Tahoe hosts forum on medicinal marijuana | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe hosts forum on medicinal marijuana

Gregory Crofton

City Councilman Bill Crawford attended a medicinal marijuana forum in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday telling people interested in creating a marijuana cooperative to get organized before they bring the issue to the city.

“I always tell people ‘I will help you, but I’m not going to carry your water,'” he said. “I have no authority over (the council). In fact, it might be damaging if I were to approach the issue. The fact that you want a public forum has to come from you folks.”

Since voters in 1996 made it legal to use medicinal marijuana with Proposition 215, guidelines for how the drug can be obtained legally remain stagnant and confusing. For sick people, growing marijuana is difficult, which means many turn to the black market for the drug.

Creating a cooperative is an often-mentioned solution because resources and knowledge can be pooled. The problem is Prop 215 did not make medicinal marijuana clubs legal.

In May the U.S. Supreme Court voted 8 to 0 to uphold the federal government’s right to forbid the distribution of medical marijuana. Cooperatives in California have not shut their doors because of the ruling, but the decision did have a chilling effect on the movement.

Dale Gieringer, coordinator of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, attended the Lake Tahoe Medicinal Marijuana Forum on Sunday. He told the group of 70 that successful California clubs were founded after communities did substantial groundwork.

“It’s having a core of people who’ve done a lot of political spadework to present a credible presence in the community,” he said. “Cannabis clubs are not legal under California law right now. You can make an argument for collective cultivation. If you open a club tomorrow without having done all that spadework you will be arrested.”

Cannabis clubs aside, change is in the wind in Nevada regarding its new medical marijuana law. At Sunday’s forum, Cecile Crofoot, an employee of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, spoke about an identification card program she has been told to implement.

Starting at the end of this month, patients who want to be legal must fill out an application for the Department of Agriculture. It will include fingerprinting and a criminal history check. Anyone who has been convicted of selling marijuana will be denied.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will issued the cards to approved patients. A patient will be allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana and have three mature plants and four immature plants. A patient can travel in a car with marijuana, but it will remain illegal to drive a car under the influence of the drug, Crofoot said.

Californians are working to create a statewide identification system, too. Gieringer said Senate Bill 187 would set up guidelines “from Humboldt County to San Diego that would be recognized by police.” He said support for the bill is strong in the Legislature but he said there is concern that Gov. Gray Davis will not sign the bill.

The Lake Tahoe Medicinal Marijuana Forum 2001 was organized by The Friends of Patrick Bennett, a man who used marijuana as medicine before he died from AIDS in 1997. The forum was meant to “establish an atmosphere of support and compassion” for patients. It was held Sunday afternoon at a home on Sacramento Avenue.

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