal attack," he said.

The AG and the proposed Arcata guidelines have only two terms in common, "primary caregiver" and "qualified patient," but both the definitions are not the same.

DA compliments AG for clearing the haze around 215

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 08/28/2008 01:24:22 AM PDT

The state's new medical marijuana guidelines will help bring more clarity to Proposition 215 cases, giving the county more tools in its struggle to curb abuse of the law, Humboldt County's district attorney said.

"There's some good stuff in there for us to efficiently punish people who are abusing the law," District Attorney Paul Gallegos said. "There are members of this community that are making money, that are benefiting from the laws and the people of this community, that are giving nothing back."

The Office of the Attorney General's guidelines, released Monday, include regulations on the amount of medical marijuana a patient or caregiver can possess as well as how law enforcement should proceed.

Gallegos said he is planning on meeting with his staff to decide how his office will interpret the new guidelines, but he is pleased with the AG's decision to clear up Proposition 215's ambiguity.

Gallegos said the guidelines shouldn't have much of an impact for legitimate 215 patients.

"It sort of mirrors what we've been saying," he said, adding that Humboldt already will not prohibit criminal defendants and probationers from using medical marijuana if they are 215 patients. However, state and county guidelines do prohibit any use at a jail, correctional facility, or other penal institution.

Other issues, such as the seizure of excess marijuana, are different. While Gallegos said he favors taking only excess medical marijuana from qualified patients, the state guidelines allow law enforcement to seize all marijuana if it is over the limit, even if the patient's status is verified.

According to the guidelines, patients and caregivers may possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, and may maintain no more than six mature plants or 12 immature plants, unless a doctor recommends more. The guidelines also allow counties to designate higher limits.

Humboldt County guidelines allow patients or caregivers to cultivate, grow and consume up to 3 pounds of medical marijuana per year, while also allowing for a 100-square-foot canopy of mature female plants to be grown.

The AG guidelines state law enforcement must honor a state-issued identification card, but a person carrying only a local identification card or a recommendation from a licensed physician is subject to more scrutiny and seizure.

According to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, there have been 222 cards issued in the county since January. The cards must be renewed each year.

The guidelines also clarify that medical marijuana transactions are taxable.

"Taxation -- that is very important to us. We've modified our investigation to do financial investigations," he said.

By comparing assets and income, the county can weed out illegal growers from legitimate ones, he said.

"It gives us a weapon, I think, that we didn't have," Gallegos said.

On the Web: To view the state guidelines, visit

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or

Local Doctor Sues Police Over Medical Marijuana Stings

SAN DIEGO -- The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been controversial for decades.

But now a local physician, Dr. Alfonso Jimenez, has hired an attorney to represent him.

Jimenez wants to prevent law enforcement from conducting undercover patient stings.

"What they did here is particularly insidious. They used the police department to send in undercover officers posing as patients and they were told by the district attorney and police chief to lie," said Jimenez's attorney Steven Schectman.

Schectman said during an undercover investigation on his client, officers were giving false identifications and medical histories.

In a written complaint, Schectman said his client was targeted for an "undercover patient" investigation solely because he specializes in alternative health therapies, including prescribing medical marijuana.

"They came in there knowing that they could find no crime, so that investigation was to ensure they could stop medical marijuana," said Schectman.

Schectman said the Drug Enforcement Administration was prohibited from investigating Jimenez solely because he made recommendations to patients whose medical conditions might benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

"That's an abuse of discretion; that's bad faith and it's another indication that what is happening here is not the pursuit of justice but a pursuit of a personal agenda by law enforcement," Schectman.

Though some doctors and patients said marijuana is legitimate, the U.S. government disagrees as federal law considers it illegal.

It is an ongoing battle according to California Western School of Law Prof. Justin Brooks.

"Where it becomes an issue is should the state be used to enforce federal criminal law; and typically they don't," said Brooks.

The district attorney's office declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

Demonstrators Protest Federal Marijuana Crackdown

Peaceable Protest Calls for Feds to Stay Out of Santa Barbara's Dispensaries


Wednesday, August 27, 2008
By Ben Preston

Video of march (2:37):

About 100 demonstrators showed up at Santa Barbara's landmark dolphin fountain at the end of Stearns Wharf today to show solidarity in the face of the federal government's recent threats to shut down the numerous medical marijuana dispensaries in town. Although the march began an hour behind schedule at 1 p.m., those involved gradually picked up intensity and fervor as they moved up State Street. Proudly sporting T-shirts reading "I Am Not a Criminal," and "No Access Is Not a Solution," the protesters chanted "Protect our rights! All of our rights!" as they made their way from the waterfront to the heart of downtown.

From the beginning, protest organizers stressed sticking together and obeying traffic laws to avoid injury. No police officers were present, but members of the group were peaceably assembled on both sides of State Street. Participants in the protest ranged from medicinal cannabis users to patients rights advocates to one or two people who claimed merely to like "smoking bud," and were generally supportive of the cannabis club concept.

"It's not right that the federal government is trying to control peoples' lives," said a man named Seamus. Along with national medical marijuana activist Elvy Musikka — who is one of the few people in the country provided cannabis by the federal government for medical reasons — Seamus carried a sign at the head of the march that read: "CANNABIS. The Most Efficient. The Most Reliable. The Safest Part of My Treatment."

The march was the latest public battle in the ongoing weed war between the federal government and California, where voters approved using cannabis for medical purposes in 1996. The City of Santa Barbara recently approved an ordinance to standardize the cannabis dispensaries, which had grown rapidly for such a small city over the past two years.

Wednesday's action was specifically to protest a move by the federal government earlier this month, when representatives from the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration met with the owners of buildings that house cannabis dispensaries. The agents threatened to use federal racketeering laws to confiscate the properties if the cannabis dealers were not evicted. Since then, most if not all of the dispensaries in Santa Barbara have received eviction letters and some are already clearing out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CannaHelp trying to open new shop

K Kaufmann
The Desert Sun

Palm Springs could provide an early test of new guidelines on medical marijuana dispensaries issued Monday by state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Brown said that formal cooperatives registered under the state's Food and Agricultural Code or organized as less formal "collectives" are legal under the California's medical marijuana laws.

But he said anyone running a for-profit storefront dispensary not operating as either a registered cooperative or collective may be arrested and prosecuted by local authorities.

Stacy Hochanadel, former owner of the CannaHelp dispensary in Palm Desert, said the new guidelines open the door for him to reopen the business in Palm Springs, possibly within the next few weeks.

"I've received my business license from the city," Hochanadel said Tuesday. "I believe in what I'm doing, and I know this is the best thing for the people and the community."

The new dispensary will be at 505 Industrial Place, he said.

Hochanadel closed the Palm Desert store about a year ago. In April, the Riverside County Superior Court dismissed county criminal charges against him and two former managers at the dispensary. The county is expected to appeal the case.

In the meantime, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready said that while Hochanadel had paid for a business license, the city had only issued a license receipt that does not authorize him to open a dispensary.

"It has to be allowed under the local land use," Ready said. "There is no current zoning code for medical marijuana dispensaries, hence the business license does not allow him to open such a business."

Ready said he would be taking the guidelines to the City Council for discussion.

Guidelines applauded

Other issues addressed in the guidelines include:

The state-issued ID card: Brown says it is not required, but emphasized having a card is the easiest way for patients to ensure they will not be arrested or their marijuana confiscated by police.

Cultivation and possession: The guidelines reaffirm that patients may possess up to six mature or 12 immature plants or 8 ounces of dried marijuana. Cooperatives and collectives are only allowed to dispense marijuana grown by their members; they cannot buy it from outside sources.

State-federal conflict: Brown argues that "no legal conflict exists simply because state law and federal law treat marijuana differently." Federal law bans all use of marijuana. He recommends that state law enforcement officers not use federal law to arrest patients or seize marijuana.

Hochanadel and other advocates gave mostly positive marks to the guidelines.

"That's the kind of dispensary I've been pushing for," said Lanny Swerdlow, president of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, a local advocacy group. "I see small co-ops springing up all over the place."

But Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said the guidelines will have no affect on federal raids on California dispensaries, which have escalated in the past year.

"We don't care," Mrozek said. "It's our understanding that they place some restrictions on the dispensaries which have sprouted up like mushrooms in recent years, (but) that doesn't change the position of the federal government that there is no such thing as medical marijuana."

Anthony Curiale, attorney for the patients' association that runs Community Caregivers, one of two illegal dispensaries in Palm Springs, took a middle ground, saying the guidelines were a good first step but expected they would generate more court cases.

"I think it raises more questions than it provides answers," Curiale said, adding that Community Caregivers is already in compliance with the guidelines.

With the legality of his own business still uncertain, Hochanadel has set no date for a CannaHelp opening.

He said he wants to try to work with the city.

"They have the (state) guidelines that have been set forth," he said. "I'm willing to abide by them, and hopefully they are too."

Pot dispute still unresolved

Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/26/2008 08:51:16 PM PDT

If state Attorney General Jerry Brown's medical-marijuana recommendations released this week were meant to clarify a muddied issue caused by conflicting state and federal law, not all local officials saw the light.

Some welcomed Brown's effort to protect legal dispensaries and patients, but others believed the guidelines released Monday were far from the final word.

San Bernardino County and its Sheriff's Department are challenging Brown's recommendations with a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We still think the recommendation is in direct conflict with federal law," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire. "Our sheriffs believe federal law supersedes state law."

Brown's 11-page recommendation tells local law-enforcement officers not to arrest medical-marijuana patients under federal law if their conduct is legal under state law.

Furthermore, the directive states that a properly run dispensary operating as a nonprofit is legal.

"I'm sure the feds want to challenge that," said Claremont Councilman Sam Pedroza. "It certainly isn't the end of the issue."

Claremont was poised to open a medical-marijuana dispensary but a change of heart led a council majority to vote against it. The city now has a ban on dispensaries.

"I think it's a step in the right direction in helping cities out, but I think we also need the same type of clarification from the federal government," Pedroza said.

"I don't think it'll change our position from the city yet. Everything is still in flux between the state and federal government."

California voters passed a proposition in 1996 that legalized medical marijuana, but the federal government continues to treat this alternative medicine as an illegal substance.

The contradictory positions have for years created a quandary among police, lawyers and public officials.

Many local law-enforcement agencies, like the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, have been abiding by federal guidelines on this issue.

"I'm not sure if the new determinations make a difference or not, it's too soon to tell," said Fontana police Sgt. Jeff Decker. "We still treat a violation of marijuana possession as a violation of the federal law."

Decker said arrests of medical-marijuana patients are not common, but patients who are charged can use a medical-marijuana card in their defense.

The confusion between state and federal governments and a fear that businesses selling medical marijuana could attract crime have led to a wave of dispensary bans by cities across the Inland Valley.

The recommendations are the first that a state agency has issued since voters passed the medical-marijuana initiative 12 years ago.

Medical marijuana cards requested


last updated: August 27, 2008 12:34:26 AM

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday heard a plea to issue state-mandated medical marijuana identification cards.

Deborah Pottle, a former state corrections officer, said 40 of California's 58 counties have card programs. "I'm not here to ask you for a dispensary," she told the supervisors. The ID cards help law enforcement officers sort out state-legal medical marijuana users from criminals, Pottle said, and make patients more comfortable about possessing marijuana.

Pottle said a back injury and allergic reactions to pain medications left her with no other options than marijuana. "I ask you to implement the card program so I can comply with the law," she said.

The Board of Supervisors also received a letter from Americans for Safe Access, a group advocating for medical marijuana, urging them to implement an ID card program. The letter threatened a lawsuit if the county didn't establish a program.

After the meeting, county counsel John Doering said Stanislaus has taken preliminary steps toward developing a program, but is waiting for state guidelines from the Department of Health Services.

The issue came up a day after California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued a set of guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries aimed at separating legitimate operators from criminal drug traffickers.

The 11-page document says dispensaries should be not-for- profit organizations structured as collectives or collaboratives. They cannot purchase marijuana from unlawful sources and must keep detailed records proving that users are legitimate patients.

Several local jurisdictions have banned dispensaries. The law is ambiguous about medical marijuana; it is legal in California and several other states, but its use is against federal law.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at or 578-2349.

San Bernardino, San Diego counties plan court action against state medical marijuana law

10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino and San Diego counties will once again team up in court in a renewed attempt to overturn California's Medical Marijuana Program Act, county authorities said Tuesday.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors decided during the closed session of its weekly meeting to once again take up the case, this time before the state supreme court, according to Jodi Miller, a spokeswoman with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's department.

The board took the step "at the urging of the Sheriff in his capacity as the county's chief law enforcement and public safety official," according to county spokesman David Wert.

The counties have argued that the medical marijuana program violates federal law and the state constitution.

Federal law lists marijuana as a dangerous narcotic with no medical use. San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod has said the medical marijuana program act creates ethical conflicts for his officers, who must also uphold federal law.

In 1996, California voters legalized marijuana as treatment for symptoms of illness such as cancer, glaucoma and chronic pain. Prop. 215 won the approval of 56 percent of voters.

The counties are not seeking to overturn that initiative.

But the subsequent Medical Marijuana Program Act has placed local authorities in direct conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, lawyers of the counties have argued. The Program law created a system for counties to investigate applicants, issue user cards and maintain records.

San Bernardino County has not issued any user cards as the case has made its way through the courts. Since 2006 Riverside County has issued roughly 1,000 cards, including annual renewals.

In July, the state's 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego rejected the counties claim that federal statues pre-empted the 2003 Program Act. In their 3-0 opinion, the appellate judges also turned away San Bernardino County's argument that the identification card provisions of the law violated California's constitution.

Staff Writer Richard K. De Atley contributed to this report.

Reach Zeke Minaya at 909-806-3062 or

Brown's 11-page directive

They're more than a decade overdue, but the guidelines on medical marijuana issued this week by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown could finally help divide the gray area in which the state's growers and dispensers operate into clearer shades of black and white.

Brown's 11-page directive is aimed at giving police the ability to distinguish between criminals and legitimate medical marijuana sellers under state law, as well as protecting patients from arrest. It won't stop federal drug enforcement agents from raiding law-abiding dispensaries and prosecuting innocent business owners whenever they see fit, but it will make such raids harder to justify -- and might ramp up the pressure for more sensible federal marijuana policies.

When California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215 in 1996, allowing the sale and use of marijuana for people with demonstrated medical needs, it set off a host of consequences both positive and negative. As voters intended, thousands of people suffering from AIDS, glaucoma and other serious ailments now have access to a safe, legitimate treatment. Yet as voters didn't intend, the state is now riddled with dispensaries that employ on-site doctors who will write a prescription to nearly anyone who walks through the door, while places such as Humboldt County have been invaded by criminal elements running underground grow houses to supply these middlemen.

Most of the negative consequences can be attributed to the gap between state and federal marijuana laws. The fact that even sellers considered legitimate by the state can be prosecuted and ruined by federal agents encourages black-market dealers, who endanger their communities by ignoring fire codes, selling to healthy minors and fighting turf wars with other dealers. The centerpiece of Brown's directive is its insistence that medical marijuana sellers must operate as nonprofit collectives or cooperatives, and the marijuana they sell must be grown by state-certified patients or caregivers. That will empower municipal police to weed out the bad guys.

Overall, Proposition 215 has done more good than harm. In addition to marijuana's medical benefits, its legitimate sale brings in $100 million a year in tax revenues, and even though it can be abused by users, it isn't demonstrably more dangerous to society than tobacco and alcohol. The state's new guidelines will help reduce the measure's harmful side effects, but the only long-term solution is for the feds to stop the medical marijuana raids and leave California law enforcement to California officers.,0,1577649.story

3 Marijuana advocate sues national pot lobby group

Davidson alleges breach of contract by Marijuana Policy Project


Pro-marijuana advocate Ryan Davidson has filed a lawsuit against a national organization that seeks reform of marijuana laws.

Davidson, a former Bellevue resident, alleges in the lawsuit that the Marijuana Policy Project breached a contract four years ago when it withdrew funding for Davidson's pro-marijuana campaign in the Wood River Valley.

