There's a Haze Over New Santa Cruz Pot Law

There's a Haze Over New Santa Cruz Pot Law
Posted by CN Staff on February 16, 2007 at 06:57:49 PT
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel 
Santa Cruz --  When Santa Cruz voters overwhelmingly approved a measure last November that essentially gave legal protection to marijuana smokers, we doubt their intention was to create new headaches for city government.After all, Santa Cruz's City Council in the past has supported the medical marijuana movement and has hardly been at the forefront of the federal government's war on drugs.
That's why few were surprised when Measure K was approved, since pot already was a low priority for police. The measure only codified this status.In fact, as a recent Sentinel story pointed out, the pot-enforcement measure was hardly needed. A review of nearly 270 citations in 2005 for possession of marijuana showed only one of these cases would have invoked Measure K regulations. But the measure did call for some fairly significant changes, including a letter to be sent to the president of the United States, along with other federal and state leaders, on city letterhead, reiterating what Santa Cruz voters approved Nov. 7. Such a letter will be issued March 1, signed by the city clerk, stating only the section of the measure that marijuana offenses should be a low priority for police and that the federal and state governments should take steps to tax and regulate marijuana use, cultivation and distribution until state and federal laws are "changed accordingly."In addition, the measure prohibits police from testifying in court cases involving minor marijuana offenses, although such cases have been rarely prosecuted in the first place. Nor can local police assist in state or federal marijuana investigations  but, police point out, most major cases involve large-scale growing efforts, and these are almost always outside city limits.But one change in city policy created by the marijuana measure has created a legal problem  the direction to establish a citizen oversight committee that would examine police compliance with the ordinance.This is a problem that should have been considered during the campaign to get the measure approved. According to City Attorney John Barisone, Santa Cruz's charter, which guides governmental powers, prohibits this kind of citizen interference with police.The marijuana committee is not the first time police oversight has been a matter of public policy in Santa Cruz. A citizens police review board was set up in 1994, but fell victim to budget cuts in 2003. The board was intensely opposed by police, who noted very few complaints were ever lodged and those that did come in were often from a few, predictable activists.The board had no oversight powers to speak of, however. But the City Council rightfully recognized that the marijuana oversight committee, with its power to summon police to justify their actions in marijuana cases, could overstep the charter. So, members directed Barisone to file a lawsuit challenging the committee's right to tell cops how to do their jobs.While Measure K supporters and legalize-marijuana advocates are upset over the plans to file a lawsuit, we think the committee could still do what voters intended by just analyzing police reports, which are now required after each pot arrest. This is what a similar oversight committee does in Seattle, where a low-priority marijuana ordinance was approved in 2003.It's also ironic, and frustrating, that this new law is creating more pot-induced headaches and legal and governmental wrangling than before it was passed, when minor marijuana offenses almost always were overlooked.Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)Published: February 16, 2007 Copyright: 2007 Santa Cruz SentinelContact: editorial santa-cruz.comWebsite: Articles: Santa Cruz Leaders Challenge New Marijuana Law K Doesn't Change Much in Santa Cruz
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Comment #1 posted by museman on February 16, 2007 at 09:57:25 PT
poor little coppers
People shouldn't have the power to govern themselves, that's why we have police- to keep the ignorant plebians in line. How dare we "tell the cops how to do their job?" Just because we like to think that we are in charge, doesn't mean that the words "to protect and serve" have anything to do with it.Just go to work, keep your mouth shut, bow to your betters, and vote republican. (or democrat-doesn't really matter any more) *********Just imagine what the world would be like if politicians, cops, lawyers, and their entire schemata of predatory pyramidal empire building, were actually honest, believed what they said, actually 'represented' the people instead of their bank accounts and social status.Just imagine all the people, sharing all the world.Well that (imagining) is about as close to reality anyone is going to get until after Armageddon, when God and nature have done our house cleaning for us.
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