Owner Had Doctor's Recommendation To Use The Marijuana

SAN LUIS OBISPO - Donovan No Runner walked out of the San Luis Obispo
Police station all smiles Friday, holding the bag of marijuana authorities
had returned to him.

A local Superior Court judge had ordered the city to return the marijuana
it confiscated from No Runner last summer, ruling the 23-year-old Grover
Beach man had a valid doctor's recommendation.

But police were concerned that handing the pot over to No Runner would
violate a federal law prohibiting the distribution of controlled substances.

As a result, the City Council considered appealing the court's ruling
during a last-minute meeting Friday, but instead it decided to give up the
fight.

"The city is an agency of the state, and we're following state law and a
court order," Interim City Attorney Gil Trujillo said.

Shortly after the city decided not to appeal the case, No Runner went to
the police station, where his 8.4 gram bag of marijuana was returned --
still in good condition.

While smoking marijuana is illegal under federal law, California's
Proposition 215 makes it legal for those with a doctor's recommendation.

"For the time being, people are protected under state law, not under
federal law," said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based
Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates the decriminalization of
marijuana use.

While state voters legalized medicinal marijuana, law enforcement can still
confiscate pot until it is proven that a doctor's recommendation is legitimate.

No Runner's difficulty arose because state law does not specify what is
supposed to happen to medicinal marijuana once confiscated.

In court last month, No Runner's attorney, Lou Koory, cited an Oregon case
in arguing that police are immune from federal prosecution, though no such
case exists in California.

Trujillo said that ultimately, the issue will be resolved in a higher court.

With no clear guidelines for such a case in the state, No Runner's case
could have become a precedent on appeal.

But the city also decided it was not feasible to pay attorneys' fees at a
time when it is experiencing a $5 million deficit.

Koory said he and his client were ready to fight the issue if an appeal had
been sought.

"We're just happy that common sense prevailed," he said.

No Runner said his doctor recommended marijuana to combat the effects of
bipolar disorder.

He was lighting a water pipe near SLO Brewing Co., between a trash can and
a tree, when he was stopped by a police officer in August.

No Runner told the officer he had a doctor's recommendation, but he was
cited anyway, and his marijuana was taken.

Once the recommendation was verified, the District Attorney's Office
dismissed criminal charges. But police would not return the pot or the pipe.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera, intending to set a local
precedent, said the police had to return the marijuana within 30 days.

Koory said the police could have faced a contempt of court charge had they
not returned the pot by Friday's deadline.

Despite the difficulty in getting his pot returned, No Runner said he
wanted to set an example for others who need medicinal marijuana --
particularly those who have greater needs than he does.

"I'm glad this happened to me," he said. "I'm physically able to fight this."

Without a clear guideline, he said, police could confiscate marijuana
merely to keep legitimate users from smoking it.

"They can't just go around taking medication from sick people," he said.


Pubdate: Sat, 4 Jan 2003
Source: Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 The Tribune
Contact: letters@thetribunenews.com
Website: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispotribune/