Sheriff's comments put pot club on hold

April 28, 2005

Vanessa Turner , Calaveras Enterprise

Kim Cue, formerly of San Andreas, was set to open the first medical marijuana dispensary in Calaveras County. That was until she heard Sheriff Dennis Downum say the feds would probably raid it once it opened. Now her plans are on hold.

Last September, Cue applied to open a dispensary but was put on hold while the county drafted an ordinance to regulate their operation.

The Compassionate Use Act, passed in 1996, allows patients to use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation, but federal law still considers marijuana an illegal substance.

That is why Downum opposes such business in the county, saying it puts law enforcement at odds.

"Since the day that was passed it put us in to conflict with federal law," he said.

A case on this issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court and a decision is expected soon. Until then, Downum said everyone is waiting to see what to do.

At the time the ordinance passed in February, Downum said he anticipated the federal government would be coming to Calaveras County to seize the dispensary building like it did at a Roseville dispensary last October.

Cue took that statement as a threat.

"It's straight in my face," she said. "Downum doesn't want this kind of thing in this town."

"If she took something I said as a threat, I can't imagine why," Downum said. "I absolutely felt like it was my responsibility to inform the board and public of my concerns. … In some other jurisdictions the board's decisions have left it open for some liability."

"What I'm doing is legal," Cue said. "Downum needs to understand this is a right, not a privilege. It's a law that passed almost 10 years ago."

Downum said he understands that and would treat Cue's business just like any other.

"I'm not going to run to the feds and tell them we're doing this," he said. "They can read it in the newspapers like everybody else. If the federal government decided to come in and raid it, they could expect my cooperation."

"I feel like I'm dealing with anarchy with the Sheriffs Department," Cue said. "If anybody is breaking the law around here it's Downum. His job does not rely on what he feels, it relies on him following the law."

Downum said he doesn't have a problem with patients using medical marijuana. Rather it's the way the act was written that allows for abuse.

"Quite frankly, I would be in agreement with it, on a personal level," he said. "Who cares? Give them heroine if it makes them feel better. This thing was written so poorly. It was just an attempt to legalize marijuana.

"It's not being used for what the voters intended. I think for the majority of voters that voted for it, they had an absolute belief it was going to be used for cancer and AIDS patients, people who are very seriously ill. But, it's basically been turned into a way to legally abuse it."

Cue said she would still open the dispensary, but will wait until Downum "calms down."

"Anybody would be out of their mind to open up a dispensary after that."

Cue also said her supporters are upset with Downum's behavior.

"There are certain medical cannabis patients in their 60s that are getting harassed," she said. "It's not just me that's fed up with the sheriff. It's a lot of people. Patients are talking about filing a lawsuit for practicing medicine without a medical license. Downum is saying which medicines you can and cannot take.

‘We're not backing down."

As far as anyone getting harassed, Downum said, "She should have those people or her report that to me and we will investigate it. None of those complaints have come to me. Quite frankly I don't know who her patients are."



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