"They pulled the funding after the cities rejected our initiative petitions," Davidson told the Idaho Mountain Express on Tuesday. "They bailed on us and left us hanging."

Davidson, chairman of The Liberty Lobby of Idaho, received a $60,000 grant from Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project when he moved to Bellevue in 2004 and started his pro-marijuana grassroots movement.

Davidson, who now lives in Garden City, Idaho, said he spent only $16,000 of the grant before it was withdrawn. Since then, Davidson has funded the movement largely on his own.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 21 in Blaine County 5th District Court. Davidson is seeking the $44,000 grant balance plus interest, attorney fees and unspecified "incidental and consequential damages." Davidson has requested a jury trial.

Davidson filed marijuana reform initiative petitions in 2004 with the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. All three municipalities rejected the petitions. Davidson appealed the Sun Valley decision to the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in September 2006 and wrote that municipalities do not have the authority to determine the constitutionality of citizen initiative issues.

Since then, Davidson successfully placed marijuana reform initiatives before the electorate in Hailey in November 2007 and again in May of this year. Both times voters approved measures to legalize medical use of marijuana, to legalize industrial hemp and to make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority for the city's police. Voters on both occasions rejected an initiative to mandate that the city tax and regulate marijuana sales and use.

Hailey officials have declined to enforce the voter-approved initiatives and instead are seeking a court ruling on the legality of the initiatives.

Davidson alleges in his lawsuit that the Marijuana Policy Project was aware that he would have difficulties with local government in Idaho and has since ignored his successes in his campaign for reform of marijuana laws.

"They really could have just tried to make it right," Davidson said. "They've done this all over the country and run into problems before, so they should have told someone this would be an issue."

Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, described the organization's dealings with Davidson as "difficult interactions."

"As far as I can determine we have not received it yet," Mirken said, referring to a copy of Davidson's complaint.

"I can't tell you anything of substance at this point, but maybe I can after I see it," he said. "Our inclination though is to defend ourselves vigorously."

Davidson, who is not an attorney but represented himself in numerous marijuana court actions, is represented by Pocatello attorney Charles Johnson in his lawsuit against the Marijuana Policy Project.

"I've got a lawyer on this one and he doesn't want me to say too much about it," Davidson said.

Pot petitions still short

Joplin voters will not get to vote on a ballot initiative to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana.

The Joplin City Clerk has notified Kelly Maddy of NORML that petitions circulated by his group still fell more than 500 signatures short of the number needed to force an election on the issue.

Maddy's group had initially submitted petitions that were more than 1,000 signatures short and was given a chance under Joplin's city charter to try to make up that number. The city clerk had until Friday to finish verifying the signatures from the second round.

City Clerk Barbara Hogelin said Tuesday the city charter prohibits any further action on the issue.

Maddy said his group also is thwarted from placing the issue on the November ballot because the state's deadline to submit ballot questions was Monday.

For more details, see Wednesday editions.

CannaHelp to reopen in Palm Springs

City officials say business does not have license

K Kaufmann • The Desert Sun • August 26, 2008

With the announcement Monday of new state guidelines for medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, Stacy Hochanadel, former owner of the CannaHelp dispensary in Palm Desert, has confirmed he is planning to reopen the business in Palm Springs within the next few weeks.

"I've received my business license from the city," Hochanadel said today. "I believe in what I'm doing, and I know this is the best thing for the people and the community."

The new CannaHelp will be located at 505 Industrial Place, he said.

But City Manager David Ready said that while Hochanadel had paid for a business license, the city had only issued a license receipt that does not authorize him to open a dispensary.

"It has be allowed under the local land use," Ready said. "There is no current zoning code for medical marijuana dispensaries, hence the business license does not allow him to open such a business."

The standoff could provide an early test of the guidelines, which Ready said he would be taking the to the City Council for discussion.

Brown said Monday that formal cooperatives registered under the state's Food and Agricultural Code or organized as less formal "collectives" are legal under the California's medical marijuana laws.

But he said anyone running a for-profit storefront dispensary not operating as either a registered cooperative or collective may be arrested and prosecuted by local authorities.

Hochanadel and other advocates gave mostly positive marks to the guidelines issued by State Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, a patients advocacy group that provided input for the guidelines, said they will give cities a basic model for dispensary laws.

"It makes clear to localities that have banned dispensaries outright, (that) is not consistent with the attorney general's interpretation of state law," Elford said.

Hochanadel said he intends to follow the guidelines.

Representatives from the Riverside County District Attorney's Office were not immediately available for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

State extends time for comments on medical-marijuana limits

More than 100 activists who jammed a state Health Department hearing to protest proposed medical-marijuana limits Monday won at least a minor victory: getting more time to make their case.

By Jack Broom

Seattle Times staff reporter

Medical-marijuana proposal: To read and comment on the Health Department's proposed limits for medical marijuana, see:

TUMWATER, Thurston County — More than 100 activists who jammed a state Health Department hearing Monday to protest proposed medical-marijuana limits won at least a minor victory: getting more time to make their case.

Responding to concerns by advocates, Assistant Health Secretary Karen Jensen extended until 5 p.m. Friday the deadline for comments on a proposed rule to limit medical-marijuana users to possessing 24 ounces of cultivated marijuana, six mature plants and 18 immature plants.

The action came at a 2-½-hour hearing in which about 50 patients, doctors and other marijuana supporters blasted the proposal as unfair, unrealistic and unduly influenced by law-enforcement agencies.

"We're not criminals. We're patients," said Melissa Leggee, of Spokane. "We just want to be left alone to do what we need to do to survive."

Leggee said she uses marijuana to ease chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions.

Dr. Karen Hamilton, of Redmond, who has treated patients helped by marijuana, said the proposal would "effectively take treatment out of the doctors' hands," adding that there is no "one-size-fits-all" appropriate marijuana dose.

Speaker after speaker said six mature plants can't possibly provide the amount of marijuana most patients need to combat pain, nausea and symptoms of more than a dozen ailments the drug is used to treat. As a result, they argued, users would need to find drug dealers to augment their supply.

"You're going to make everyone in this room a felon," if the proposed limit is adopted, Steve Sarich, of Kirkland, told the panel of Health Department officials. Sarich is director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients.

Lawsuit filed

Sarich and another activist, John Worthington, of Renton, filed a lawsuit Friday in Thurston County Superior Court that they hope will force the state to reclassify marijuana, now on a list of "Schedule I" drugs deemed to have no valid medical use.

Sarich said the state's old drug law, which contains that listing, should be superseded by Initiative 692, passed in 1998, which legalizes marijuana for medical purposes.

The initiative, approved by nearly 59 percent of Washington voters, said patients with valid certification by a physician should be allowed to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana but contained no definition of what quantity that is.

Last year, the Legislature directed the Health Department to spell out an acceptable amount.

Several speakers Monday criticized Health Department staffers for not sticking with an earlier draft proposal, which would have allowed a user 35 ounces of harvested marijuana and a 100-square-foot growing "canopy."

That proposal was changed after Gov. Christine Gregoire's policy analysts urged the Health Department to get input from law-enforcement agencies and medical experts, who were scarcely represented at the workshops on the draft proposal.

Staffers for Gregoire also told Health Department officials the amount appeared to be on the high side.

The change prompted Troy Williams, of Clark County, to remark that department officials should "stand up, have some courage, and tell the governor to shove it."

Jensen said she expects the agency to take about a month to evaluate comments and come up with a rule set by Health Secretary Mary Selecky.

If substantial changes are made to the current proposal, Jensen said, a new round of comments would be solicited.

Target of raids

Despite the Washington initiative, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana remain illegal under federal law. Some advocates for medical marijuana have found themselves the target of raids by law enforcement, which they say violates their rights not just to legal pot but to freedom of speech.

The homes of both Sarich and Worthington were raided early last year. Marijuana plants were seized at each man's home, but neither was formally charged.

Jeanne Ferguson, of Seattle, executive director of "Grammas for Ganja," said the controversy would disappear if marijuana were legalized. "The plant should be free to be grown in your backyard, next to your broccoli and carrots."

Outside the Health Department's Tumwater offices during Monday's hearing, marijuana backers set up a blue tent in which certified patients could "medicate."

