California Special Report:
In the midst of another long, hot summer of California marijuana wars, with CAMP copters haranguing forest dwellers and Dennis Peron’s legal marijuana farm repeatedly raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the city of Oakland recently provided a breath of fresh air.
Not only has Oakland’s city government adopted a set of revolutionary new guidelines which tell police officers how they should interpret and enforce marijuana laws in light of Prop 215, it has also moved to protect Oakland’s Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative (OCBC) by designating its personnel as “officers of the city.”
This means that OCBC’s employees are protected from state and federal authorities who have vowed to close down all cannabis cooperatives. Oakland has long been tagged as the ugly sister to the supposedly more progressive San Francisco across the Bay, but San Fran officials privately admit that they should have “done for Dennis Peron’s Club what Oakland did for their club.” Now, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and District Attorney Terrence Hallinan are belatedly considering the implementation of city-sponsored medical pot distribution.
The feds and California Attorney General Dan Lungren have not officially responded to Oakland’s decision, which designated the OCBC as the city’s “Medical Cannabis Distribution Program,” but early reports indicate that they will continue their attempts to close the OCBC.
Oakland City Councilman Nate Miley said Oakland is committed to medical marijuana.
“If the feds or anybody else wants to violate our decision, they’ll have to come through the mayor’s door to do it,” he said. “Even if we are faced with prosecution, we are not backing down. If they want to prosecute me and my fellow council members, that’s fine, bring it on.”
Oakland’s police guidelines were designed by the Medical Marijuana Working Group (MMWG), a coalition of interested citizens, officials and civic leaders.
Members of the MMWG, including long-time medical marijuana champion Dr Tod Mikuriya, were unhappy with Lungren’s decision that anything more than an ounce and two plants possessed by a medical patient or caregiver would trigger law enforcement action.
Before writing guidelines, the MMWG carefully considered the realities of marijuana cultivation and medicinal use. In determining the number of plants that could be legally grown under Prop 215, for example, MMWG participants made valid distinctions between the differing yields and potencies of outdoor and indoor plants.
Such distinctions were important parts of complex calculations which estimated that the average medical user, especially those who eat rather than smoke marijuana, needs a stash of one-half pound per month. It was considered reasonable for a patient to need a three month supply of marijuana on hand: 1.5 pounds. Patients who grow marijuana outdoors and have to produce an entire year’s supply all at once are allowed to possess six pounds, which equals a half pound each for 12 months.
So how many plants are needed to produce these target amounts? Mikuriya offered a “method for calculating actual usable amount.” His method, which resembles a complex algebraic equation, reinforces what potheads have long known: that police are totally out of line when they claim that marijuana is the entire undried plant, including roots, soil, rockwool and other non-medicinal parts.
Mikuriya’s formula starts with the total number of plants. Then, it subtracts immatures and males, figures the remaining plants’ height, width and density, subtracts the weight of water, lower leaves, stems and seeds, divides by the number of genetic types and finally arrives at an “actual usable amount.”
With the target for outdoor growers being the production of six pounds of marijuana per year, the new guidelines stipulate that a maximum of 60 plants can be grown until 30 females are obtained. Thus, 60 before flowering and 30 after flowering, is the max allowed for outdoor cultivators.
For indoor plants, which are assumed to produce less medicine per plant but can be harvested four times a year, 96 plants are initially allowed. After flowering, 48 plants are allowed. Indoor growers can also keep an additional 96 plants (probably clones) alive for the next grow cycle, for a cumulative total of 144 plants.
Growers are allowed to grow a combination of indoor and outdoor plants, as long as they don’t exceed the specified limits for each. Police are instructed not to kill or confiscate plants or dried marijuana until caregivers or patients have had two business days to provide proof that they qualify for Prop 215 exemptions.
The guidelines tell police that marijuana enforcement is to be one of their lowest priorities, and that they are allowed to be ethical and compassionate when dealing with situations involving marijuana. Thus, if police confront a person who has been unable to afford or find a doctor to obtain a prescription, officers have the option of evaluating whether the person falls within the scope of 215. If there’s no scales, baggies, piles of cash or other evidence of sales, officers have the option of just saying “no” to making another futile marijuana arrest.
Points of view
Mike Nisperos, an Oakland official who helped draft the guidelines, says the city had humanitarian and practical reasons for adopting MMWG policies.
“We don’t want to waste precious law-enforcement resources harassing sick people,” he said. “We have real crime problems to deal with, and our public safety committee has been out front on issues such as medical marijuana and needle exchange.”
The Oakland proposals have drawn criticism from extremists on all sides.
Anti-drug groups claim that Oakland will become the marijuana cultivation capital of North America, and that the guidelines are too lenient. Libertarians and hard-core pot liberators of course want no restrictions at all. They claim the policy’s weakest link is its insistence on physician documentation. With the federal government threatening doctors who recommend pot, and with the increasing cost of getting medical consultation, activists contend that the new guidelines discriminate against economically-disadvantaged people who can’t afford to pay the few doctors, such as Mikuriya, who have enough testicular fortitude to write a recommendation for marijuana.