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City Looks At Use Of Medicinal Pot

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The Sonora City Council will wait a month to address a proposed ordinance that would prevent medicinal marijuana patients from using pot in public.

Council members were prepared to vote on a change in the city's law regarding alcohol consumption in public -- adding pot to the equation.

But when the council was informed some patients use the drug orally, without smoking it, they sent the ordinance change back for revisions.

The modification was proposed by Sgt. Turu VanderWiel of the Sonora Police Department.

VanderWeil saw the need to make all marijuana smoking, even with a prescription, illegal on city streets.

To make smoking marijuana in public a misdemeanor means clearing up a very murky area, said police Chief Mace McIntosh.

"There is a lot of gray area on this stateside," McIntosh said prior to the meeting.

"Many people with valid prescriptions and medicinal user cards are now taking their use of the substance into the streets to bring notice to their legal right," he told the council, reading from a letter written by VanderWeil.

The council had no questions for the police chief and the floor was then open for public comment.

Christopher Demars, 28, gave the council, as well as audience members, a lesson on medical pot. Not all people who use medicinal marijuana actually smoke it, he said.

Demars told the council he was there to represent not only himself, but his father who could not attend due to the effects of multiple sclerosis.

He went on to tell the council that his father takes marijuana orally, he does not smoke it publicly, yet he will still be breaking the law should the ordinance be passed, simply by possessing it or ingesting it.

The tincture he uses is extracted oil from the flower of the marijuana plant which is combined with grape seed oil and placed under the tongue for managing pain, Demars explained.

"There is no second hand smoke in that," he said, addressing issues raised by McIntosh.

Demars' father has suffered with MS for the past 20 years. By 4 p.m. most days, he is in bed due to chronic pain and nausea.

His primary caregiver since 2002, Demars has witnessed his father's deterioration first hand.

He said his father is in constant pain, confined to a wheelchair, and will never get better.

"I feel like the city is targeting people who are sick, disabled or dying," he said.

After Demars spoke, the council agreed to readdress the issue and rewrite the proposed ordinance.

"I will consult recent case law," said Richard Matranga, the attorney for the city of Sonora.

Mayor Hank Russell and City Administrator Greg Applegate both agreed this was the way city government should work.

"This is an example of the power of an individual to influence government," said Russell.

Demars admits to being surprised at the council's response.

"I am glad they delayed the vote and didn't override the wishes of the public," he said. "We would have had to pursue a lawsuit had the outcome been different."

The council will again consider the ordinance on Nov. 19.

Source: Union Democrat, The (Sonora, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Western Communications, Inc
Contact: letters@uniondemocrat.com
Website: UnionDemocrat.com - The Union Democrat Online
 
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