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Deputies Seize Medical Marijuana



Newshawk: MAP, DPFT and AADW make the difference for reform
Pubdate: Sat, 15 Jul 2000
Source: Times-Standard (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Times-Standard
Contact: letters@times-standard.com
Address: 930 Sixth St. Eureka, CA 95501
Fax: 707-441-0501

Author: Jacob Lehman. Lehman covers public safety and law enforcement. He
can be reached at (707) 441-0512 or jlehman@times-standard.com


Phillipsville log truck driver Larry Ford was trying to do the right thing when he invited
sheriff's deputies to inspect the marijuana garden he grows under California's medical
marijuana law.

In response to his phone call, five Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Drug Enforcement
Unit deputies and Sgt. Wayne Hanson, unit commander, arrived at Ford's property Tuesday.

The officers took 36 of the 40 plants Ford was growing for himself and three other people
with marijuana prescriptions.

The incident, and others like it, may lead to a class-action lawsuit against the Sheriff's
Department, asking for a restraining order to protect medical marijuana gardens.

Since it was approved four years ago by voters, Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act,
has caused controversy and confusion at the state and local levels. There is no statewide
policy on how law enforcement should accommodate the vaguely worded law, leaving
counties to make their own -- often widely different -- policies.

In Humboldt County, a 215 enforcement ordinance in the hands of the County Counsel is at
least months away from possible ratification. It was drafted by a committee appointed by the
Board of Supervisors.

In the meantime, as Ford and his friends can attest, it is unclear what is allowed under 215,
and the decision is often made by officers in the field.

"I don't mind playing by their rules," Ford said. "I just don't like them changing the rules. I
think they did something wrong."

Ford and others, including Garberville sheriff's substation Sgt. Mike Downey, said that in
Humboldt County, the standard for Prop. 215 patients, who are allowed to grow their own
marijuana, has been that up to 10 plants or two pounds of processed marijuana are allowed
per patient.

That semiofficial policy is the result of the District Attorney's office telling law enforcement
agencies that it will not prosecute Prop. 215 patients who have 10 plants or less.

Ford, a Vietnam War veteran, thought he was in compliance with the local 215 policy when
he invited deputies to his land. He was growing 10 plants each for himself, his girlfriend, a
man who lives off the property and for Jack Kamm, a woodworker who has lived on Ford's
land for five years.

Ford said that Hanson and his subordinates took all the plants being grown for Kamm and the
other man, because they did not reside at Ford's address. They left two plants each for Ford
and his girlfriend, who were on the property when the deputies visited, because Hanson
reasoned that each plant would yield a pound of smokable marijuana.

Kamm said he lives in two rooms on the property, one in Ford's house, because he works late
in his woodshop, and room in another house. Two log truck drivers, who have to wake
before dawn, also live on the property. He said he has been receiving mail at Ford's address,
which is listed on his 215 prescription.

Hanson, who recently replaced Sgt. Steve Knight as commander of the DEU, did not return
phone calls from the Times-Standard.

Sheriff Dennis Lewis said Hanson had the authority to use his own judgment in 215 cases.
Lewis added that he was comfortable with Hanson's actions on Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Department has not accepted the district attorney's 215 guidelines, Lewis said.

"One of the reasons is that we've had some people with monster plants that would yield six or
seven pounds," he said.

District Attorney Terry Farmer was not available for comment.

Ford, who said he has some experience growing marijuana, and was arrested for illegal
cultivation in 1980, disagreed. A good plant yields between four and 10 ounces of smokable
buds, he said, and he doesn't use the twigs and leaves. Ford added that he has not grown
marijuana in the years between his arrest and when he received his prescription.

The plants that the deputies took on Tuesday ranged from two to eight feet in height, Ford
said, and had not started to bud. There was no way that Hanson could have accurately
estimated the yield of the plants, he said.

"It's like looking at a tomato plant and saying, 'Yep, that plant's going to produce 65
tomatoes,' " he said.

Ed Denson, a Redway defense attorney who belongs to the committee that wrote the draft of
the county's 215 ordinance, said a team of attorneys will probably file a class-action lawsuit
over incidents where they believe the deputies overstepped their authority in destroying
marijuana plants grown for legitimate medical use.

The suit would ask for a restraining order that would prevent deputies from destroying plants
in Prop. 215 gardens unless a court decides that too much is being grown.

When law enforcement believes a 215 patient is growing too much marijuana, the patient
often faces criminal charges and has to justify personal needs in court, Denson said.

He recalled one local case in which a chronically ill man who had been growing 70 plants was
acquitted of criminal cultivation by a jury, and added that subjects in a small federal study on
medical marijuana have been receiving seven pounds of government-grown marijuana a year
since the 1970s.

As it is now, even if a person convinces a jury that they need a large number of plants, that
garden will have been destroyed long before the trial even begins, Denson said.

Those people can petition the county for monetary restitution, but Denson said he did not
know of a single person who has received anything.

Kamm said he is afraid that if he joins the lawsuit he will be arrested for criminal cultivation.

"But I don't care," he said. "I'm going to push this all the way."

He was prescribed marijuana to ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting
from his combat experiences in Vietnam, where he was a gunner on a helicopter stationed 12
miles south of the DMZ, Kamm said.

Kamm said he does not smoke marijuana, but uses it in cooking, a method that reduces the
psychoactive effects.

In addition to the lawsuit, Kamm said he and others may ask the Grand Jury to investigate the
actions of law enforcement in regard to Prop. 215 patients.

Kamm, who characterized the deputies who took his plants as "thugs," said he was laughed at
when he called Farmer to discuss the issue.

"They had no right to come out and do what they did," Kamm said.

Jacob Lehman covers public safety and law enforcement. He can be reached at (707)
441-0512 or jlehman@times-standard.com
MAP posted-by: Don Beck
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