By Alfa · Sep 28, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    The Long Beach Police Department has revised it policy on medical marijuana
    to include more oversight of field officers who encounter purported
    patients or caregivers possessing the drug.

    Previously, the department had a zero tolerance policy under which a
    self-professed medical user would be subject to citation or arrest as in
    any other narcotics case.

    Medical marijuana advocates complained that this approach clashed with a
    state law legalizing medical marijuana and in June the City Council
    required the police department to revise its policy.

    The revisions, which officially take effect today (Thursday), have been
    implemented since July, said Chief of Police Anthony Batts.

    "The policy has been working very well," he told the council Tuesday,
    adding that a recent case tested the guidelines and that "officers took the
    appropriate action."

    The old policy essentially left the decision to cite or arrest a suspect up
    to the responding officer. Some advocates for reform argued that this left
    medical decisions in the unqualified hands of a police officer.

    Under the revised policy, once a person claims to be in possession of
    marijuana for medicinal purposes, the officer must detain the suspect and
    request the presence of a field supervisor.

    The officer and supervisor are to contact the suspect's doctor to verify
    any documentation. If police deem the claim to be credible, then the
    marijuana will not be seized and the person will neither be cited nor
    arrested. Police will file an incident report detailing some of the
    suspect's medical information.

    If the officers do not believe the medical claim is valid, they are to
    request that a watch commander respond to the scene to resolve the
    situation. Only the watch commander can authorize an arrest.

    Second District Councilman Dan Baker, who helped initially bring the issue
    to the council in June, thanked the police department for their response.

    "I think it's a very reasonable policy for the city and I am happy we had
    the opportunity to bring this forward," he said.

    Several medical marijuana advocates also thanked the police and the council
    for taking action on an issue that they said was ignored for too long.

    "Please remember that one of these patients could be your mother, your
    bother, your daughter, or even yourselve
    s," said Diana Lejins.

    California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996 when they passed
    Proposition 215, also known as the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996."

    The ballot initiative was short on rules for enforcement and this year a
    new bill, SB 420, addressed permissible amounts of medical marijuana and
    the issue of proper documentation. Currently, the only acceptable form is a
    doctor's note.

    The law called for the state Department of Health Services to coordinate a
    voluntary identification card program through county and city health

    State budget issues have held up the implementation of the program but it
    should be rolled out next April, according to Ron Arias, the city director
    of Health and Human Services.

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