Paul Payne, Press Democrat,
Stepping into a conflict over medical marijuana, the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday discouraged their police force from cooperating with federal drug agents. By a 3-1 vote, the council passed a resolution in support of the 1996 ballot initiative that allowed people to grow and use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The medical exception to state laws against growing or using marijuana isn't recognized by the federal government, which prohibits any use of the drug. Backed by a U.S.
Supreme Court ruling, federal agents in recent months have raided many marijuana buyers clubs and pot gardens, one of them near Sebastopol. In response, medical marijuana advocates asked Sebastopol and Santa Rosa council members to adopt resolutions urging police to withhold assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration. 'What the resolution is doing is affirming our support for California law,' said Councilman Larry Robinson, who voted yes. 'There is ample documentation for why that is important.' Councilman Bob Anderson voted no, and Councilman Bill Roventini was absent. Sebastopol Police Chief Gordon Pitter said it's rare for his officers to work with DEA agents, adding he was comfortable with the resolution. After stripping out the language about noncooperation with the DEA, Santa Rosa council members indicated they would approve the resolution, which is expected to come up for a vote in two weeks. The resolution struck a chord with Santa Rosa Councilwoman Sharon Wright, who told of her late husband's battle with cancer. She said 'we took advantage of the use of marijuana' when other medications failed to ease his pain. 'I was totally amazed at the benefits,' Wright said. But residents of a quiet neighborhood outside Sebastopol complained bitterly about the resolution, telling the Sebastopol council about a neighbor who grew more than 3,000 marijuana plants, employing armed security guards and attack dogs to watch the garden. They said as more residents grow marijuana for medical uses, the need for assistance from federal agents increases. 'We pleaded with the county to do something and wound up calling the feds,' said Mary Roth, a neighbor to Robert Schmidt's huge marijuana garden, which was raided in September. 'We were so grateful they came.' Staff Writer Mike McCoy contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 521-5250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.