420 Magazine Background

Medical Pot Cauldron Needs Cooling

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Mar. 5, 00
Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Author: Tom King
We apparently ruffled a few feathers last week by publishing on Page 1 the picture of Richard Levin, puffing on a marijuana cigarette. The picture illustrated a very thorough collection of stories and information about Levin and the controversial use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Three or four readers took so much umbrage with the picture that they canceled their subscriptions to the Record Searchlight. They accused us of glorifying pot smoking and condoning its use. One man who works in law enforcement scrapped his subscription, calling the publication of the picture ''inappropriate and irresponsible,'' adding that he didn't want his children seeing such images. I wonder if he's turned off his television or canceled his cable TV?
The picture of Levin is reality. Maybe some people do not like reality. Shasta County law enforcement officials pursued the case against Levin for more than a year, including a six-week trial, for possessing and smoking marijuana. It poured hundreds of man-hours -- and a significant amount of money we'd wager -- into prosecuting that act on the public's behalf. Showing the public that act, ultimately determined to be legal, only makes sense.
The use of that picture does not translate into our condoning what Levin is doing. But what Richard Levin is doing is legal, lest you forget. Many of somebody's votes allowed this to happen. In 1996 California voters -- in what seems to be a pattern 97 passed a fla wed and poorly crafted initiative known as Proposition 215, also doing business as the Compassionate Use Act. Proposition 215 became law in this state, like it or not.
The flaw in the law is twofold -- it lacks reasonable control guidelines and it ignores enforcement issues. I will remind one and all that that's precisely why, on Oct. 27, 1996, I published an editorial recommending a ''no'' vote on Proposition 215. What I wrote then is what's happening now - -- mass confusion -- civilian casualties caught up in the war on drugs. I'm surprised it took this long for it all to come to a head. Our folks wearing badges didn't like the '96 law as passed. They still don't. Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope is living proof of that. Ditto for Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott.
The state says medical pot is legal, like it or not. The feds have a law against marijuana possession, period. But Levin was not charged and tried in a federal court. He was tried and acquitted in a Shasta County Court by a jury of his peers. I'm guessing here, but I suspect that Scott, Pope and their folks are just a little embarrassed about losing this case.
One more thing along these lines: Trying to figure out what's going on around here on this issue makes me think of the old Abbott and Costello comedy routine about ''Who's On First?'' Levin is charged and acquitted. Then a mother and son are charged with possessing and growing marijuana. They are prosecuted and ultimately convicted of conspiring to cultivate pot, a rather curious conclusion to that trial in my mind. Another medical pot charge that emanated from a Redding Police Department arrest was then declined for prosecution by the DA, who has curiously refused to explain to the public -- for whom he works - -- why he made that decision.
Who isn't confused? Sheriff Pope faces a contempt of court charge for ignoring Judge Bradley Boeckman's order by giving Levin's pot to the feds, who were brought into the case by somebody in a Court Street office. Every judge in the county is fleeing this contempt issue against Pope as fast as possible. It's hot potato time down on Court Street. Then Pope and Scott drag state Sen. Maurice Johannessen, R-Redding, into this mess, and he's back down the road to the state Legislature with a set of medical pot guidelines he hopes to have approved.
And I wonder ... just how much money and time has been invested in all of this by county officials in all of the offices who are spending taxpayer dollars over this issue? Is it worth it? Maybe someone at some point will answer that for us. Is there a solution? Maybe. Absent the law changing immediately, here's an idea of how to handle this until the Legislature can hopefully clear up this muddy water.
First, the governor and the state attorney general should step in immediately and assist all law enforcement agencies with some emergency guidelines, consistent across the state, that are reasonable and can be lived with on a temporary basis. That would give the Legislature some wiggle room in getting something of substance accomplished. Second, there must be something done to deal with the issue of state law vs. federal law. Perhaps it's time the governor, attorney general and others quickly and seriously sit down with the feds and see if there is a way to reconcile this problem. There's one more choice ... another proposition overturning 215. Until something is settled, the casualties will keep piling up.