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"Be careful what you pray for, you might get it." -American saying

On his way out the door, Gray Davis has signed into law Senate Bill 420,
which is supposed to "clarify" the law established by Prop 215 and to
facilitate implementation. In fact, it makes Prop 215 look like a model of
precision and practicality.

SB-420 is the ultimate product of the task force, created by Attorney
General Bill Lockyer and led by State Sen. John Vasconcellos, to draft
"enabling legislation" that would make Prop 215 workable. Dennis Peron said
all along that Prop 215 would work just fine if the cops, sheriffs, and DAs
would only honor the will of the voters.

"In order to have made it airtight," Dennis said back in '96, "we would
have had to exempt patients from eight separate sections of the existing
laws banning marijuana." Dennis reasoned that "the right to obtain" implied
the right to grow, process, transport, arrange to distribute buy, sell,
etc. He said he wanted to keep it simple; his detractors said he was being
sneaky. "All the problems they say it raises," said Dennis, "could be
solved simply by adding one sentence legalizing distribution for medical

Prop 215's very first sentence contains a catch-all phrase legalizing the
use of cannabis in treating seven specific conditions "or any other
condition for which marijuana provides relief." In retrospect, the
initiative should have included a second catch-all phrase legalizing
distribution. The voters who were not scared by one broad definition would
not have been scared by two.

SB-420 limits the amount of cannabis that can be grown or possessed: "A
qualified patient or primary caregiver may possess no more than eight
ounces of dried marijuana per qualified patient. In addition, a qualified
patient or primary caregiver may also maintain no more than six mature or
12 immature marijuana plants per qualified patient."

But it also creates exceptions to the limits: "If a qualified patient or
primary caregiver has a doctor's recommendation that this quantity does not
meet the qualified patient's medical needs, the qualified patient or
primary caregiver may possess an amount of marijuana consistent with the
patient's needs."

And: "Counties and cities may retain or enact medical marijuana guidelines
allowing qualified patients or primary caregivers to exceed the state limits."

The legislator who crafted SB-420, Sen. Vasconcellos, calls the quantity
limits it imposes a "soft cap." [One of Vasco's aides called the limits a
"minimum," which was widely quoted in the media as if it made sense, but it
makes no sense at all. Can you imagine getting busted for having less than
a half pound of dried bud on hand, or fewer than six plants in the ground?

Dale Gieringer of California NORML and other reformers who consider SB-420
some kind of "win," note that the definition of allowable quantity will
protect people from arrest and prosecution in the right-wing areas of the
state, and won't apply in liberal counties.

C-Notes sought comments from the principal author of Prop 215, Dennis
Peron, and from attorney Bill Panzer, who helped draft it.

Dennis Peron: I am so mad. I can't believe it. The caregiver has to live
in the same county? That's wrong -I can't believe Gray Davis signed
it. I'm going to sue to get this reversed. They're not allowed to weaken a
law that's created by the people's will... I'm pissed at Davis, pissed at
Vasconcellos, pissed at Lockyer... And I'm also pissed at the marijuana
people. They went like sheep for this.

C-Notes: Even though they were double-crossed at the last minute with the
plant limits! [After a mid-September meeting of the Vasconcellos task
force, patients and activists thought the bill would leave the question of
allowable quantity up to the state Dept. of Public Health. But law
enforcement lobbyists prevailed on Vasco to write in limits just before the
final draft was voted on.]

DP: I am so glad Schwarzenegger won. I voted for him. I've known him for
15 years, you know.

CN: I didn't know that.

DP: I met him in Palenque, Mexico, when he was filming "Predator." And I
teased him, I kidded him...

CN: Where did you meet him? You don't stay in fancy hotels.

DP: I met him in the jungle. At this fabulous series of pools. So I said
to him (jive voice), "Hey, Rambo, are you going to get some commies?" I
thought he was Rambo. He goes (deep voice, accent) "You tink I'm Sylvester
Stallone." So I go, "You're right, I do. You're not Rambo?" He goes (deep
voice), "No. I'm Arnold Schwarzenegger." So I go, "That's right, you're
Conan!" So we had a little banter back and forth, and I wished him good
luck with his movie.

A little later on I was in the water in one of the pools, and his body
double jumps off a cliff, lands right near me, and I'm in the movie! Lo,
and behold, I'm in the damn movie. So from that day on, I kind of followed
him... The point was, he didn't want to be Rambo.

CN: Did your paths ever cross again?

DP: No, that was it. But I know that he saw what I saw in Palenque:
starving kids... and he really didn't want to be Rambo.

CN: Are you really going to sue to get SB-420 reversed?

