Date: Fri, 06 Aug 1999
Subject: California “Law Enforcement” Ignores Prop. 215 AGAIN
DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 118 August 6, 1999
California “Law Enforcement” Ignores Prop. 215 AGAIN
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DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 118 August 6, 1999
A sadly familiar story in California was replayed again last month as
another group of medical marijuana users had their medicine taken from
them by police. This time it happened in San Diego, and two of the
providers/users were jailed overnight for exercising a right granted
by the citizens of California.
While this is mean-spirited and cruel, it is also darkly ironic, as
the chief of police in San Diego recently suggested that police are
wasting their time by investigating many routine burglary reports. He
said those police efforts would be better spent arresting illegal drug
users (see http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v99.n777.a02.html ).
If police resources are being poorly used by investigating crimes with
legitimate victims, it’s time to analyze the costs and benefits of
harassing law-abiding citizens and confiscating their medication.
Please write a letter to the San Diego Union protesting this outrage.
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Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Send your letter or a separate letter to the mayor of San
Susan Golding Mayor City of San Diego 202 C St. San Diego, CA 92101
Pubdate: Wed, 28 July 1999
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 1999 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Mark Sauer, Staff Writer
GROUP QUESTIONS SEIZURE OF MARIJUANA
As Michael Bartelmo moved forward to address the San Diego City
Council yesterday, all that could be heard in the hushed chamber was
the whir of his electric wheelchair.
Left a quadriplegic by an auto accident when he was 17, Bartelmo, 35,
spoke “on behalf of sick people who belong to Shelter From The Storm,”
an agricultural cooperative in Hillcrest.
“Our garden was raided by police officers,” Bartelmo said. “What we
want to know is, why this happened. We were following the law. I
don’t understand why we’re being singled out.”
The garden consisted of marijuana plants. The law in question is
Proposition 215, the medical-marijuana initiative passed
overwhelmingly by California voters in 1996 and the source of great
confusion ever since.
Bartelmo, backed by a dozen other “Shelter People” who use marijuana
daily to help cope with pain, contended that while his group was
following guidelines set by the state Attorney General’s Office, San
Diego police were not.
Acting on “a complaint from a citizen,” police visited the Fifth
Avenue cooperative July 6 and encountered its founder, Steve
McWilliams, who is on probation after entering a plea bargain earlier
this year on a marijuana cultivation charge. He is allowed to use
marijuana for chronic pain, but not distribute it.
McWilliams said he invited the officers to inspect the marijuana
plants, which were tagged with the names of about a dozen shelter
members. Each member had a doctor’s letter on file authorizing use of
marijuana for medicinal purposes, McWilliams said.
Those letters are now in police possession, along with about 300 pot
plants – — more than half of which were not viable — and a variety
of high-intensity lights and other growing equipment, McWilliams said.
“Another member and I were arrested, taken downtown, strip-searched
and forced to spend a night in jail until we made $3,000 bail,” he
said. “It’s like we had no doctors’ letters, like Prop. 215 didn’t
Group members are “trying our darndest to follow the law,” Bartelmo
told the council.
“But we can’t if police officers, the City Council or others in
authority won’t tell us what the law is,” Bartelmo said.
McWilliams said that officers went against the Proposition 215
guidelines by confiscating the plants instead of merely photographing
them and taking a sample. No charges have been filed against
McWilliams or other shelter members.
Lt. Carl Black of the San Diego Police Street Narcotics Team said in
an interview that he could not comment specifically on McWilliams’
case, but said the murky nature of Proposition 215 “puts us between a
rock and a hard place.”
“We have to make a judgment call on how many people are involved and
how many plants they’re growing,” Black said.
Particularly galling to the shelter members is that a few blocks away
in Hillcrest, the California Alternative Medical Center is buying
marijuana in bulk and selling it in small quantities to patients with
a doctor’s letter on file.
While insisting he does not want to see California Alternative Medical
Center shut down, McWilliams questioned how the it is allowed to
profit by selling marijuana while shelter members are prevented from
growing it for their own use.
Black said he could not comment on that issue other than to say his
officers are aware of the center’s storefront operation.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Running Sr. said in an interview
that he had heard of California Alternative Medical Center, “but I
haven’t been there, haven’t talked to those people.”
As for McWilliams, Running said he will study the facts and
circumstances before deciding if charges will be filed. He said he
may wait for new Proposition 215 guidelines that the state Legislature
soon could issue.
City Councilman George Stevens described confiscation of the group’s
plants as “an urgent situation,” and asked the city manager and city
attorney to report back with a clarification from San Diego police
regarding medical marijuana within 30 days.
SAMPLE LETTER (sent)
I was upset to learn another group of medical marijuana users in
California was left without medication after another vindictive raid
by law enforcement officers.
I’m not from California, but where I live police are directed to
enforce laws, not make them up as they go along. Even if medical
marijuana use were still illegal in the state, stopping such use would
seem to be a very low priority for police. The people associated with
Shelter From the Storm hurt no one and present no risk to other
citizens. Their existence may offend the sensibilities of certain law
enforcement officials, but that is no reason to persecute them.
The story is even more mind-boggling after hearing the San Diego
police chief suggest it is a waste of police time to investigate
certain burglary reports. If police have the resources to bust
society’s most defenseless without cause, certainly they have the
resources to investigate crimes with actual victims.
These incidents should serve as a startling reminder that the war on
drugs is really a war on all Americans. People like members of Shelter
From the Storm may bear the brunt of the attack, but when drug crimes
become the main focus of police activity, anyone who really suffers at
the hands of a criminal must be prepared to be treated merely as a
minor inconvenience to law enforcement.
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