Activists said state staffers had asked them not to set up the tent but did not interfere once it was in place.

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report. Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or

Dispensary guidelines applauded

By Brandon Lowrey, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 08/25/2008 10:21:21 PM PDT

NORTHRIDGE - As California Attorney General Jerry Brown rolled out medical-marijuana guidelines Monday, state agents wrapped up a rare dispensary bust in which the owner of a Northridge pot shop and an associate were arrested.

The guidelines say marijuana dispensaries shouldn't operate for profit and ought to keep detailed and accurate records on patients.

The news was hailed by medical-marijuana advocates, who saw it as an acknowledgment that dispensaries can be legal under California's vaguely worded pot laws and hoped for fewer federal raids, as long as they're not operating for profit.

"The top law enforcement officer in the state is saying these entities are legal in state law, and that sends a message to the federal government that they ought to back off," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "Really, this is like the final chapter of California's implementation of its medical-marijuana law."

The guidelines aimed to clarify the state's medical-marijuana laws, which have caused varied and confused responses from local law enforcement, but have led to an aggressive federal crackdown on the dispensaries.

Federal law makes marijuana illegal in all circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the state law doesn't shield California users, sellers and growers from federal prosecution.

Brown's announcement came just days after state drug agents raided Today's Health Care in Northridge and shut down five related "grow houses" in Los Angeles neighborhoods over the weekend.

On Friday, agents arrested Nathan Holtz, 37, and Today's Health Care owner Louis Godman, 40. Officials believe Holtz is a middleman between Northern California growers and Godman's dispensary.

At the time of the arrest, the two had six pounds of marijuana and $9,000 in cash on them. Each has been charged with two felony counts of possessing and selling marijuana, said Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

In the grow houses, agents seized 1,100 high-grade marijuana plants with a street value of $6.6 million.

The store was not the target of the investigation, said Sarah Simpson, an agent with the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. Rather, it was sparked by a tip from a confidential source, who said Holtz was making a lot of money through his dealings with growers.

Today's Health Care, which sits in a strip mall near Lindley Avenue and Parthenia Street, was closed Monday. A sign stuck on the door said it wouldn't reopen until Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 818-713-3699

California attorney general issues medical marijuana guidelines

Jerry Brown outlines steps to help patients and dispensaries stay within the law, help police know when to step in and, it's hoped, keep the federal government at bay.

By Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 26, 2008

SACRAMENTO -- For the first time in the dozen years of turmoil since state voters legalized medical marijuana, California's top law enforcement official stepped into the fray Monday with new guidelines designed in part to quell the ongoing friction between the state and federal authorities.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown issued an 11-page directive intended to help legitimate patients avoid arrest while giving police the tools to distinguish legal medical marijuana operations from illegal cultivators and criminal middlemen.

He suggested his new "road map" would serve as a shield against the federal government, which has waged war against the state's pot rules by conducting raids and mounting court challenges.

"Hopefully the feds will back off in instances where people are really following these guidelines," Brown said Monday in a telephone interview.

The guidelines affirm the legality of many of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries, but only those operated as collectives or cooperatives and not in business for profit.

"Clearly there have been abuses, places that served as big fronts for illegal drug dealing," Brown said. "This will help get criminals out of medical marijuana."

An unlikely coalition of police and medical marijuana activists welcomed the new guidelines, the first substantial directive from a state agency since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996.

"As far as I'm concerned, I give this two thumbs up," said Kevin Reed of the Green Cross, a collective in San Francisco. "If you're in it for profit, you shouldn't be in medical cannabis."

"This is huge," said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group. "Hopefully this will send a message to the federal government that California doesn't intend to deter from the course it has set."

The federal government maintains a strict prohibition against marijuana as medicine, and for more than a decade it has made California -- which has an estimated 200,000 cannabis-using patients -- the principal beachhead in the battle against medical marijuana.

Federal officials at the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration did not return calls for comment.

Police, meanwhile, welcomed Brown's guidelines, saying they shed light on what had often seemed to them a shadowy world.

"We have been operating in the dark for many years," said Jerry Dyer, Fresno's chief of police and president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.

Dealing with medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, he said, "has been like trying to hit a moving target. This allows us to know what the target is."

Brown's guidelines urge patients to apply for state-sanctioned medical marijuana ID cards -- and advise police to accept authenticated cards as proof of medical need.

Patients are prohibited from using cannabis near schools and recreation centers or at work, unless an employer gives permission. Police, meanwhile, must return seized cannabis to patients who are later proved legitimate.

Brown takes a notably hard line on for-profit dispensaries.

Scores of storefront operations have sprouted up, often with business owners running virtual emporiums of cannabis.

Under the attorney general's guidelines, they must operate as not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives, and establishments are prohibited from buying marijuana from illegal, commercial growers. Instead, the marijuana must be grown by patients or their caregivers, with fees limited to covering overhead and operating expenses.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy project questioned the nonprofit distinction, saying, "The last I heard, Walgreens isn't a charity."

But the rules essentially give police a green light to raid for-profit storefront dispensaries.

The guidelines also say that a dispensary that signs up patients after they simply fill out forms making the owner their primary caregiver is "likely unlawful."

They suggest that investigating officers be alert to signs of mass production and illegal sales, including "excessive amounts" of marijuana and cash, weapons and other indicators of criminal activity.

"We know that cartels are controlling many of the medical marijuana dispensaries operating for profit," said Dyer, the Fresno police chief.

"I'm hopeful the state will partner with local police and the feds to shut down the cartels.",0,2300587.story

House holds briefing to revive medical marijuana

HONOLULU (KHNL) - There's a movement to revive a medical marijuana bill that governor Linda Lingle vetoed this past legislative session.

Monday, the House Health Committee held a briefing about it.

The bill calls for the creation of a task force with five goals, including: making sure patients get enough medication, studying the development of secured growing facilities on each island and finding a way to protect patients from getting arrested while traveling inter-island.

The intent of the bill is to keep patients safe.

"It's not safe to grow marijuana in the backyard when you have neighbors all around you," said Brian Igersheim of Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action. "Theft is a huge problem, violence ensues it's been an issue with patients including myself."

Hawaii is one of 12 states that legalizes medical cannibis.

A patient must get a written certification from a physician to get marijuana and register with the Department of Public Safety.

Wash. medical pot patients protest caps on supply

The state should allow medical marijuana users to grow and keep more pot for themselves than proposed rules envision, or sick people may turn to street dealers for their voter-approved medicine, a crowd of patients told the state Health Department on Monday.


Associated Press Writer

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state should allow medical marijuana users to grow and keep more pot for themselves than proposed rules envision, or sick people may turn to street dealers for their voter-approved medicine, a crowd of patients told the state Health Department on Monday.

The hearing was part of the Health Department's ongoing work of defining how much marijuana constitutes a legal two-month supply for patients under Washington's medical marijuana law.

Right now, the state is suggesting a limit that mirrors Oregon's: 24 ounces of usable pot, along with six mature plants and 18 immature plants. But activists and patients said those limits are not realistic for many people who consume pot to soothe a litany of symptoms, including lost appetite, severe nausea and chronic pain.

It was a lively hearing, marked by passionate speeches and applause from a crowd of more than 100.

Some used wheelchairs, canes and service dogs for assistance, and they wore everything from business suits to multicolored faux pot-leaf necklaces. Patients even set up a small blue privacy tent on the lawn outside - signs warned non-patients to stay out - that gave off the scent of burning marijuana.

At the hearing, medical marijuana advocates pointed out that not everyone smokes the pot - some eat it, using marijuana-infused butter or other recipes, requiring a much larger amount to get the desired effects.

Others, like Melissa Leggee of Spokane, told officials the proposed plant limit also is unworkable, because a total of 24 plants at various growth stages wouldn't be enough to generate the proposed 1.5 pounds of usable pot.

If the state-endorsed limits won't yield enough marijuana for patients, "Who do they go to? Do they take a chance buying from someone off the street?" Leggee asked. "We're not criminals. We're patients."

Health Department officials stressed they're not finished determining how much marijuana constitutes a 60-day supply under Washington law.

"It's a very difficult issue with not a lot of agreement in Washington or around the country," Health Department spokesman Tim Church said. "We did the best we could with the research we could find, along with public testimony and other outreach we did, to come up with a draft rule that we felt would work."

