Government: Advocates Say City Guidelines Are Needed To Assure The Legality
Of Helping Patients

Medical marijuana advocates plan a return to Santa Barbara City Hall on
Tuesday to urge elected leaders to craft an ordinance enacting Proposition
215, the California law passed in 1996 to legalize pot with a doctor's
recommendation.

The 1 p.m. hearing before the city Ordinance Committee -- City Council
members Marty Blum, Gregg Hart and Gil Garcia -- follows the recent
eviction of prominent local medical-marijuana distributors from a Carrillo
Street office space.

The individual who rented the space to the nonprofit Compassionate Cannabis
Center grew uneasy about legalities following a front-page newspaper story
about the operation, according to center administrators.

Now, the organization's leadership has splintered and the group's future is
unclear.

Founder David Pryor said the breakdown points to a need for local
guidelines governing the distribution of medical marijuana. An ordinance,
he said, would make it easier for distributors like himself to rise from a
murk of secrecy or confusion and succeed under the watchful eye of law
enforcement.

"My friends are dying, and we need to get this ordinance passed," said
Pryor, who plans to continue helping 125 patients through a new nonprofit,
called the California Medical Marijuana Cooperative.

Medical-marijuana advocates say a city ordinance would protect the dozens
of patients across the county known to use and often grow the substance for
health reasons.

Westside activist Bruce Rittenhouse, a likely mayoral candidate, said he
proposed an ordinance last summer. Rittenhouse said Friday that he prefers
the city take quick action to protect medical-marijuana users from arrest,
and if necessary worry about figuring out proper distribution schemes later.

"My argument is we should move ahead," Rittenhouse said. "It will stop the
criminalizing of individuals who are abiding by state law."

Whether an ordinance is drafted in Santa Barbara, however, remains to be seen.

Since September, city officials have studied strategies used by other
communities, particularly Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

Each jurisdiction established guidelines late last year for law enforcement
authorities to follow when dealing with authorized medical-marijuana users.
Residents can obtain papers to prove their right to the drug.

But if officials do decide to take similar action in Santa Barbara, it
appears that the plan would not unfold before a U.S. Supreme Court decision
on a case out of Oakland.

The legality of Oakland's city-supported "Medical Cannabis Distribution
Program" is in question, and Santa Barbara city attorneys have said that
the decision in that case could impact the direction of a similar program here.

"It's kind of a wait-and-see," City Attorney Dan Wallace said Friday.

Further, Wallace said he and other city staff members believe state
officials, not local leaders, should ultimately implement California's
medical-marijuana law.

Medical-marijuana supporters say the ingestion or smoking of the leafy
green plant helps cancer and AIDS patients to ward off nausea or induce an
appetite. They say the drug can combat anorexia, relieve chronic pain and
control spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, headaches and other ailments.


Newshawk: Jo-D and Tom-E
Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2001
Source: Santa Barbara News-Press (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Santa Barbara News-Press
Contact: jlankford@newspress.com
Address: P.O. Box 1359, Santa Barbara, CA 93102
Website: http://www.newspress.com/
Author: Thomas Schultz, News-Press Staff Writer
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)