City Still Plans To Address Medicinal Marijuana

June 07, 2005

Laura Cook, Turlock Journal

Nothing has changed. Turlock city officials will still make a decision on a medical marijuana ordinance in coming weeks, even though the U.S.  Supreme Court on Monday that said the federal government has the right to prosecute people who use or grow marijuana for medicinal purposes.

'We still have a state law that says it can be prescribed and dispensaries can dispense it,' City Attorney Richard Burton said.  'Nothing has changed.'

Turlock Police said the decision will not change the way the department responds to the drug.

The City Council plans to act on an ordinance governing medical marijuana clinics within Turlock's borders.

Police currently cite individuals in possession of less than an ounce and arrest individuals in possession of more than an ounce, Turlock Police Chief Lonald Lott said.

It is left up to the courts to decide who can possess and grow the drug legally, Lott said, but Turlock police will continue to follow federal law.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal agents have the ability to arrest and prosecute people who possess or grow marijuana in any of the ten states that have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.  California was the first state to do this in 1996.

'The issue with medicinal marijuana is that it provides individuals the opportunity to defend possession,' Lott said.

There are currently no marijuana clinics in Turlock, and city officials will discuss how they would respond to a proposed clinic.  The planning commission addressed the issue Thursday, and recommended to bar medicinal marijuana sales until the Supreme Court made a decision.  Now that a decision has been made, they will have to look into the issue further, Burton said.

The city can eventually make one of three decisions.  The council may decide to put a moratorium on medical marijuana shops.

'Some cities have made is illegal to dispense marijuana and they may get sued by prop-marijuana people,' Burton said.

The city could amend the municipal code to allow shops, but regulate where and how they operate, or the city could choose to ignore the issue, Burton said.

Doctors in California can still recommend marijuana to patients with illnesses that cause people extreme pain or nausea.  However, Lott has yet to hear of an actual prescription.

No matter what kind of paperwork individuals may present to Turlock Police, officers will continue to treat marijuana as an illegal substance, as they did when they encountered a person who lost his 'prescription.'

Officers had already confiscated the drug when a restaurant called to report that a bag of marijuana was left on a booth.

'A few hours later that individual wanted it back, so he comes to the police department and demands that its his prescription or recommendation.  We refused to give it back to him,' Lott said.  'Because then, I would be violating the law.'

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