Washington's medical marijuana law was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters in 1998, close behind California in the first wave of similar measures around the country.

Federal law does not recognize a legal medical use for marijuana. But under Washington's law, doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana for people suffering from "intractable pain" and some serious diseases, including cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Marijuana patients still can be arrested and prosecuted, but may avoid conviction in state courts by proving a legitimate medical need.

In the decade since the law was passed, its allowance for a 60-day supply of marijuana has gone undefined. That has generated headaches for law enforcement, and for some patients, because there wasn't a clear guideline for how much pot was allowed and what was out of bounds.

The 2007 Legislature ordered the Health Department to come up with specific limits in hopes of clearing up that lingering gray area. The limits were supposed to be in place by July 1, but the sometimes contentious process has dragged the decision out much longer.

Earlier this year, after gathering volumes of comment from people around the state, the agency was poised to recommend 35 ounces of pot and 100 square feet of growing area.

But after reviewing health officials' work in February, Gov. Chris Gregoire thought the amount was too large and told the agency to get more opinions from law enforcement officials, doctors and others.

That ended with lower limits following the Oregon model, a change that has upset activists and patients.

"You did a wonderful job, you really did," patient Ric Smith told Health Department officials Monday. "But caving to Gov. Gregoire's pressure wasn't wise."

Some have threatened lawsuits, and on Monday, one was revealed. Activist Steve Sarich said the suit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, seeks to change the way marijuana is classified under the state's controlled substances law.


On the Net:

Health Department:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marijuana use at work subject of bill

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff

The Daily Journal

A bill that passed through the California State Senate this week would make it illegal to fire a person solely because they use medical marijuana.

The bill, Medical Cannabis Employment Nondiscrimination, would reverse the court decision made earlier this year in Ross v. Raging Wire Communications in which the courts upheld the firing of Gary Ross, 45, for failing an employment-mandated drug test after telling his employers in advance that he was using medical marijuana to treat an ailment when not at work.

Raging Wire Communications argued that by continuing to employ Ross they would expose themselves to potential liability and possible federal criminal charges.

The bill would make it illegal to discriminate during hiring, firing or any other condition of employment based solely on an employees use of legitimate medical marijuana while not at work.

It would also allow an employee who feels they were discriminated against for their legal use of medical marijuana to file a civil action against their employer.

The bill does provide provisions for jobs where safety is an issue or where cannabis-affected performance would endanger the health and safety of others or expose the company to liability.

The bill would not give medical marijuana users the right to smoke marijuana at work, would not force employers to violate state or federal law and would not expose employers to criminal liability.

The bill was co authored by Assembly Members Mark Leno, Patty Berg, Loni Hancock and Lori SaldaƱa.

The bill now goes back to the State Assembly for concurrence and then to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

Pot partners told to split clients, assets

By Mark A. York, Enterprise Staff Writer

Park County District Court on Thursday ordered two partners in a Livingston-based medical marijuana operation to split their clients and assets in three weeks as a first phase in dissolving their business relationship.

Judge Nels Swandal had earlier ordered Homer Terry, whose home contains the inventory of marijuana plants from various growers, to care for the plants at his rented property until a formal decision could be made on their ownership.

The civil trial stems from a dispute between Richard Rosio and Rollin D. Minnick, partners in Caregivers Montana LLC, a medical marijuana supply business.

The rift between Rosio and Minnick developed over the winter while they were arranging a growing operation based in a rented bomb shelter on Aries Drive near Emigrant. He originally hired Minnick as a grower for one-third interest in the company, Rosio said in his Thursday testimony.

Rosio founded the company to supply elderly patients with cannabis. They incorporated in 2007. A third partner withdrew, according to testimony.

Rosio then turned over patient cards to Minnick, who was to supply patients with the medication in the interim while the crop was grown. Rosio said in his testimony he would handle the business end of the operation, including travel to hospitals all over Montana and some delivery of the marijuana to patients who couldn't obtain it any other way.

Rosio said he tried to arrange renting a fallout shelter from Church Universal and Triumphant, but they resisted his offers due to a belief against drug use of any kind. Rosio finally found a shelter owner willing to make the arrangement — Walter Hollensteiner, who was sold a one quarter share of Caregivers Montana LLC.

"The bomb shelter was rotted and filled with filth and disease, " Rosio said on the stand. "It was a dome with a U-shaped room with separate bedrooms. We gutted the room and rebuilt a rotted floor in another 40-foot room, and added solid glass doors.

"It was a unique opportunity to take something that was designed for death and turn it into something healthy and beautiful."

He supplied all of the stock and growing equipment, lights, and hydroponic system for the operation, which grew to 390 plants over the winter, Rosio said.

"The plants were vibrant and beautiful," he said.

Rosio estimated the potential worth of the crop at $250,000 to $350,000.

Minnick said he came back in February from a Florida vacation to many e-mails from patients complaining of being overcharged by Rosio for their medication.

"The business was going broke," Minnick said.

He found that Rosio had written $58,000 in checks to himself, the Web site set up for online sales had been neglected, and he was unable to contact Rosio. In April, Minnick, tired of the commute to Emigrant for which he received no compensation, moved the remaining stock to the East Park Street building. He formed a new company, Caregivers of Montana LLC.

"There were 200 or so plants left," Minnick said. "One hundred and sixty plants were lost to mold and hemaphroditism, which shortens the growth, yield and potency. Twenty plants froze."

On Aug. 13, Rosio tried to take over the building on East Park Street by court order and oust Terry, who sublets space to Minnick, according to court documents.

After court Thursday, Terry said he had no plants of his own at the property at that time.

"Richard (Rosio) thinks there is a lot of money in this business," Minnick testified, "but there isn't."

Minnick's lawyer, Kevin Brown, asked Minnick, "Why?"

"Montana is a land of poverty," Minnick said. "We don't make a lot of money here in general. The patients have even less income, and have to pay as they can afford to."

Judge Swandal quashed a restraining order on the property and ordered Homer Davis, a court-appointed horticulturist, to inspect the crop once a week on Rosio's behalf. A settlement must be reached in 90 days, Swandal said.




Posted: 12:00 am
August 24, 2008

Now that the reign of "The Sopranos" is over, there's a new subversive family of criminals on TV: The Botwins of Showtime's "Weeds."

Mom (Mary-Louise Parker) is a hardcore drug-dealer, a sociopath who doesn't mind that her two sons have embraced and profited by the drug culture. Her brother-in-law, Andy (Justin Kirk), has begun making a living as a "coyote," taking illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States. Her accountant (Kevin Nealon) is the kind of loser who spends most of his time getting high. Nancy Botwin's crew makes "Entourage" look like "High School Musical."

"They're her island of misfit toys, her little drug family," says "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan. This season, the show's fourth, Kohan and her writers have taken Nancy Botwin far from her ticky-tacky suburban comfort zone in Agrestic, CA. After burning down her house, Nancy moved to the seedy beach town of Redmar, CA, delved deeper into the drug culture, making runs to warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico and then, most startlingly, discovered a tunnel that leads from a maternity clothing store to the basement of a Mexican drug operation.

Much of this activity was researched by the writing staff who took a road trip to Tijuana and decided to move the series to the border town. "The border guard was very curious about the 'Weeds' [marijuana leaf] logo on our luggage," Kohan says. 'We did a ride-along with the border patrol. It was one afternoon but we felt galvanized. Everyone was buzzing with stories" The tunnel was based on a 80-ft. underground passageway that authorites found near Tecate. "It was air-conditioned and they found it by accident," Kohan says.

Most of the new stories revolved around Nancy, whom Kohan describes as a "danger junkie." She stops short of saying that Nancy is mentally ill. "She behaves very irresponsibly. But Tony Soprano wasn't exactly father of the year, either. People have issues with a woman behaving that way. Mothers are flawed and why shouldn't we see that? In Nancy's mind, she's concocting rationales for her behavior."

Nancy has dialed it way back in the drug-dealing department, a decision that suited the production requirements as much as dramatic logic. "It's hard to get across the border, week to week, production-wise," Kohan says. "You don't need a white girl to do that but you probably do to open a store."

