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Skepticism Surrounds Santa Cruz's New Marijuana Law


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Now that growing, selling and using marijuana on private property is essentially allowed in Santa Cruz after the overwhelming support for Measure K this week, police are worried about how to carry out their state-sworn duties and parents and teachers wonder how to explain this one to their children.

"I'm just really upset," said Mike Bethke, a downtown resident and father of two who opposed Measure K. "It sends the wrong message to our kids, and to the rest of the country that Santa Cruz is a haven for folks who smoke pot."

Measure K goes into effect by February. It forces the Police Department to make adult marijuana-related crimes on private property a low priority. It won easily Tuesday with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Proponents mounted their campaign after a petition drive earlier this year gathered more than the 3,400 signatures from registered city voters to qualify for the ballot.

Campaign cash for Measure K totaled nearly $70,000 and was funneled to Santa Cruz largely from an Ohio insurance tycoon, Peter B. Lewis, who believes in legalizing the drug.

Local opponents like Bethke, who were few in number and raised no money nor waged an organized campaign, were unable to sway voters to see the measure as something they say creates problems for police while feeding the city's marijuana-friendly reputation.

Marijuana is considered an illegal drug by federal authorities, but following the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, its use is allowed in California by those with a doctor's OK.

Supporters say the new ordinance is more symbolic than anything because marijuana use is already a small offense in most local cases. Rather, they say, Measure K was designed to focus police attention on serious and violent crimes.

"We're not changing the law here. We're just shifting the priorities for city police," said Andrea Tischler, a Measure K organizer who says she's a regular pot smoker. "This is a very reasonable ordinance. As adults, we should be able to have the freedom to do what we like in our own homes."

The measure, proponents said, is part of a nationwide effort to eventually legalize the drug and save taxpayer money on what they view as needless incarceration for minor drug offenses. Similar rules are in effect in Seattle and Oakland.

The new ordinance requires the City Council to name a seven-member community oversight committee to monitor police reports and evaluate all marijuana arrests.

Should the committee find police are failing to comply with the initiative, civil lawsuits may be pursued, according to the ordinance.

"This puts the police in a tough situation," City Attorney John Barisone said. "How do they obey the ordinance and do the job they've been sworn under oath to do under state law?

"At this point we're figuring out how officers will walk that line."

The Santa Cruz Police Department referred all questions about the measure to Barisone.

The new ordinance would bar a police officer from testifying in a marijuana-related case, which Barisone said is a violation of state law and creates potential conflict with the District Attorney's Office.

Still, many worry about how young people might receive the Measure K message.

Though the new ordinance does not protect marijuana use by people under 18, some fear the measure makes it harder to explain the dangers of the drug to teens.

"Some high school students will see this as the green light to go get stoned whenever they feel like it," said Councilman Ed Porter, a high school teacher who opposed Measure K. "That's too bad because it's hard to learn in that circumstance."

Details of the new ordinance that makes adult marijuana crimes lowest priority for police

* Cooperation with state and federal authorities is restricted in relation to marijuana investigations and arrests.
* Prohibits city from accepting federal funds to investigate, seize or prosecute marijuana offenses.
* Creates a community oversight committee to monitor police reports for marijuana arrests.
* Declares that it is city policy to support policies for taxation and regulation of marijuana.
* Requires city clerk to send annual letters to federal lawmakers in support of marijuana legalization.

Newshawk: user - 420 Magazine
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel
Pubdate: November 2006
Author: Shanna McCord
Copyright: 2006 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Contact: smccord@santacruzsentinel.com
Website: Skepticism surrounds Santa Cruz's new marijuana law - By Shanna McCord - Sentinel staff writer - November 10, 2006
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These people should just get over it. It's a PLANT, not a drug. The way the laws are now, kids have much easier access to pot than adults do. The "message" will be the same as for alcohol and tobacco, adults are free to choose to use or not to use. Right now kids see that a lot of adults are breaking a law, is that a good "message" for kids??


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The people of Santa Cruz have execised their right to Vote. The provisions were well thought out. The Federal Government wants the same thing. But, wants to Control the Sales, Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana. Santa Cruz is years ahead and taking the Lead, other cities should take a serious look at what they have done. This type of Awareness brought to a community is feared by all the Executive Leaders in the Federal Agencies such as the DEA, and ATF. It would no longer be in their Control. There should be a joint effort ( no pun intended ) to work together along with the State & Federal authorities to make Marijuana legal, it should be brought to a Vote. The People will speak out either way.
Is Marijuana Legalization good for every community in the US? There are thousands who say yes, and thousands who say no. Let the people decide on which direction to take, respectively in their own communities That is why the United States of America is the Best Country in the world. Despite any flaws, "We the People" will continue to speak out. If it works, it works, if it does not, than Vote and change it.
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