Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
Published: February 15, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles Times
Contact: [email protected]
Sacramento -- Mary Jane Winters, a registered nurse, doesn't dispute
that the California Highway Patrol officer had a right to pull her over
and write a ticket for speeding. But what galls Winters is that he took
In her case, that medicine is marijuana.
She has a legal recommendation from her doctor to use cannabis to numb
the pain and spasms in her back, damaged while trying to lift a
421-pound patient a decade ago. None of that mattered to the CHP officer
who stopped her last Thanksgiving as she zipped through Mendocino
County. He confiscated her pot and cited Winters for possession of more
than an ounce.
Within two months, the charges were dismissed, as authorities reasoned
that Winters had a legal right under Proposition 215 — the state's 1996
medical marijuana law — to use the drug her doctor recommended.
But Winters, 53, isn't mollified. She and other pot patients who have
run afoul of the CHP are launching a counterattack.
Americans for Safe Access, a patient support group, plans to announce
today in Oakland a lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the CHP
and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer asking that the state stop confiscating
medical marijuana from patients.
Police confusion about medical marijuana is nothing new. Medpot
activists say the CHP remains the worst offender, confiscating even the
smallest amounts of pot and sometimes arresting patients even after they
present documentation from a physician.
The CHP has "an obligation to uphold state laws. And medical marijuana
is legal in California," said Joseph Elford, an Americans for Safe
CHP officials say the matter is hardly so clear-cut.
Tom Marshall, a CHP spokesman, said there remains a conflict between
state law and the federal government's prohibition against pot use for
But the biggest sticking point for the CHP, he said, is the absence of
state identification cards for medical marijuana patients. The cards
were authorized by the Legislature in 2003, but state health officials
balked at launching the ID program because of budgetary constraints.
"Until the day arrives that there's a card," Marshall said, "we're going
to continue to enforce the law as we always have."
Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access said that the ID cards are
voluntary and that patients can provide a doctor's written
recommendation as proof they're legal. The CHP, she said, "is fooling
Tiffany Simpson, 23, a college student from Richmond, has a doctor's
recommendation to use pot for chronic pain in her back and knee. A CHP
officer smelled pot in her car after pulling Simpson over on Christmas
morning for what he said was a registration problem.
The officer found that Simpson's car was properly registered. But he
cited her for less than an ounce of marijuana and lectured her on the
conflict between state and federal law on medicinal uses.
"I just don't understand what's going on with the Highway Patrol," she
said. "They don't do this with diabetics."
Simpson will be one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with Tony
Bowles, 28, of San Francisco.
Bowles was two blocks from home last May when two CHP officers pulled
him over and confiscated 4 grams of marijuana. A caregiver for his
mother, Bowles said he was toting the drug home for her use. He showed
the officers an ID card issued by the San Francisco health department.
They wouldn't accept it as proof.
"They said they were following maximum enforcement of the law," he said.
"I thought Proposition 215 was the law."
San Francisco prosecutors dropped the case against Bowles within a few
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