Kohan refers to the maternity clothing store Nancy currently runs with her friend Celia (the scene-stealing Elizabeth Perkins) that's a front for the tunnel and money-laundering operation. Her recent affair with the man responsible for the smuggling tunnel, corrupt Tijuana mayor Esteban Reyes (Demian Bichir), would seem to be another bad judgment call. But Kohan resists saying that she is using the demoralization of Nancy's character to make a statement about the downfall of the American family. "We don't think in those terms. We don't talk that abstractly," she says. "We talk about our characters like people we know. We talk about conversations we want to have our characters to have. We're invested in entertaining."

Even so, a comedy where nearly everyone in the family's a criminal takes more risks than most cable series these days. Now that "Weeds," which has been renewed for two more seasons and goes back into production next spring, Kohan has her own hard act to follow.

"The finale is [always] the pilot for the new season," she says. "If there's a clear track, then the audience is going to be ahead of us so we write ourselves into a corner. Then we say, how we do get out of it?"


Monday, 10 p.m., Showtime

The spoils of (drug) war

By Kathryn Skelton , Staff Writer
Sunday, August 24, 2008

On lots of 'Bzzt, ahhh! Bzzzt, ahhh!' (sound of someone being zapped by Taser) and plenty of 'Woof. Woof. Woof.'

Last year, when Scarborough police pulled over a suspected drunk driver, they found marijuana and a duffle bag with almost $32,000 in his trunk. The money's origins were murky. Because a Lewiston officer is on a federal drug task force and that task force helped investigate that case, Lewiston got a cut of the trunk money.

When Paris police last fall helped bust an organic farmer with a pot crop, drug agents chopped down 82 plants and seized his ATV. After twice being rejected for federal grants to buy one, suddenly, the Paris department had its first four-wheeler. Last week the machine came out of the shop after a once-over.

Auburn police are in the final stages of making a 1999 Cadillac Escalade their own. Once that's official, the SUV will be painted police colors and driven by the Auburn school resource officer.

"We'll have the message on there: 'This car was seized from a drug dealer,'" said Deputy Chief Jason Moen.

Over the last five years, police in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties have banked more than $453,000 in money and property seized in drug-related crimes, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request. Departments have bought 47 Tasers, 20 computers, three drug dogs - Yurri, Inka and Beny - badges, training courses and even tapped it for cash to flash during undercover buys.

Lewiston police, who have by far seized and spent the most, took in $44,767 from a single case. It stemmed from another traffic stop, this time in Saco, and again, one of the local officers on the federal task force helped investigate.

That stop led to the discovery of $300,000 in cocaine proceeds hidden in the wall of a house. The Lewiston Police Department used its share of the money in February 2005 to buy Yurri, a Belgian malinois.

"He's new; he's done well," said Chief William Welch, who has no qualms about using drug dealers' money against them. "They ought to be helping us pay to bust them."

Do's and don'ts

No one collects police seizure data for the whole state, according to Roy McKinney, director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. His agency's forfeiture funds amounted to $472,334 last year.

When local departments participate in state or federal busts - drug-related or not - they're often assigned a percentage of the money, vehicles or guns involved. When it's the MDEA, the Maine Attorney General's Office makes the cuts and the courts OK the amount. McKinney said the agency always shares with other departments more than it keeps.

When it's the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, anything under $1 million is split using factors like who brought the case and how much manpower each agency chipped in, according to a spokesman. Since October, $450,320 has been seized by the federal DEA in Maine.

Departments can keep the entire forfeiture if they conduct the bust without outside help. In drug cases, drugs are confiscated and destroyed, property and real estate can be seized if police prove it was purchased with funds from a drug sale and vehicles can be seized if they were involved in the transport of drugs.

"Which is why you're seeing now drug dealers are using rental cars," said Lewiston Lt. Michael McGonagle.

Once departments have the seized money, there are rules on how it can and can't be spent. Usually there has to be a tie to drug enforcement, and no using it to pay for already-budgeted items.

"We replace six to seven cruisers a year. I couldn't go to the City Council and say, 'I'm going to buy three with drug money,'" Welch said.

Up to 88 percent of his department budget is spent on personnel costs, he said. Commanders get together annually to talk about where to spend the rest, the absolute necessities, and what can come out of the forfeiture account.

In April 2007, Lewiston bought 20 Tasers, its first, with drug money.

A month later, Auburn used drug money to buy 10 Tasers. It would have been difficult to find the money otherwise, Moen said.

"Tasers are a great tool for us. Nine times out of 10, if they get to the point where the officer brings it out, (people facing arrest) say, 'I've heard about these. I want nothing to do with it.' They become very compliant," Moen said. Nonetheless, "(Buying them with taxpayer money) is not going to survive the budget review process."

Jay police took a tip in 2005 that led to their single forfeiture in five years. Police and MDEA agents raiding a local home found money, marijuana, pipes and a book called the "Marijuana Growers Guide." The search led to another $19,500 in a safe deposit box.

After the case went through the courts, Jay got $4,500.

The money was spent on a long rifle, ammo, a digital recorder for the interview room and a label maker for evidence, a big bonus for that small department's budget.

"We get involved often with drug arrests. We don't come by money often, unfortunately," said Chief Larry White.

Harleys, computers, pups

The Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office used seized funds to buy six computers and a camera. Mechanic Falls police bought six digital voice recorders so each officer could carry one in his pocket. Rumford police bought 12 portable radios, throat mics, two Tasers and tactical vests. Livermore Falls bought two Tasers, DARE T-shirts and noshes for a dispatcher's retirement party.

Among their purchases, Paris police bought an in-cruiser video system. In eight cases over five years, that department seized more than $17,000, 23 guns (they're turned around and sold) and one ATV. The last stemmed from an MDEA case in August 2007 when the spotter in a helicopter flying near Streaked Mountain saw a crop on the ground.

"(The owner) acknowledged it was on his property, but being cultivated by friends who he did not want to identify," said Gerry Baril, head of the Lewiston MDEA office. The yellow Bombardier ATV was being used to check the crop, so it was seized. The machine and its trailer were valued at around $8,000.

"We never have any funds to purchase something like that," said Chief David Verrier.

The department spent $300 to fix and check it over. His officers will use the ATV to help injured and lost hikers, patrol Oxford Plains Speedway during busy race weekends and also look for more growers.

Verrier's considering another purchase with forfeiture funds: "We haven't upgraded our on-duty weapons in the last six years and these are starting to get old."

The Oxford County Sheriff's Office took in $50,376 from a single case in 2006, working with the Cumberland County Sheriff to break up a major indoor hydroponic marijuana growing operation in Brownfield and Standish.

More than $600,000 in equipment, property and real estate was seized in all.

Oxford Sheriff Wayne Gallant said he's used the forfeiture account to outfit officers and corrections officials with Tasers and finish equipping police cruisers with Wi-Fi and laptops.

"Money like that saves us from going through a three- to five-year plan," he said.

Since 2003, Lewiston police have taken in more than $243,000. One reason behind so much drug forfeiture activity: two officers being on the federal drug task force and two on the state. Each successful case they're involved with, anywhere, means a portion for the home department. (In the case of the officers working with the feds, it also helps reimburse the city for those salaries.)

In the Scarborough case, Lewiston got 8 percent of the Rhode Island man's trunk money, or about $2,500.

Its largest buy with drug funds: a pair of Harleys for $34,000 last summer. The department had leased motorcycles in the past. With the money available, it made more sense to own, Welch said.

The Auburn department has two officers with the MDEA task force. It used drug money to launch a K-9 program last year. Funds cover food, vet bills and even dog collar badges for Inka and Beny, both German shepherds.

Beny is already patrol and narcotics certified, while "she's going to be going to narcotics detection school in September," Moen said. "They're a big hit with kids. Both officers go to demonstrations, local schools, day cares."

Before the department got the pair, "We were constantly calling for Lewiston to help us, or the sheriff or the State Police, who did a great job," he said. But there was often a wait. "Sometimes it could be up to 45 minutes, depending on the agency that was coming."

Part of the reason they hadn't tried a dog program before was cost. It's a sound investment if the experience across the river is anything. Duke, one of Lewiston's first drug dogs, sniffed out $300,000 worth of drugs in his five-year career.

