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Pushing The Debate

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Alexander Valentine and a friend were heading home to Fullerton after having lunch at Norm's that October afternoon last year.

Passing through Placentia, Valentine's buddy, who was driving a new blue Jeep, got stopped by the local police. The cop said he was speeding and also asked the young men if they had any drugs.

Valentine, 22, said yes, he had his "medicine," a few ounces of medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor. Valentine uses the cannabis, as he calls it, to combat the intense pain caused by Crouzon Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that inhibits bone growth and causes facial and skull deformities.

Here's the cannabis, Valentine told the cop, showing him a pre-rolled joint which was held in a plastic bag stamped with the words, "only allowed under state code." And here's the paper showing the prescription, Valentine said, which has a doctor's statement and signature, Valentine's photo and a license number.

"He looked at it and said, 'Well, this is a forgery,' " Valentine recalled.

Then call my doctor, Valentine told the officer, she will tell you that this is legitimate.

"'I don't have time for that,' was his direct quote," Valentine said.

The Placentia police officer confiscated the small joint Valentine bought from a legal dispensary and ticketed him, as marijuana possession is a misdemeanor. Valentine showed up in court on the appointed date, only to be told that the district attorney hadn't decided whether to file charges.

Now, Valentine's taking action. He wants the Orange County Board of Supervisors to approve the issuing of photo ID cards for medical marijuana patients. A 2003 state law requires county health agencies to create the cards, which will be part of a statewide database of participants, following the passage of Proposition 215, which legalized the use of medical marijuana.

The board will vote on the cards on Tuesday — in part because Valentine's attorney, William M. Paoli, has threatened that he will file a class-action lawsuit against the county and the individual supervisors if they don't approve and implement the program. Paoli argues that the supervisors have no choice but to order the Health Care Agency to issue the cards, as it's a state law, passed by voters 11 years ago and implemented by the Legislature in 2003.

Supervisor Chris Norby, as the board's chair, quickly put the issue on the agenda after he received the lawsuit threat by Paoli. Norby will vote in favor of the program because, he said, people with cancer, AIDS or other illnesses have a voter-mandated right to use the drug.

"If people need this, if it will give them relief, I think it needs to be treated like any other drug, not demonized," Norby said.

The cards will also give law enforcement an effective tool to quickly distinguish which people have the medical right to use marijuana vs. those people using it for illicit purposes, he said.

But District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is opposed to the plan. In a letter he sent to supervisors, Rackauckas said federal law, which prohibits the use of marijuana, trumps state law. If county employees issue the cards, they could be the subject of a federal prosecution.

Valentine turned to using marijuana after the narcotics his doctor had prescribed left him feeling "druggy," which often got in the way of his studies as a botany major at Cal State Fullerton. The cannabis helps the pain spasms in his jaw, he said, and leaves him more clear-headed.

So after his medicine was confiscated that October afternoon, Valentine made another trip to the nearest medical marijuana dispensary, hoping for some relief.

"Later that day I had pains in my jaw and I could have really used it," he said. "I had to drive to Hollywood that day."

The traffic stop on that afternoon was the third time he'd been questioned about his possession of marijuana. Now, Valentine's hoping for some relief from that trouble and he'll be testifying Tuesday before the board's vote.

To take an online poll on this issue see this story at The Orange County Register


News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: The Orange County Register
Contact: plowe@ocregister.com
Copyright: 2007 The Orange County Register
Website: Article - News - Pushing the medical marijuana debate
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