Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Medical marijuana prescriptions complicate law enforcement in California

The evolving regulation of marijuana in California is complicating day-to-day law enforcement activity in rural Humboldt County. California currently allows those with medical marijuana permits to grow a 100-square-foot canopy, though a proposition on the Nov. 2 ballot would make it legal for people over 21 to grow and use small amounts of marijuana, Sam Quinones of The Los Angeles Times reports. For law enforcement in Humboldt County, which Quinones terms "the center of California's marijuana outback," the uncertainty surrounding marijuana has made Deputy Sheriff Robert Hamilton's job more difficult.

"In a region where marijuana is not merely tolerated but is a pillar of the economy, there isn't much a deputy can do but play along with the fantasies that surround semi-legal weed: that unemployed 20-somethings who buy $50,000 trucks earned the money legally; that supply shops for marijuana farmers are innocent home-and-garden centers; that growers who flash medical marijuana cards are not producing for sale but solely for their own medical needs," Quinones writes. After recently visiting a pot farm where the growers presented medical marijuana prescriptions, Hamilton told Quinones, "Cheech and Chong cannot smoke that much dope."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to enforce federal laws against recreational marijuana even if California passes its Nov. 2 ballot proposition, further complicating enforcement. "The current climate is to [go after] big commercial growers, ignore small growers," Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp told Quinones. "But you see more and more grow houses. If they're not going to be prosecuted, at a certain point they affect the community. We've had home invasions, shootings, homicides." Humboldt County Dist. Atty. Paul Gallegos, who supports legalization of pot, maintains his office isn't soft on illegal marijuana farming. "If someone has a [medical marijuana] recommendation, and they're within the ordinances, it's presumed they're lawful," Gallegos said. (Read more)

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