Contra Costa DA says NO to medical marijuana dispensaries in Richmond

DA Peterson Medical Marijuana Contra CostaIn what would appear to be a surprising action, Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson sent a letter dated July 25th to the City Council of Richmond advising them that the medical marijuana dispensaries they approved are illegal and are in violation of State and Federal laws. In addition the DA warned those who facilitate these actions may be liable as well. Copies of this correspondence was sent to city governments throughout the county.

Included in Peterson’s lengthy 4 page memo was a quote from Alameda district Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s letter of December 8th, 2010 which stated, “It also remains an open question whether public officers or employees who aid and abet or to violate state or federal laws in furtherance of city ordinances, are exempt from criminal liability.”

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Contra Costa County

In effect were this veiled threat to be carried out, city council members and government employees could be prosecuted by law enforcement should they support medical marijuana programs.

It is understood that in carrying out his oath of office, DA Peterson is not running in a popularity contest. However, is attacking cannabis clubs the best use of his resources to make the streets of Contra Costa a safer place for its citizens to reside?

CoCo COunty DA says No to medical Marijuana

Taking the issue first from a standpoint of public safety we have to ask is medical marijuana use responsible for violent crime, being a gateway drug to more serious substances, or causing addiction to those who use this product? The answer to this question is a resounding “no”. Unless one subscribes to the theories of the cult classic Reefer Madness, the vast majority people (most of whom inhaled} don’t believe weed use will lead to much more than a bad case of the munchies.

With this being the case it must be asked why is the DA making medical marijuana a major law enforcement issue and threatening public officials who endorse its use? In Richmond where Peterson sent his poison pen letter, the city has a long history of homicide, violent crime, gangs, and streets that are not considered safe for its citizens to travel. These are the hard-core concerns that Richmond’s highly regarded Police Chief Chris Magnus must deal with on a daily basis. Pot clubs are the least of his problems.

Should not Peterson be more worried about the big picture than a red herring such as medical marijuana use? The same holds true for other parts of the county. As an example Meth amphetamines use or the popular descriptions “crank” or “speed” provides law enforcement with a grave challenge as the use of this substance is a major factor in the commission of serious crimes. Due to sleep deprivation, addiction, and cloudy judgment, meth users comprise a policing nightmare.

In a similar vein, the mentally ill and homeless pose problems for all levels of law enforcement and social welfare services. Should not individuals of diminished capacities and desperation be on the DA’s radar long before those who consume cannabis to reduce pain? The same thing goes for domestic violence , burglaries, white-collar crime etc..

Setting appropriate law enforcement priorities is even more important today as Peterson’s office, like virtually all county agencies, have seen their budget cut in recent years. This is why the DA’s office should concentrate on criminal activities that most affect the populace.

Outside of snipping at officials in his letter to the Richmond City Council, Peterson’s message also poses serious ramifications to local office holders and those employed by municipalities to carry out the law. Is it fair for City Council members throughout Contra Costa to be looking over their shoulders to see if sheriff’s deputies are going to knock on their doors with an arrest warrant and hand cuffs to haul them away? Should those entrusted to carry out the will of the people do so while at the same time being threatened by the DA?

While making these assumptions is somewhat Draconian, the essence of American democracy is the ability of government to carry out their duties without the interference of outside pressures. If this environment should be altered, is our system of government any better than totalitarian regimes we so detest? For this reason alone, the DA’s actions should seriously taken.

We have to ask the question what politically Mark Peterson can gain by throwing kerosene on the medical marijuana issue? As with gay marriage and abortion, the country is divided on the best way to handle medical marijuana use. The situation exists where Federal, State, and local governments conflict with one another. This is definitely not a healthy situation.

Because of this stalemate, most politicians and selected law enforcement agencies have adapted a version of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” approach until a more permanent solution can be found. As so many otherwise law-abiding citizens consume pot or have done so in the past, it has proven wise for elected officials to back off supporting strict enforcement.

Until the Supreme Court rules on the matter, it is probably best to avoid major confrontations on medical marijuana use. As occurred with prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s with the Volstead Act making ordinary people into law breakers, such a scenario did not work out very well. It can be argued that marijuana use falls into the same category.

So what is the next step for Mark Peterson’s crusade against the use of medical marijuana? Probably nowhere. Unnamed sources in Richmond said they were not concerned about the letter that they consider to be political posturing by the DA to impress the Feds or curry support from anti-drug zealots. As a practical matter, it would be next to impossible to impanel a jury to convict anyone let along city council members on charges of aiding or abetting medical marijuana use.

As such we can probably dismiss Peterson’s letter as merely a “tempest in a tea-pot” so to speak. Hopefully in the future he can focus his attention on jay walkers and litter bugs when his attention to important law enforcement matters wanes.

Comments

  1. guy fawkes says

    Does anyone care what the proper roll of government is? If they did they would be outraged that this is called a “debate”. The original claim was that the US government was put in place to protect the rights of the individual, their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The foundation of individual rights must be based on the premise that you own yourself. If this were true you would be able to do whatever you want with your own body. It should be obvious to everyone that this has been turned on it’s head and now the government considers your body their property (as well as your money and property). How does smoking a joint violate the rights of anyone else? It doesn’t. Therefore it should be unconstitutional for the state to claim this jurisdiction.

    Is it a coincidence that the past 20 years has seen violent crimes drop by 50% and vast improvements in marijuana access? I think they’re related. If it were legalized not only would jails/ courts/ police be freed up to pursue crimes with actual victims, but it would reduce crime by eliminating the black market (which creates the inflated value, turf-wars and violence) and by it’s side-effect of reducing aggression.
    The only one’s who benefit from the war on drugs are the drug-lords and the law enforcement/ prison/ industrial complex, which Mark is beholden to.

  2. gulfshoresman says

    Always right is wrong on this point. There is absolutely no evidence to support physical addiction with Cannabis use. Not one reported death and no liver contraindications. Look at statistics for the pharmaceutical addictions prevalent in America today and your argument goes up in smoke. Medical marijuana is helping sick people have a better day and in some cases pain reduction occurs without psychoactive effects. So next time you think about educating us all with your wisdom, do your homework first, Sounds like you need to become a patient to me.

  3. Always Right says

    Good for you, mark !

    Studies have shown about 10% of marijuana uses develop physical addiction to the point where it interferes with daily living activities and impairs their social functioning.

    This rate is lower than heroin or cocaine, but it is non-trivial. If a new pain reliever was developed with this kind of severe side effect it would never be dispensed over the counter. It is morally and ethically wrong to encourage wider recreational use of cannibis.

    • Richard Eber says

      While one can not argue about marijuana possibly causing 10% of its users to cause impairment and possibly addiction, this figure is also considerably less than problems caused by alcohol.

      However, recreational marijuana use was not the topic or thrust of my article. The real issue was why Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson wasting his and tax payers dollars concerning himself with medical marijuana users who use cannabis to reduce pain primarily from cancer therapy and arthritic conditions.

      I would be pleased to debate marijuana use in general at a later time as this is a subject that merits further discussion.