Medical marijuana 'compliance checks' anger citizens

March 13, 2012

Paul Boerger, Mt. Shasta News

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said he plans to meet with detectives who conducted recent medical marijuana “compliance checks” in Dunsmuir to ensure they’re relaying correct information to the public.

He said the Sheriff’s Office will abide by doctor recommendations for marijuana amounts and that any misinformation put out by deputies and detectives will be corrected. Lopey stated in an interview earlier this week that cooperating with deputies doing compliance checks is completely voluntary. (See Lopey's full response in the blue column to the right.)

Earlier this month, Dunsmuir residents reported that Sheriff’s deputies, in some cases accompanied by a detective, made unannounced visits to their homes, knocking on doors and stating they were there at the direction of the Sheriff.

Without producing warrants, the deputies and a detective dressed in full camouflage were reported to have requested to see medical marijuana recommendation cards, asked to photograph the cards, requested and photographed identification, asked to view the number of plants in possession and, according to several people who experienced the visits, advised people on what medical conditions marijuana may or may not be used for. Citizens said they were also being told that if they donate marijuana to the local collective they will be prosecuted for narcotics violations.

Laws
The city of Dunsmuir passed a marijuana cultivation ordinance that went into effect in August of 2011 that severy restricts cultivation within the city limits.

Proposition 215 legalized marijuana for medical use in California in 1996. Senate Bill 420 amended Prop. 215 in 2003 including setting limits on the amount of marijuana that may be in possession for medical use.

The courts, however, overturned several provisions of SB 420 including possession limits saying that a Proposition may not be legally amended except by a vote of the people.

The federal government, however, holds marijuana illegal for any purpose and does not recognize state laws allowing medical marijuana use. A court ruling in 2008, City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, requires police officers to uphold state not federal law.

None of the people interviewed for the story were shown warrants or were told that their cooperation was voluntary.

Reports from citizens
Leslie Wilde, owner of the medical marijuana Green Collar Compassionate Collective in Dunsmuir, said she received a compliance check visit from deputies Feb. 29.

“Officer Gilley and detective Jones came into the lobby of the collective. They told me Sheriff Lopey had asked them to do a compliance check,” said Wilde. “They told me they were checking on other known growers. They said that medical marijuana was OK for cancer, but not for carpal tunnel.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said he plans to meet with detectives who conducted recent medical marijuana “compliance checks” in Dunsmuir to ensure they’re relaying correct information to the public.

He said the Sheriff’s Office will abide by doctor recommendations for marijuana amounts and that any misinformation put out by deputies and detectives will be corrected. Lopey stated in an interview earlier this week that cooperating with deputies doing compliance checks is completely voluntary. (See Lopey's full response in the blue column to the right.)

Earlier this month, Dunsmuir residents reported that Sheriff’s deputies, in some cases accompanied by a detective, made unannounced visits to their homes, knocking on doors and stating they were there at the direction of the Sheriff.

Without producing warrants, the deputies and a detective dressed in full camouflage were reported to have requested to see medical marijuana recommendation cards, asked to photograph the cards, requested and photographed identification, asked to view the number of plants in possession and, according to several people who experienced the visits, advised people on what medical conditions marijuana may or may not be used for. Citizens said they were also being told that if they donate marijuana to the local collective they will be prosecuted for narcotics violations.

Laws
The city of Dunsmuir passed a marijuana cultivation ordinance that went into effect in August of 2011 that severy restricts cultivation within the city limits.

Proposition 215 legalized marijuana for medical use in California in 1996. Senate Bill 420 amended Prop. 215 in 2003 including setting limits on the amount of marijuana that may be in possession for medical use.

The courts, however, overturned several provisions of SB 420 including possession limits saying that a Proposition may not be legally amended except by a vote of the people.

The federal government, however, holds marijuana illegal for any purpose and does not recognize state laws allowing medical marijuana use. A court ruling in 2008, City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, requires police officers to uphold state not federal law.

None of the people interviewed for the story were shown warrants or were told that their cooperation was voluntary.

Reports from citizens
Leslie Wilde, owner of the medical marijuana Green Collar Compassionate Collective in Dunsmuir, said she received a compliance check visit from deputies Feb. 29.

“Officer Gilley and detective Jones came into the lobby of the collective. They told me Sheriff Lopey had asked them to do a compliance check,” said Wilde. “They told me they were checking on other known growers. They said that medical marijuana was OK for cancer, but not for carpal tunnel. “I was told that if I donated to the collective I would be arrested for narcotics sales,” Pride said.

“They are trying to enforce a law they are not familiar with. They are telling us things that are not true like the number of plants we can have and we shouldn’t use it for carpal tunnel,” said Pride, adding that others who had similar experiences are “afraid of retaliation if they speak out.”

Constitutionality questioned
Wilde said she believes the compliance checks are unconstitutional. “People are absolutely afraid to come forward and complain. They fear retaliation by the police. It is intimidating when three police officers are on your doorstep. There is a shaming effect. They have to explain to their neighbors why police officers are at their home.

“Under current law, there are no limits. It’s what your doctor recommends. When officers show up at your door, it is absolutely voluntary that you answer their questions. Unless they have probable cause, there is no reason for an officer to ask for information.

“The deputies seem to be on fishing expeditions,” Wilde continued. “They confuse people with misinformation such as numbers of plants they can have, donating to the collective and you can only use it for a particular ailment.”

Siskiyou County Public Defender Lael Kayfetz expressed concern that the officers were expressing incorrect interpretations of the medical marijuana laws.

“I’m a little alarmed that the detectives are so uninformed or untrained on the medical marijuana laws,” Kayfetz said. “I hope Sheriff Lopey will rectify the misinformation his officers are putting out.”

Americans for Safe Access Attorney
Americans for Safe Access is a national organization dedicated to promoting medical marijuana and protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients. ASA attorney Joe Elford says the actions by the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department are unwarranted harassment.

“Being a medical marijuana patient is not a basis to be harassed by the police. We are extremely disappointed that the Siskiyou Sheriff's office is using private medical records to harass qualified medical marijuana patients,” Elford said. “We are considering all legal options for medical marijuana patients who have been subject to this abuse by the Siskiyou Sheriff's Department.”



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