County Supervisor Wrestles With Medical Marijuana


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Oct 22, 2005
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California -- Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone wants to know how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is going to respond to marijuana smokers in Riverside County who use the drug to ease the pain caused by their medical condition.
Stone has asked DEA officials to meet with him so he can gain an understanding of their intent with regard to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, because the issue is becoming a hot topic in California.
In 1996, when Californians adopted Proposition 215, the voter initiative designed “to ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes,” the law changed for everybody – even for constituents in counties that recorded a majority vote against the measure. So it was in Riverside County.
Deemed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the bill prohibits any punishment to physicians who recommend to their patients the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The act further prohibits outlawing the possession or cultivation of marijuana by patients or caregivers who are acting on the recommendation or approval of a physician.
The problem is that the initiative violates federal law. But then, federal programs exist that also violate federal law. A program is currently in place in Minnesota, according to Stone, whereby the federal government provides marijuana to test patients. “It’s manufactured by the University of Minnesota, grown under controlled conditions and mailed to these patients,” Stone explained.
Stone became involved in the controversial topic back in March when he was invited to attend an international symposium on the topic of medical use of marijuana that was held in Santa Barbara. “What I learned [at the seminar] is that…there is some medical benefit to the active ingredient in marijuana,” Stone said. Stone doesn’t believe, though, that marijuana is “an appropriate indication for some of the conditions” that were mentioned at the conference.
While “legitimate practitioners” participated in the conference, including a highly regarded doctor and professor at UC - San Diego and researchers from Jerusalem University in Israel and from Amsterdam, other participants held “questionable credentials,” according to Stone.
“I wanted to hear double blind studies,” Stone said. “I don’t want to hear testimonials from people.” Double blind studies are considered to be the most accurate types of tests because neither the researchers nor the subjects are told which participants have been given the placebo, thereby eliminating bias on the part of the researcher.
The initiative that passed in 1996 also allowed for the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, but did not set standards for operators of those dispensaries. “Can someone who has been in jail four times for heroin crimes open a dispensary and sell marijuana?” Stone asked. “Can a felon – any type of felon – open a dispensary? What are the record-keeping requirements to ensure that [the marijuana] is really going to people with a medical necessity? How do we know that it’s not going to marijuana users?”
These questions need to be resolved, Stone believes, before dispensaries can be allowed to open in Riverside County. “We, in the county, have been asking for injunctive relief,” Stone said. In conjunction with San Diego County, Riverside County officials have requested that the courts advise them how to proceed.
If dispensaries are allowed to open before these issues are resolved, Stone believes, DEA agents can arrest physicians for writing prescriptions for medical marijuana and they can also arrest the marijuana beneficiaries. “We have some conflicting laws that can lead to some very serious problems for people,” Stone said.
Stone has been designated by his peers on the Board of Supervisors as the one to write the regulations to ensure compliance with the initiative and resolve the issues behind the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries within Riverside County. Board members have voted to extend for six months the moratorium on opening dispensaries in the county, but Stone estimates that resolution will take closer to 18 months.
“I’m not here to tell you that I’m a proponent of legalizing marijuana,” Stone said, “but what I’m trying to do is deal with the proposition and how we – as a county – have to follow the rules.”
Complete Title: County Supervisor Wrestles With Medical Marijuana Issue
Source: Valley News (Temecula, CA)
Author: Elaine Nelson
Published: June 16, 2006
Copyright: 2006 The Valley News Inc.

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