DP: I'm not sure I can if the registration system is voluntary. But what
does "voluntary" mean when you know the police will have a double-standard?
If you don't have a card you're automatically a suspect... And you know
the feds are going to get their hands on that registration list... I don't
understand how a law can be voluntary. Is there such a thing as a voluntary
law? If you don't want to do it, you don't have to do it... that's a law?

Bill Panzer on SB-420

Oakland defense specialist Bill Panzer helped draft Prop 215. He does not
think SB-420 improves on it.

Panzer: Realistically, there are lots of police and DAs and judges out
there who don't believe that marijuana has medical uses and are looking for
any way to stop it they can. Give them a statute that is open to
interpretation... and they will use it to slap patients down. The way
SB-420 is written it could be used either way -and I expect they'll use it
to slap people down.

I think it's very disingenuous for people to say "This isn't a ceiling,
it's a floor." Of course it's a ceiling. But it says, "If you want to take
down this ceiling and build some other one, you can." So in places like San
Francisco and Mendocino, where they've been reasonable, it will be business
as usual. But in other counties, law enforcement is going to be able to use
this, they'll say 'Let's follow the state guidelines.'" So if you're a
patient with a serious condition, well documented, but if you have 13
clones, this is saying "You're going to jail, buddy. You've broken the law."

Suppose somebody's growing a one-year supply outdoors and they know what
they're doing. The minute they harvest and dry their plants, they're
breaking the law... What are they supposed to do, throw it out, except for
half a pound? There are many people who'd go through half a pound in a month.

There was no effort to do this scientifically. For two years Vasconcellos
heard input from cultivators and patients and then two days before he meets
in the backroom with Lockyer and the cops and comes out with this.

There's also a real problem with requiring the patient and caregiver to
live in the same city. Ken Hayes would have gone to jail.

CN: The hills of northern California are filled with people growing small
quantities for people who live in the cities. It makes no sense that the
rural counties should be able to supply the cities with an agricultural

BP: [upon further reading] The requirement that patient and caregiver live
in the same county applies to caregivers qualifying for the voluntary
program... The problem is, only people who would come under that definition
get these protections.

CN: So what about caregivers who are not registering under the voluntary

BP: The problem is, you're going to have courts who say "We now know that
the legislature has defined 'primary caregiver.' You don't qualify, because
you had patients who lived in San Francisco an Berkeley." And then there
will be litigation over whether or not that refers to the definition of
primary caregiver for 11362.5 purposes, or only for qualifying for the
registration system.

CN: Why were some reformers glad to see Davis sign SB-420? There's a
reference to co-ops -does that validate the clubs?

BP: It says patients are allowed to get together and grow together, but
there's nothing in Prop 215 preventing that... The nice thing is that it
talks about transportation. There's a case out there that says you can't
transport at all. So that's kind of helpful. But the protections here are
only for a primary caregiver who comes under this definition of primary
caregiver. So inevitably there'll be a case where somebody makes the
argument, 'Even though I don't qualify for these protections under SB-420,
I do qualify under Prop 215." Good luck! There will be many judges who
take this as the definition of a primary caregiver.

And there's a problem with the requirement that the attending physician
conduct a "medical examination." You're going to have judges who say "If
he didn't tell him to drop his pants, turn his head and cough, he didn't do
a medical examination." You have to spell it out. "A medical examination
can be a review of appropriate medical records"

CN: Would you say that SB-420 is actually less clear than Prop 215?

BP: I would say that it certainly leaves lots of ambiguities. They didn't
talk to or have an interest in listening to the people who are actually in
the trenches, who are litigating Prop 215 every day... I think that a lot
more people will be busted under this bill than under Prop 215.

Pot Shots

Louis Armstrong's residence in Queens, New York, is being opened to the
public this month. According to an Oct. 9 story in the New York Times,
"Lucille Armstrong lived in the brick house in Queens for 12 years after
her husband's death, and when she died, during a trip to Boston in October
1983, the first person into the house was Phoebe Jacobs. Mrs. Jacobs, 85
and a woman of some dash, had worked with Louis Armstrong since 1956, and
is now the executive vice president of the Louis Armstrong Educational

"Much had changed in the house since Armstrong's death in 1971, Mrs. Jacobs
said last week. Among other things, she lamented, Lucille had thrown out
his stash of marijuana from the basement. 'He always had the good stuff,'
Mrs. Jacobs said."

The image of Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel tsk-tsking about the
term "Oaksterdam" (which refers to the downtown area where cannabis
dispensaries are clustered) drew a response from a local pediatrician who
requests anonymity. "We should ask Nancy what she makes of the term 'Pill
Hill,' which everybody uses to describe the hospital complex a mile to the
north... 'Pill Hill' nay not be respectful, but it's actually very
revealing about the practice of medicine nowadays."

Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser (CA)
Column: Cannabinotes
Copyright: 2003 Anderson Valley Advertiser