Marijuana ordinance: supervisors say they want more collaboration

February 04, 2004

, Siskiyou Daily News

YREKA - A proposal for Siskiyou County to establish guidelines and enforcement policies for medical marijuana use was sent back to staff by the supervisors following a presentation on Tuesday by Tim Pappas from the district attorney's office and Mark Merril from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department.

About a dozen people were present to speak in support of the proposal, with many of them saying they are medical marijuana users.

Some gave testimony of the personal medical benefit of its use.

While acknowledging the enforcement and compliance confusion of the existing compassionate marijuana use laws, established by the passing of Proposition 215 in 1996, the supervisors said more work needs to be done on the proposed ordinance in collaboration with other departments before they are willing to pass it.

Pappas said the passing of SB 420 that went into effect on Jan. 1, gives local authorities permission to enact additional laws and ordinances to clarify the confusing Proposition 215 compassionate use act.

He said such clarification is needed for consistent enforcement of the marijuana laws and the continued safety and welfare of individuals in the community.

Presently, law enforcement officials have difficulty determining who is a legitimate medical marijuana user. By policy, users not registered with local authorities in advance are often arrested with the determination to be made later when they come to the attention of law enforcement.

'Compassionate use participants are extremely confused and we can't give them any help because the proposition is not clear, providing no guidance of implementation.' Pappas said. 'We want to clear up the confusion. If the ordinance is passed, it is our intent, and that of the sheriff's department, to educate the marijuana users so they know what is within the law. We will publish a brochure of the dos and don'ts of medical marijuana use.'

Presently only medical marijuana growers and users with cards are immune from arrest and only about 200 in the county are registered, Pappas said. Compassionate use marijuana users without cards who come to the attention of law enforcement are usually arrested and taken to jail but released if later a valid doctor's prescription or letter recommending medical marijuana use can be produced. There is also a need of a system to quickly certify the validity of medical marijuana use cards presented to law enforcement officials.

The proposed ordinance will not only clarify the circumstances of allowable medical marijuana possession and use, it will also set up a system to more quickly and accurately check valid cards and doctor recommendations.

'We want to provide equal protection under the law for immunity from arrest,' Pappas said.

Merrill said it is in the sheriff's department's interest to know who these people are in order to avoid conflicts.

Speakers Marie Matlock, who claimed to be the CEO of the Siskiyou County Medical Marijuana Co-op, said she has been in business since 2000 and has registered many people.

Matlock said she always stresses to medical marijuana users the necessity of keeping the law and touted the personal medical benefit of marijuana for herself.

'We are just asking to thin out the confusion and this ordnance is a beginning,' said speaker Harley Brown. 'We are happy they (the district attorney and sheriff's department) asked for our help to form these guidelines.'

The ordinance also specifies prohibited acts of medical marijuana use:

€ Any place where the smoking of tobacco is prohibited;

€ In any public building or on any public property or space open to the general public;

€ In the presence or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of any public or private school or recreation or youth center;

€ In any school bus or while operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, skateboard, or similar transportation device.

€ In the immediate presence of any person under the age of 18.

The ordinance also prohibits the growing or cultivation or possession of marijuana on public property and prohibits its growth on private property without the written permission of the property owner.

Supervisor Joan Smith said she would like to see what other counties are doing with SB 420 before taking action.

Pappas said no other county has proposed an ordinance like this one. He said other counties have ordinances that set limits but only a few counties actually have law relating to Proposition 215 permitting marijuana use.

'Right now Siskiyou County is with the majority of counties that have not taken action,' he said.

Supervisor Bill Overman said there needs to be a state policy before the county starts establishing one on its own. He also expressed concern about getting on the same page with the state and cities.

Supervisor Marcia Armstrong, describing herself as a 'teetotaler,' said she is open to the compassionate use of marijuana but is not comfortable with this ordnance because it is still unclear.

'There needs to be more work on this ordinance before it is accepted,' Hoy said. 'We are the first county to go forward with such an ordinance change. The only other county to do so is Tehama County and they passed an operational procedure.'

Hoy said that this is a sensitive issue and needs more than a quick fix.

'It needs more staff work and input from the general public and users,' he said.

The supervisors directed, specifically, the district attorney, public health, behavioral health, human services, county counsel, and sheriff's department to work together on this.

'I am sure everyone's concerns will be brought out,' he said.

Public Health Doctor David Herfindahl said those who get cards will pay fees to cover the overall program cost because it is 'budget neutral.'

'There will be county costs to this but the details have not been worked out,' Herfindahl said. 'A Web site will be created to help these people and checks with physicians to validate the condition leading to the medical marijuana prescription.'

Herfindahl said the health department is prepared to move forward with this program but it is only involved with the card.

'People do not have to apply for this card,' he said. 'There are people with medical conditions and a prescription who are afforded the same protection of the law without receiving a card. It is difficult to see how law enforcement will make the distinction.'



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