Medical Marijuana, Part 1: Problems Cropping Up

Nov 7, 2008 12:24 AM

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which allows seriously ill patients with a doctor's recommendation to grow, possess, and use marijuana for medical purposes.

And whether or not you agree with the legality of medical marijuana, local law enforcement officials say you should be concerned with some of the problems it attracts.

Local law enforcement officials say it's a growing trend, medical marijuana gardens are cropping up all over the North State.

"We're seeing a significant increase in the number of marijuana gardens as well as the size of them," said Butte County Sheriff's Office Marijuna Unit Sgt. Steve Collins.

In Butte County, the sheriff's department knows of more than 600 people who have had a medical marijuana doctor's recommendation in the past or have one now.

In Yuba County, the health department issues identification cards to legitimate patients. Since May, only two people have applied.

Cannabis patient Steve King has a recommendation and plans to apply. He says without medical marijuana, his neck and back pain would be too painful to function.

"I'd be in pain from the time I get up until the time I go to bed," King said.

King cultivates his own cannabis, and says he grows what is allowed by the district attorney's general guidelines, which is six mature plants per recommendation per year.

Law enforcement officials say it's not patients like King they are worried about, it's those who use their recommendation as a cover to grow and sell marijuana.

Sgt. Collins says in Butte County, there are more Proposition 215 abusers than there are legitimate users.

"My personal impression from what I've seen is that the majority of them are not using it for medicinal purposes, they're using it for money," Collins said.

Those individuals seem to be ruining it for the real patients.

But whether a Prop 215 grow is legal or not, the potential profit of pot is motivating criminals.

Butte County has had several major incidents since September involving medical marijuana, including an attempted murder and two shootings. There were even reports of criminals posing as members of law enforcement to get inside homes.

In Tehama County, a man was shot three times by another who stole his bag of medicinal marijuana.

In early October... Trinity County sheriff's deputies say a woman and her 14-year-old son were beaten and robbed over medical marijuana.

And in Shasta County, there was a home invasion robbery.

"We received a call, people reporting that three suspects had forced their way into a residence and assaulted two subjects," said Anderson Police Chief Dale Webb.

In addition to worrying about the potential for violence, some neighbors have another problem with pot.

The grows are causing a big stink in some neighorhoods.

"I have a 12-year-old son and I have two brand new grandbabies and we should not have to smell what they're growing," said Chico resident Susan Bulgar.

The Gridley City Council passed an ordinance earlier this year that requires cannabis patients in Gridley to grow their medicine indoors. Biggs is working on a similar one.

And then there's the environmental issue. Pesticides and fertilizers from the outdoor grows can run off into the waterways.

Unknown environmental impacts, irritating odors, violent crime, and recommendation misuse are all problems with medical marijuana roots, but according to law enforcement and legitimate patients, are mostly caused by those who are not using the proposition the way it was intended.


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