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November 14, 1996

Drug Czar Holds Meeting With California Law Enforcement To Discuss New State Medical Marijuana Law

        November 14, 1996, Washington, D.C.:  Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is scheduled to meet today with California law enforcement officials from the "No on 215" campaign, including Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates, to discuss the federal response to the passage of Proposition 215.
        The Office of National Drag Control Policy (ONDCP) had vigorously campaigned against the initiative and reaffirmed the Administration's opposition to the passage of the measure in a November 9 press release.
        "The passage of [Proposition 215] creates a significant threat to the drug control system that protects our children," the release said.  "...As the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice have stated, Federal law is unchanged by the passage of th[is] initiative.  Doctors in ... California ... who prescribe a Schedule I drug as medicine, notwithstanding state law, will violate federal law.  The provision in the California measure that allows patients and caregivers to grow and possess marijuana also violates federal law.  The decision to bring appropriate criminal or administrative enforcement action will be, as always, decided on a case by case basis."
        Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, who has long been involved with medical marijuana research, recently learned of the meeting, but was denied attendance by Assistant General Counsel Warren Hall.  It was explained to Mikuriya that the list of participants was limited to those opposed to Proposition 215.  A follow up letter requesting Mikuriya's attendance was faxed by Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.) who asked that the White House "do everything possible to gain admission to this meeting for Dr. Mikuriya.
        Mikuriya has requested that the meeting be rescheduled to a later date in order to allow representatives from the California medical community to attend the meeting.  "The limitation of the list of invitees to those in law enforcement to strategize on the response to the passage of Proposition 215 in California ... would appear to be possibly illegal if not grossly improper," he said.  "[This] proposition involves health issues.  To exclude input from physicians who are explicitly and specifically mentioned is unacceptable.  This act of institutional denial demonstrates bad faith on the part of the participants from California who are sworn to uphold and enforce state law."
        For more information, please contact Dr. Tod Mikuriya @ (510) 843-0279 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Medical Marijuana Supporters Plan 'Effective, Responsible' Procedures, Legislation To Implement Proposition 215

        November 6, 1996, Santa Cruz, CA:  A meeting has been scheduled in Santa Cruz on November 16 to discuss plans for implementing legislation to provide for the well regulated distribution of medical marijuana to patients and researchers.  Although Proposition 215 makes concessions for patients who possess and use marijuana for a legitimate medical need, it does not address the question of distribution.
        "We want Proposition 215 to work as effectively and responsibly as possible in meeting the needs of patients and researchers, with appropriate safeguards to prevent abuses," says Lynnette Shaw, co-chair of the California Medical Marijuana Council (CMMC), which is organizing the meeting.  The CMMC includes representatives of the state's medical marijuana "Cannabis Buyers' Clubs," that are currently supplying patients through the underground market.
        The conference will discuss ways in which CBC's can legitimize their operations under Proposition 215, with well defined procedures for identifying medical marijuana patients, validating physicians' recommendations, and preventing diversions to non-medical uses.  Proposition 215 supporters are hoping to propose some form of legal licensing system for CBC's via implementory legislation in the state legislature next year.  They also want to establish legal cultivation facilities to supply both patients and researchers with high-quality marijuana under legal, well controlled conditions.
        Proposition 215 supporters contest claims by opponents, such as Attorney General Dan Lungren, that the initiative was written loosely so as to encourage abuses.  "Proposition 215 was deliberately framed in general terms so that the state and federal governments could work out regulatory details of the distribution system," says Dale Gieringer of California NORML.  "We want to work with local state and federal authorities in ironing out any ambiguities in the law so as to prevent abuses."
        "Proposition 215 is not the last word on the subject, just the first," said Shaw.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Lynnette Shaw of the California Medical Marijuana Council @ (415) 893-1811.

Arizona Governor May Veto Voter Approved Initiative

        November 6, 1996: Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Gov. Fife Symington may attempt to veto a recently passed state initiative allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana as a medicine and mandating that non-violent drug offenders receive treatment rather than incarceration.  The initiative passed on November 5 by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent.
        An aide to Symington said last week that the governor believes he has the authority to veto successful ballot initiatives which pass with a simple majority of voters, but without a majority of all registered voters.  The governor has up to 30 days to decide a course of action.  Symington campaigned against the measure prior to the election.
        John MacDonald, Government Affairs Director of the Arizona Attorney General's Office, said a veto by the governor would violate the state's constitution, though he added that the subject of referendum vetoes hasn't been fully studied by the attorney general or members of his staff.
        "Our opinion is that the governor has no constitutional authority to veto what the people have voted in favor of," he said.  "We expect he will follow the law.  If he does not, we expect that one way or the other he will wind up in court."
        For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

Buyers' Club Activists Plead 'Morally Not Guilty' At Arraignment

        November 1996, Oakland, CA:  Five defendants from the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club plead "morally not guilty" at their arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court.  The five individuals have been charged with possession of marijuana for sale, the sale or transportation of marijuana, and conspiracy, stemming from an August 4 raid by state law enforcement on the nearly 12,000 member club.
        "The fact is, we did sell marijuana in San Francisco to sick and dying people for three and a half years," CBC founder Dennis Peron told reporters outside the courtroom.  "We were morally compelled to do this."
        Judge Larry Goodman scheduled a December 17 hearing on a motion filed by the defendants to move the trial from Oakland to San Francisco.  They argue that the trial should be conducted in San Francisco because that is where the club was located.
        Judge Goodman has already denied a gag order sought by the attorney general's office, saying he was not persuaded by arguments that pretrial press coverage could prejudice potential jurors.
        For more information, please contact Californians for Compassionate Use @ (415) 621-3986.