Pot Bongs Legal
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2003
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Chronicle - Page A - 26
Contact: [email protected]
In another sign of the state-federal split over drugs, a state appellate court ruled Tuesday that possession of marijuana pipes is legal in California, just six weeks after bong-sellers around the nation were the targets of federal raids.
The Court of Appeal panel in Riverside County said a 1975 California law "deliberately decriminalized the possession of a device for smoking marijuana. " The same law changed marijuana possession from a possible felony to an infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
But federal law, which overrides state laws, continues to classify marijuana among the most dangerous narcotics, in the same category as heroin. Federal prosecutors have stepped up raids on medical marijuana suppliers in California and won convictions, though the state legalized medical marijuana in 1996.
On Feb. 24, federal agents raided more than 100 homes and businesses throughout the nation that sell bongs and pipes favored by pot smokers. Fifty people, including six in Northern California, were charged with trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia.
Californians in that case won't be helped by Tuesday's ruling, which involved only a state-law charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.
The defendant, a Riverside County youth, was sentenced to five to 10 days in juvenile hall after probation officers searched his bedroom in November 2001 and found two bongs, one made of glass and the other fashioned from a shampoo bottle. The court said the youth admitted using them to smoke marijuana.
Prosecutors argued that the devices were illegal under state laws that bar possession of bongs for sale and require stores that display them to exclude minors. But the three-judge appellate panel, overruling a Superior Court judge, said no state law bans the mere possession of a bong.
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