cannabisnews.com: Sellers Find Loopholes in State's MMJ Laws





Sellers Find Loopholes in State's MMJ Laws
Posted by CN Staff on January 28, 2007 at 06:15:33 PT
By Shanna McCord, Sentinel Staff Writer 
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel 
Santa Cruz -- Half the calls to criminal defense attorney Ben Rice are people busted for growing, selling or using marijuana.Rice has developed a reputation for protecting the rights of those who buy and sell the drug under the 10-year-old state law that makes marijuana legal for sick people. While most of those seeking Rice's services are legitimate medical marijuana patients or caregivers, he estimates 30 percent are not. 
These people aren't sick, he says, and are simply trying to hide behind the Compassionate Use Act for recreational or profit-making reasons."Absolutely, no question about it, some people do take advantage of the law," Rice said during an interview at his Soquel Avenue office. "There are some people who have no medical defense, and I tell them, 'No.' "Authorities say they regularly see perfectly healthy people, some found with several pounds of marijuana, claim the drug is for a sick friend or relative.The problem, authorities say, is proving otherwise. Shades of Gray Proposition 215, passed by voters in 1996 and known as the Compassionate Use Act, set the stage for sick Californians to legally use marijuana. Senate Bill 420 came along in 2003, attempting to set definitive rules and guidelines about who can sell the drug.But the laws neither clarify who qualifies as a medical marijuana patient nor what exactly the terms are for selling the drug to patients ó two gray areas that have opened the law to the most abuse, authorities say.For example, one part of SB 420 says medical marijuana caregivers should be allowed "reasonable compensation," while another section says medical marijuana sales should be done as nonprofit.Another example: The Senate bill created a voluntary identification card system that protects patients and caregivers from being harassed or arrested when they show the card to police. But the voluntary element allows many people to claim a medical alibi even when they don't have an identification card or doctor's recommendation. Attorneys like Rice say that's OK.Ambiguities in the laws force police to let many people off scot-free because it's often difficult to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, said sheriff's Sgt. Steve Carney, the head of the county's Marijuana Enforcement Team.Out of 10 people stopped on suspicion of marijuana crimes in the county, only two cases are sent to the District Attorney's Office on average, Carney said.A lot of cases are dropped because the district attorney feels the case won't win in court, he said, especially in this area where many residents are sympathetic to the cause."The percentage we deal with that I believe are truly legitimate is 1 percent," Carney said.In addition to the gray areas, there are parts of the law that can be confusing for law enforcement officers.There are no state regulations for cultivation or distribution of medical marijuana, and California leaves guidelines up to local jurisdictions. They can vary widely from county to county.Under Santa Cruz County law, a patient or caregiver is allowed three pounds of the drug each year. Half a pound of pot equals roughly 300 joints, experts say. In It for The Money Prosecutors say cases like that of Edwin Hoey, which is now going through the local legal system, are an example of someone hiding behind the medical marijuana law for profit. Hoey, a Santa Cruz man, was arrested in December when deputies found 100 pounds of marijuana at his residence during an investigation. His attorney, Rice, claimed Hoey was providing pot for local medical marijuana dispensaries.However, more than $500,000 in cash and a French wine collection valued at $150,000 found in Hoey's possession lead prosecutors to believe he was selling marijuana to make a big profit. They say he sold pot to non-medicinal customers on the East Coast.Hoey has been charged with three counts of selling marijuana."He was taking advantage of the medical marijuana law," prosecutor Pamela Kato said. "This really is a case of greed. It's a travesty of the law" Rice denies Kato's assertion, saying "the vast majority" of Hoey's marijuana was intended for people with a medical need. Legal Limbo But using and selling marijuana, medical or not, is still a federal crime.California's law flies in the face of federal law, which considers marijuana an illegal and dangerous drug.Federal agents have refused to recognize California's medical marijuana law as legal. In some cases the feds have raided California pot gardens and dispensaries. Earlier this month, federal agents raided nearly a dozen medical marijuana clinics in the Los Angeles area, seizing several thousand pounds of marijuana, weapons and cash.Two medical marijuana stores exist in Santa Cruz, both located in the Harvey West business area, for patients to buy the drug.Ken Sampson, owner of Santa Cruz Patients Collective on Limekiln Street, says he tries to prevent people from breaking the law.Sampson said he's turned away dozens of people who didn't have a doctor's recommendation or proper documentation during the seven months his dispensary has been in business."I've kicked many people out," said Sampson, himself a medical marijuana patient. "It has to be a verified recommendation. We don't let them past the waiting room"The state Attorney General's Office agrees abuse of the medical marijuana system is widespread because the unclear laws leave plenty of room for cheating. "The medical marijuana law left a lot to be desired in terms of clarity," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office. "There's more work to be done" Many in the legal community hope the ambiguities of the law will be sorted out in the courts.Several cases regarding medical marijuana are currently pending in the courts to help determine parameters for users and caregivers.Kato, the county prosecutor, said clearer rules would make her job easier and put more people behind bars.No other state medical marijuana-related bills are in the works at this time, however the deadline to propose legislation for this year is Feb. 23.Complete Title: Some Santa Cruz Pot Users, Sellers Find Loopholes in State's Medical Marijuana LawsSource: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)Author: Shanna McCord, Sentinel Staff Writer Published: January 28, 2007Copyright: 2007 Santa Cruz SentinelContact: editorial santa-cruz.comWebsite: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archiveshttp://cannabisnews.com/news/list/medical.shtml
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on January 29, 2007 at 10:37:25 PT
"Put people beind bars."
