Wednesday, April 18, 2007

OC Board of Supes Says Maybe to Medical Marijuana

After nearly four hours of heart-wrenching testimony, legal wrangling, political posturing, and attempts at compromise, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to direct staff to spend the next 90 days crafting a county policy on issuing ID cards to medical marijuana patients... Along with a study on how this would affect law enforcement AND a legal update on San Diego County's lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 215.

Follow me down below as I (FINALLY!!) fill you in with updates and reactions on today's decision by the OC Board of Supes...

"Do the right thing, because it is the moral thing. It is the will of the voters."
That was Catherine Smith, a medical doctor and self-described "fourth-generation Orange County resident and Republican" who testified in support of issuing medical marijuana ID cards.

"An ID card would definitely be useful...
I don't know how the federal government can give me morphine, but take away my marijuana."
That was Michael Gaughan, a military veteran diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma who has been treating his cancer with marijuana. The Fountain Valley police recently confiscated his medicine when they found him with it.

"I've never seen that. They were turned down. They ask for ID and a doctor's recommendation."
That was Thomas Pimintel, a disabled military veteran who was diagnosed as hypoglycemic, on how District Attorney Tony Rackauckas doesn't know what he's talking about when he says that it's so easy to get "medical marijuana".

"They don't just hand out marijuana by the bucketful... It's not going to just be a wild free-for-all."
That was James Kapko, a multiple sclerosis patient and medical doctor who testified from his wheelchair about the many safeguards in the state's medical marijuana laws.

So what happened after all these folks gave their impassioned testimonies of their personal hardships, and how cannabis has aided in the treatment of their debilitating diseases? Politics got in the way. Once public testimony ended, the political wrangling began.

Chris Norby made the motion to vote on his measure, but he had a difficult time finding support for it. Bill Campbell worried about the possible conflict between federal and state law. Janet Nguyen, on the other hand, felt that there was no conflict... Prop 215 is only meant to provide a defense against criminal charges, and NOT a directive for counties to facilitate the use of marijuana. John Moorlach, meanwhile, had more and more questions about how this policy would affect everything. And Pat Bates just wanted the county to propose studies to examine how this policy would affect everything. The original motion directing the county to set a policy on issuing medical marijuana ID cards failed on a 2-3 vote, with Norby and Moorlach voting in favor while Bates, Campbell, and Nguyen voted against it.

However after the initial vote failed, Campbell then proposed a "compromise measure". He proposed that the Board vote again on directing county staff to develop a policy for issuing medical marijuana ID cards within 90 days to be further examined and possibly implemented in the near future... Except that this time, the measure would also have county staff study everything that Bates wanted further examination on, including how this would affect law enforcement and how this would affect cities which have banned marijuana dispensaries. And oh yes, this measure also proposed that county counsel provide the Board with a legal update on San Diego County's lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 215. And after more questions, more wrangling, and more waiting, the OC Board of Supes FINALLY agreed to this compromise measure on a 4-1 vote. Only Janet Nguyen voted "Nay" this time.

So how did all the medical marijuana patients and advocates who showed up to the meeting feel about the final outcome? Alexander Valentine, the Fullerton man who started it all, was fairly disappointed by the "Maybe" response from the Board. "They still didn't do their job," he said as he described to me how he was hoping that the county would just begin to comply with state law NOW.

However Bruce Cohen, of the OC Libertarian Party, felt differently. "First they said no, but now they're open to it. It's a victory," he said as he reassured me and others that he and Norby's crew will be spending the next 90 days convincing the other Supes that issuing ID cards is the best way to go. Norby himself said that he did not expect the Court of Appeals to overturn the San Diego Superior Court's earlier ruling for the state and against San Diego County, and he also used this as another reason for his fellow Supes to join him in taking action on this.

So will the Orange County Board of Supervisors finally take action and begin issuing medical marijuana ID cards? I guess we'll have to wait 90 days for that answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for covering this issue. Even if we differ on many issues, you a "progressive democrat'" me a "consrvative republican" some issues like this are common sense. We will see in 90 days what mess the board creates. By the way Im a J.D. not an M.D.
James Kapko