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Legal Pot User Should Be Entitled to His Medicine

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Jan.15, 00
Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
We're having a difficult time understanding why the Shasta County Sheriff's Department is reluctant to give back marijuana belonging to medicinal user Richard Levin. The word ''absurd'' comes to mind. So does the old joke about ''Who's on first?'' Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman signed an order for the drug's return to Levin, an order drafted by the Shasta County district attorney's office.
But whoa. Hold on. At the last minute an objection was registered by the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Jim Pope apparently wants an opinion from the county counsel's office to determine whether a sheriff can legally return the drug as ordered by Judge Boeckman.
The judge, we understand, is willing to consider a new motion on whether the 41 small plants growing in Levin's yard and 1 pounds of marijuana should be returned. Levin recently went through a jury trial after being charged with having marijuana for sale and was found innocent last month. Levin had a doctor's permission to use pot for back problems and believed he was complying with the 1996 state voter-approved Proposition 215 medicinal marijuana initiative when he was arrested in May, 1998. While Levin is confident he'll eventually get back the worthless, dried-up plants and stale pot, he doesn't appreciate the hassle of another court hearing. ''It seems plain wrong to hold this man's medicine,'' said Levin's attorney, Eric Berg of Redding.
A precedent already has been established in California requiring law enforcement agencies to return marijuana in cases of medical necessity. We refer one and all to a November 1998 decision when the California Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that officers in Mendocino County had to return pot taken from an ill couple. In that case, the state attorney general's office objected because it thought officers would be committing a federal crime by furnishing a federally banned substance to private citizens. The justices on the high state court thought otherwise. And somehow we can't imagine Sheriff Pope getting arrested for following Judge Boeckman's order. Getting acquitted of the sales charge apparently wasn't enough. Now Levin has another, unfair fight to get his marijuana back. The case is over and he should get back what is rightfully his.