is a very different thing than "seeking justice". There is no justice whatsoever in putting cannabis users and patients behind bars. No justice involved in that at all. Is there any "justice" involved in what they did to Runruff? I think not!Prosecuters are about numbers and "putting people behind bars" with not even a pretense anymore of seeking justice for people.That phrase so irks and enrages me. She could have least said, "Putting criminals behind bars". Apparently, she knows the people she's talking about caging, in this case, aren't "criminals" at all. Everyone of those type of Prosecuters needs to be rooted out, revealed, and stripped of their powers to do the egregious wrongs they are doing.
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Comment #8 posted by Toker00 on January 29, 2007 at 03:21:04 PT
The War on Drug LAWS.
The War, on Drug LAWS, needs to be escalated. These Laws need to be taken out back by the People and stripped of their Hatred, Unconstitutionality and Inhumanity. These Drug Laws must then be given an Eternal sentence of condemnation and barred by a Constitutional Amendment from EVER being implemented on the plants ( or planets ) again. The DEA and the FDA must be exposed as the militant extension of the PharMerica and the Prison Industrial Complex Empires. Not only must we attack the Drug Laws, but we must attack the Drug Law Makers! We must expose these men as the Egotistical Corporatists they are! Expose their investments in these Empires and question their conflict of interests! We have got to stop being victims of these Terroristic War on Drug laws. Wage Peace on war. END CANNABIS PROHIBITION NOW!  
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Comment #7 posted by Celaya on January 28, 2007 at 11:51:44 PT
To be expected from the Santa Cruz Sentinel
The Santa Cruz Sentinel ought to pack their bags and move to Oklahoma. I am constantly amazed that one of the most liberal and progressive towns in the country is journalistically ruled by this retro rag.They constantly bemoan the pot culture, even exhorting the population to abandon marijuana reform and think more like neighboring Watsonville, a relatively conservative town.If I lived in Santa Cruz, I would organize a protest group to make the Sentinel target number one. 
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Comment #6 posted by museman on January 28, 2007 at 10:42:04 PT
reality check
"Absolutely, no question about it, some people do take advantage of the law," Some people like, doctors, lawyers, politicians, corporation ceo's, oh.... and cops.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on January 28, 2007 at 09:53:46 PT
Prosecuters whose job is to
"Put people beind bars." are costing the "people" and the country a fortune...and the prosecuters and all those who do their bidding are low, egregious creatures, indeed.
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on January 28, 2007 at 09:51:12 PT
Stunningly stupid statement. Stunningly stupid.
"Kato, the county prosecutor, said clearer rules would make her job easier and put more people behind bars."
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 28, 2007 at 08:40:53 PT
Just a Thought
It seems that when our current system hits a brick wall it stays there and just keeps running into it over and over again. If they would open their eyes they would see that changing the law would solve the problem. Let people develop a cannabis related business and become business people legally. Look at Starbucks as an example of a company developing a good product. It's one that makes people high too.http://www.starbucks.com/
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Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on January 28, 2007 at 08:34:10 PT
what a shame
 ď"The medical marijuana law left a lot to be desired in terms of clarity," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office. "There's more work to be done" 
Many in the legal community hope the ambiguities of the law will be sorted out in the courts. 
Several cases regarding medical marijuana are currently pending in the courts to help determine parameters for users and caregivers. 
Kato, the county prosecutor, said clearer rules would make her job easier and put more people behind bars. (Is that Katoís job to keep the jail full of cannabis users? What a jerk.) ď
Blah, Blah, Blah. What a shame. None of these brilliant people can figure this out. They are running in circles chasing their tails. Lets make it easier for them by removing cannabis prohibition all together. Regulate it and tax it like alcoholic beverages. Take the cops, the lawyers and the courts out of the equation. Once these people mentioned above understand that cannabis is good and is good for you, things will be better. Oops thatís right their jobs depend on prohibition so donít hold your breath for any changes coming soon.
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Comment #1 posted by doc james on January 28, 2007 at 07:27:12 PT
500k in cash 
thats quite a large sum of cash to have lying about it also tells me the pot wasn't schwagg. Nice job if you can get it.
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