Authorities disclose almost $400,000 spent on Southern Sweep

By JOHN C. OSBORN , The Eureka Reporter

Published: Aug 23 2008, 11:19 PM · Updated: Aug 23 2008, 11:20 PM

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service spent at least $48,000 in its part in June's Operation Southern Sweep and had about 99 inspectors across the Western U.S. working on the investigation. Combined with the $347,000 spent by the California Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies involved in the operation spent at least $395,000 to break up an alleged commercial marijuana grow operation that spanned Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

According to a Freedom of Information Act response to an inquiry by The Eureka Reporter about the costs of the operation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported that it spent at least $48,000 in operating costs during the almost weeklong raid between June 24 and 28.

About 99 inspectors from the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix Divisions of the office of Global Security and Investigations "assisted with an estimated 8,050 hours expended for the investigation," the response stated.

In terms of how much that translates into dollars, it's not known at this time.

U.S. Postal Inspector for the San Francisco Branch Hillary Smith said she couldn't find that specific information on Friday.

"As far as I can tell," she said, "(the salaries) are not public information."

The Eureka Reporter also sent out Freedom of Information Act requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency and Internal Revenue Service — all agencies involved in the operation.

Requests to both the FBI and DEA are still pending.

The IRS denied the request, as the records could not be found.

Even if found, the IRS stated in a response letter that the information would be exempt from public disclosure on a number of grounds, including a claim that disclosure would "reveal law enforcement techniques, procedures and guidelines protected" by the Freedom of Information Act.

The operation brought about 450 federal, state and local law enforcement personnel together, where they raided 23 locations across the county, including two large chunks of property.

The raids mainly occurred in southern Humboldt County, in areas including Redway, Whitethorn and Garberville.

Agents also raided one alleged grow house in Arcata.

Law enforcement officials served a total of 29 search warrants.

The operation was the result of a two-year investigation by the DOJ, and netted about 16,000 marijuana plants, $200,000 in cash and 53 firearms, which included assault rifles.

No arrests have been made as of yet, but officials said in past interviews that it could take months before anyone behind the alleged commercial grows is brought before a judge.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello filed a "Notice of Forfeiture Action" earlier this month on properties connected with the Whitethorn-based Lost Paradise Land Corporation in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties, according to documents in the Humboldt County Recorder's Office.

Although the vast majority of properties on that document are found in Mendocino County, the two properties found in Humboldt County have a total value of $40,700, according to assessor information.

(John C. Osborn can be reached at, or at 707-269-7445.)

Victim may be charged after marijuana stolen

Published: Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008 1:06 a.m. MDT

OREM — Growing marijuana is a crime. So is stealing it from your neighbor.

Orem police recently arrested two men stemming from problems with the leafy green drug.

The call originally came in as a family fight near 1500 South and 280 East, said Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards. When officers arrived, they realized that a man and woman were arguing over a burglary of the next-door neighbor's house, and the woman was upset about finding stolen items in her house.

The man, 32, had gone next door and walked out with a flat-screen television, an Xbox 360 and several marijuana plants and grow lights, Edwards said.

After giving police several different stories, the man was arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of burglary and theft.

Police tried to contact the 23-year-old neighbor but weren't successful until the next day, Edwards said. The man had been parking his truck down the street to avoid being seen at his house.

When police contacted him, he said he was missing a TV and a game console, but denied knowing anything about missing marijuana plants, Edwards said.

He gave officers permission to search his house and there they found drug paraphernalia, including a box of dirt mailed to the man from someone in Arkansas.

He was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of cultivation of marijuana and bailed out.,5143,700253343,00.html

REMINDER: Washington Department of Health to discuss 60-day supply Monday

Marijuana Policy Project

If you are a patient, designated provider, medical professional, or someone with experience in the science of horticulture, you might want to attend the public hearing Monday at 11:00 a.m. in Tumwater to take part in a discussion regarding how much medical marijuana patients should be allowed to possess in order to maintain an adequate 60-day supply.

WHAT: Public meeting on how much marijuana constitutes a 60-day supply

WHEN: 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: Department of Health in Tumwater, located at Point Plaza East, 310 Israel Rd. S.E., Room 152/153

Visit to see a map of the area.

If you are unable to attend, you can still visit and submit a comment to the department. This is likely to be the last public hearing before a rule is adopted, so please be sure to submit your comment before 11:00 a.m. Monday morning in order to ensure it is considered during the hearing.

Before submitting your comment, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the issues and events leading up to Monday's meeting. To do so, please visit to see Wednesday's alert.

Please pass this on to others who might be interested in this issue.


Nathan Miller
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project


Our mailing address is MPP, P.O. Box 77492, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. 20013.

We are required by federal law to tell you that any donations you make to MPP may be used for political purposes, such as supporting or opposing candidates for federal office.

My View: Lawman calls for ending pot prohibition

by Greg Francisco
Friday August 22, 2008, 10:53 AM

Recently, while driving through Saginaw, I happened to tune into a radio program featuring an interview with Saginaw County Sheriff Charles Brown, who was railing against the dangers of marijuana.

Speaking as a former federal law enforcement officer, I would like to respond.

We can argue from now until doomsday whether marijuana is a deadly gateway drug, a simple plant neither inherently good nor evil or a great boon to mankind given by a loving creator. And we can continue to completely miss the point.

The real question should be, is prohibition the best way to deal with the dangers, real or imagined, of marijuana?

Marijuana is here to stay, deeply ingrained in our society. Thinking we ever will achieve the utopian vision of a marijuana-free society is just so much wishful thinking. The best we ever can hope for is to control marijuana and mitigate any damage it may cause. Seventy-three years after marijuana prohibition was first enacted and 35 years after President Nixon declared a "War on Drugs," marijuana is cheaper, more potent, more prevalent and more available than ever before.

Brown calls marijuana prohibition a "drug control strategy." The reality is prohibition takes all control over who manufactures and distributes marijuana away from legitimate government oversight and hands it over instead to criminal gangs.

Marijuana prohibition means no control whatsoever. Marijuana dealers don't ask underage children to show an ID, they just want to see the cash.

Regardless of one's opinion on the relative dangers of marijuana abuse, one thing we all ought to agree on is that prohibition is the worst scheme possible to control it.

When our grandparents wisely abandoned alcohol prohibition, it wasn't because they decided booze isn't so dangerous after all. Rather, they had the integrity to face the truth -- prohibition was making the problem worse -- along with the courage to do what had to be done. Do we?

Marijuana prohibition is horribly expensive, annually costing Michigan taxpayers close to $200 million in police, court and jail costs alone. At the same time it deprives the state treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential tax revenues, makes criminals out of tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens and opens the door to steady erosions in our privacy and civil liberties. The only successes of marijuana prohibition have been to guarantee lifetime employment to those doing the prohibiting and to make a very few very bad people very rich.

Marijuana prohibition has been a dismal failure, a failure made even more glaring when compared to the sensible way we deal with alcohol and tobacco, the two most deadly drugs in our society today. The solution is obvious. The only question is, do we have the courage to do it? Or are we doomed to another 35 years of failure?

Brown would be well advised to check out the Web site of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,, where he can learn why more and more of his fellow professional lawmen are calling for an end to prohibition.

Legalize, regulate and tax marijuana so that we finally can control marijuana.

Greg Francisco is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy and a former Coast Guard narcotics interdiction officer. He lives in Paw Paw.

Random tests

Civil rights advocates question drug policy

But nation's deputy drug czar praises the state's plan as legally sound, likely effective

By Sheena McFarland
and Cathy McKitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 08/23/2008 01:26:39 AM MDT

As state officials move toward implementing random drug testing for employees who handle sensitive information, civil rights and employee advocates question the true benefits, legal ramifications and possible misuse of such a program.

"Any random drug testing is going to infringe on privacy," said William Carlson, public policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

"It doesn't seem like a wise use of resources in the present economy, besides invading people's privacy," he said. "It could be considered unconstitutional - I haven't seen the details - but more than that, it's overkill."

The nation's deputy drug czar told The Tribune on Friday he had a very different take, and praised the plan as legally sound and likely effective.

