Davis Signs Adjunct To Medical Pot Law

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The420Guy

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But He Refuses To Legalize The Sale Of Syringes Without A Prescription.

Delivering mixed news, outgoing Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill fleshing out
the state's medical marijuana law but vetoed a measure that would have let
pharmacists sell syringes without prescriptions. Both bills were carried by
Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, and were long sought after by some
public health advocates.

"He defies analysis by me," Vasconcellos said about Davis, who acted on the
legislation Sunday. The state senator said he was "livid" that Davis did
not sign the syringe bill but pleased that the governor "finally saw the
light" and signed a bill facilitating the legal use of marijuana for
chronic medical ailments.

In the seven years since voters approved Proposition 215, allowing the
medicinal use of marijuana, judges and juries have had final say on what is
allowed under the law as "fair use." Some jurisdictions enacted local
guidelines, but statewide clarity remained elusive.

SB 420, signed by Davis, attempts to clarify the law by creating a
state-issued identification card for medical marijuana patients and
caregivers, and spells out how much cannabis they can possess and grow.

"This is a very good step forward," said Jeff Jones, executive director of
the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Collective, which has been at the center of the
legal battle over fair-use issues.

Under the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, patients or primary caregivers
may possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana. Additionally, they
may maintain no more than six mature and 12 immature marijuana plants per
qualified patient.

While the statewide limit is less than allowed by some municipalities, the
law allows higher possession limits, if prescribed by doctors, and allows
looser local laws to remain in place.

Proponents said SB 420 will give police and courts a clear understanding of
what is allowed under Proposition 215 and provide peace of mind for
chronically ill patients legally using marijuana. The bill was supported by
the California District Attorneys Association and numerous health advocacy
groups.

Opponents said the measure goes beyond what voters approved under
Proposition 215 and warned that the ID card system is likely to be abused,
leading to more illegal drug use.

"The bill includes as 'caregiver' people who do nothing for patients but
grow, transport and sell marijuana," the Committee on Moral Concerns wrote
in a letter opposing the bill. "It creates a statewide marijuana
trafficking network, without adequate safeguards."

Meanwhile, Davis vetoed SB 774, which would have let pharmacists sell
syringes without prescriptions. Advocates said the bill would have saved
lives by reducing needle sharing among intravenous drug users, a key cause
in the spread of viruses that cause hepatitis and AIDS.

Davis said he rejected the bill and a similar measure last year on the
grounds that they would have weakened the oversight built into existing
one-for-one needle exchange programs.

In his veto message, the outgoing Democratic governor said he was
"committed to the underlying goal of the bill" -- reducing the transmission
of diseases among injection drug users.

Vasconcellos and public health advocates said giving addicts access to
clean needles would go a long way toward that goal. The law would have
allowed adults to buy and possess up to 30 hypodermic needles.

"People are going to die (because of) Gray Davis," said Vasconcellos.

California is one of only five states that does not allow needles to be
sold without prescriptions. Glenn Backes of the Drug Policy Alliance said
HIV infection rates among intravenous drug users drop by 50 percent in
states that allow prescription-free syringe sales.

"The veto is deadly," Backes said. "I don't see any logical reason for his
veto."

In other actions this weekend, Davis:

* Signed legislation giving regional water boards a greater voice in
approving new timber harvesting;

* Vetoed a last-minute "gut and amend" bill that would have let rental car
companies add a vehicle license fee charge to customers' bills;

* Signed a measure allowing President Bush's name to appear on the March
2004 presidential primary ballot. Without the exemption, the state
Republican Party convention this year would have come too late for Bush to
appear on the March ballot.


Pubdate: Tue, 14 Oct 2003
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Webpage: http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/7598051p-8538889c.html
Copyright: 2003 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: opinion@sacbee.com
Website: Northern California Breaking News, Sports & Crime | The Sacramento Bee