Hazy medical marijuana cases are California courts' forte

March 13, 2004

Carl Johanson, Manteca Bulletin

In the case of medical marijuana, the Manteca Police Department uses the court system for any Mantecan who claims to use the drug for it's medicinal purposes.

According to Manteca Police Sgt. Gary Lee, the two things needed are (1) a doctor's recommendation, and (2) a certification card (that has to be updated periodically).

But the police will always seize the drugs, cite the alleged offender into court, and let the justice system take its course.

Manteca's Public Affairs Officer Rex Osborn, though, said that officer discretion plays a large part in dealing with medicinal marijuana because of how much of the drug a person is either using or growing or both.

"If the guy has four pounds of the stuff," said Osborn, "He probably is not using it for medicinal purposes. It's different when we find two joints on a guy."

Though medicinal marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, the Manteca Police Department does not file cases with federal court. If they did, cases would not be about whether or not the drug is used legally, but it would be basically like any other criminal hearing.

"Our job is to protect the public," Osborn said, "by allowing the county judicial system to take over."

And sometimes, the courts find in favor of the person, as in a case in August 2001, when the police had to give 176 marijuana plants back to their owner, Mantecan David Willson. That number of plants translates into five pounds of marijuana.

But it's not like the Manteca police take care when storing drugs. The drugs are locked away as evidence and sit on a shelf.

As a result, as the Bulletin reported at the time, Willson said the marijuana was ruined.

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