"Drug testing is increasing in just about every level, not only in government but also in the private sector," said Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

He added that such policies have been found constitutional in many courts.

"It has proven to be an extremely effective deterrent," said Burns, former Iron County, Utah, prosecutor.

In March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected blanket drug testing for all job candidates for a city government in Oregon.

The screening must be tied to the potential dangers of drug using workers in particular positions, the court ruled.

"I'm going to decline to comment on what the 9th Circuit says is appropriate," Burns said. "But I would say that, generally speaking, drug testing has been upheld as constitutional and appropriate not only in government but in the private sector and schools as well."

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s administration is pushing for random drug testing for state employees who handle information such as Social Security numbers and medical information to prevent identity theft.

Officials briefing lawmakers on the plan this week pointed to an allegedly drug-using state employee accused of stealing the identities of dozens of Utah residents.

The former employee, Laura Bustamante, faces a Nov. 3 trial.

Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy attorney general, said his office is carefully crafting the definitions of what constitutes sensitive information, but said that, if done in the "right way" it can withstand legal scrutiny.

"I think that the reasoning is solid and compelling and that the courts, if this is done correctly - that we would be successful in a challenge," he said.

Torgensen said only a narrow group of employees have enough access to steal someone's identity, and only that limited group would be subject to the new policy.

Joe Hatch, a labor attorney and Salt Lake County councilman, argues that negotiations between employees and employers need to take place to foster good relations and a fair use of such drug testing.

"The employer may have a legitimate interest to protect, but it could be a fishing expedition and a way to enforce some kind of social commentary, that they don't like people who smoke marijuana," he said. Marijuana stays in a person's system for days after use.

However, Torgensen said it doesn't matter if the employee used an illicit drug that day or weeks before, "They have a substance abuse problem."

Utah currently allows for random drug testing of state employees who carry firearms, operate vehicles or work in public safety.

Testing to other workers requires special cause, such as suspicion of drug use or an on-the-job accident.

Dennis Hammer, deputy director of the Utah Public Employees Association, questions whether the example of a single state employee getting caught amounts to a special need for all employees who handle personal information.

He also worries that random drug testing will invade confidentiality as employees will have to submit a list of medications they are taking.

"I can't tell whether there is a special need for this, but we just want the process to be fair and confidential," Hammer said.

Other Voices: Narcotics Task Force works to keep county safe

Saturday, August 23, 2008

By By Keith Royal,

Since the passage of Proposition 215, which established a legal defense for possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, law enforcement has faced many challenges dealing with illegal cultivation and possession of the drug.

Locally, the District Attorney's Office has established suggested guidelines for medical marijuana which includes possession of up to six mature plants or up to 75 square feet of vegetative canopy growing at any given time. That amount must be reasonably related to the individual's doctor's recommendation. Additionally, the person should not possess more than two pounds of processed marijuana at any given time.

Furthermore, the DA has requested when a garden is grown for medical purposes and exceeds the guidelines or the medical recommendation that the garden be removed by law enforcement. Our goal is to secure voluntary compliance, effected by growers staying within the guidelines.

The Nevada County Narcotics Task Force applies these guidelines in every investigation involving marijuana. Generally speaking, the majority of our contacts with the public involving medical marijuana fall within the guidelines and our officers walk away from the gardens. However, we have a significant number of cases whereby we conduct extensive investigations that involve "illegal" marijuana gardens, and in the majority of these investigations, we secure search warrants signed by a judge. Other investigations may come as the result of parole/probation searches, which reveal illegal marijuana growing operations.

During these searches, we find gardens which far and away exceed the guidelines, many posted with multiple and duplicate recommendations. It is also common to find other illicit drugs, large numbers of guns, scales and packaging materials, and large quantities of cash.

Currently, marijuana sells on the open market for $4,000 to $6,000 per pound, with a single plant producing an average of one to two pounds. If you have 30 plants, that's a potential revenue of $360,000.

However, what we are finding in our investigations are gardens that exceed hundreds of plants. As is evident, these gardens are for profit, and the growers attempt to conceal their profits by banking with a variety of financial institutions, by making cash purchases of new vehicles and precious coins, giving the profits to others to hold, and even "burying" the profits.

The Narcotics Task Force's goal is to control the flow of illegal drugs on the streets of our community, and hopefully out of the reach of our kids and schools. Their mission is a daunting task, and one they take seriously. To compound the problem, in many of their investigations involving marijuana, other illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine, are found.

The majority of investigations are forwarded to the District Attorney for prosecution. However, the sentencing practices of state courts into programs such as "Drug Court" and "Prop 36 Court," have significantly reduced the punitive results of illegal marijuana cultivation and sales.

Additionally, we have seen a large number of offenders who avoid jail time while participating in these programs and involve themselves in subsequent criminal activity. Therefore, we have begun working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the DEA in handling the larger and more serious cases to ensure more appropriate sentencing outcomes.

The reality is, if you're sentenced in federal court on drug charges, the chances are you will receive substantial prison time, as opposed to local court, where you might receive a treatment program and no jail time.

Proposition 215 has "muddied the water" in respect to law enforcement's mission to curtail illegal marijuana activity in California. We are put in a position wherein state law and federal law are in opposition, making our job more difficult and litigious. We appreciate the support of the community as we work to make Nevada County a safe and enjoyable place to live, work and play.

Keith Royal is the Nevada County sheriff.


Other Voices: Medical marijuana laws must be upheld


By By Stephen Munkelt,

Sheriff Keith Royal and the Narcotics Task Force do not like the medical marijuana laws. As confirmed "drug warriors," they believe in the federal approach to pot: Criminalize everything and prevent research into the medical benefits of marijuana use.

As recently as six months ago, the sheriff told me he was expecting the state Supreme Court to find the medical marijuana laws unconstitutional - even though the court approved the Compassionate Use Act in 2002 (in People v. Mower) and the Medical Marijuana Program act in 2006 (in People v. Wright). Not to mention that over 60 percent of voters approved the Compassionate Use initiative in 1996.

Of course, people in law enforcement are entitled to have opinions about the law. But they are sworn to uphold the law, and where there is a strong bias, they might not apply or enforce the law as intended.

In the case of the cultivation of medical marijuana, this leads to the destruction of legally grown and possessed marijuana, as the task force follows a "shoot first, ask questions later" approach.

The front-page article in The Union on Aug. 8 demonstrates the problem. Plants were seized from gardens where medical recommendations were posted, while the "investigation is continuing" into whether the cultivation was legal, or not.

If it is ultimately shown that the plants were legally grown under valid medical authorization, the sheriff will have the satisfaction of having destroyed the property of an unspecified number of patients. There is no practical method of compensating the patients for that violation of their legal rights.

Even more disruptive and damaging are the arrests and felony charges filed against medical marijuana patients. People sit in jail or have to post bond, have to pay for attorneys, and make time for court. If they prove a medical defense to the charges, in court or at trial, they do not get a conviction on their record, but they aren't reimbursed for their lost money and time.

The police bias is reflected in other ways in the same article. The sheriff and task force said, "growing for others is a gray area" and deny medical defenses for a "commercial operation." But the Medical Marijuana Program authorizes "cooperative" cultivation and possession by groups of authorized patients. It also legalizes sales of marijuana between patients or through "dispensaries." So "commercial" is OK under the law, but not with law enforcement.

Tragically, local authorities seem to be getting more aggressive about marijuana enforcement, just as the law becomes more protective of medical use and distribution. Innocent parties will continue to suffer, at least until the police learn to accept the law. Even when they don't like it.

In my practice, I often advise patients on the requirements for legitimate cultivation and use of marijuana. They are trying to comply with the law, in a way that will prevent seizure of the plants, arrest and trial.

But in the present environment, I have to warn them there will always be some risk that the Narcotics Task Force will pull up the plants and make an arrest before confirming the legal status of their activities. It is like having your car impounded and crushed by a wrecker because an officer thinks the registration is expired - before you even have time to show up with proof of registration.

So, when you see the sheriff's press release on some marijuana seizure in The Union, remember that he is trying to sell his point of view - and it may not be the law.

Stephen Munkelt is a lawyer who lives in Nevada County.