Posted in Speakeasy Main by Scott Morgan on Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:26pm
Ten years after the passage of Proposition 215, California Attorney General Jerry Brown has finally clarified that law-enforcement must respect the state’s medical marijuana law:
California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued long-awaited guidelines on medical marijuana today with support from advocates and law enforcement alike. The guidelines direct law enforcement on how to approach encounters with medical marijuana patients and establish a road map for local police policies. However, more significantly, the guidelines provide recommendations for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in accordance with state law.
The guidelines firmly establish that as long as patients and caregivers are abiding by local and state laws, they "should be released" from police custody and "the marijuana should not be seized." In the event that medical marijuana is wrongfully seized from a patient or caregiver, and the court orders its return, the guidelines state that police "must return the property." Affirming that California's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, the Attorney General further directs "state and local law enforcement officers [to] not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law" when an individual's conduct is legal under state law. [Americans for Safe Access]
While Prop. 215 has gone a long way towards protecting the medical marijuana community from harassment by state law-enforcement, there have been continuing regional problems such as unjustified confiscation of medicine. The new guidelines should remind police that their duty is to uphold the law, not circumvent it.
Source: Stop the Drug War
California attorney general issues medical marijuana guidelinesCA Attorney General and former governor Jerry Brown
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.
"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.
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."