Council Directs City Mgr. To Return Within 91 Days With LBPD Policy Ready To Implement on Use of Medical Marijuana
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(June 15, 2004, add'l text June 16) -- After a LB residents described LBPD arrests of people in pain for using medical marijuana -- and LBPD responded by citing the need to fight drug related crimes to explain current policy and city management offered a 3-6 month time frame for a new policy -- 2d district Councilman Dan Baker made a dramatic floor motion directing city management to return within 91 days with a policy ready to implement on the use of medical marijuana.
Councilman Baker's motion carried 8-0 (Councilman Lerch not voting, citing his wife's serious illness, which he said made it impossible for him to cast an unbiased vote).
The result marks a personal victory for LB photo journalist Diana Lejins, an activist with Advocates for Disability Rights, whose efforts to change LBPD policy were rebuffed for months by City Hall officialdom. In a powerful presentation at the Council podium, Ms. Lejins testified:
At 64 years young, my mother was diagnosed with a fatal carcinoma of the liver...Mom was totally deaf and relied on me for translation. I was very involved in her treatment. It literally tore my heart out to see her suffer through chemotherapy and the sickening nausea. They pumped her full of morphine and other drugs that lost their effectiveness over time. Her torment grew worse.
After nine months of my watching my mother waste away, she finally passed on. It still brings tears when I think of her.
It was 14 years before the Compassionate Use Act for Medicinal Marijuana. During my mother's illness, I felt helpless and frustrated, unable to do more because of senseless laws that denied access to medicine that could have eased her agony: marijuana.
And I become very angry when innocent victims afflicted with some dreadful disease or disability are denied anything that could ease their pain and suffering.
To incarcerate these patients is a cruel travesty of justice.
The current Long Beach Police Department policy requires that patients be arrested. We ask that you put a stop to this heartless persecution here and now.
We are not asking you to make law, just to abide by existing California law [Proposition 215]. This issue affects all of us. We are all going to die one day.
Just as the police expect citizens to obey the law, so do citizens expect the police to do the same.
The Long Beach Police Department must create policy that complies with federal law and federal court decisions, and as our signs say, we ask you to stop terrorizing our patients...
We wear green, and ask for a moment of silence for my daughter who has MS, and in memory of those who have suffered needlessly or died in senseless agony without their choice of medication.
Last year, Ms. Lejins brought the issue to the Council-created "Public Safety Advisory Commission" (PSAC)...and the matter escalated after the City Attorney's office said medical marijuana policy wasn't within PSAC's purview. PSAC responded by taking public testimony...and sending a memo to Councilmembers recommending creation of a task force to develop a medical marijuana policy.
In response (as previously reported by LBReport.com) Councilmembers Baker and Lerch agendized a June 15 Council item asking that the City Manager address LB City Hall's policies on medical marijuana.
[update] At the Council meeting, Deputy Chief David Luna said:
The Long Beach Police Department's current policy is if the subject is in possession of marijuana and provides a physician's prescription, officers are directed to proceed as they normally would with a person in possession of marijuana. Officers are directed to seize the evidence and arrest or cite the person as appropriate. The burden of proof lies with the possessor or the cultivator and the officers have discretion in arrest, citation or advisals.
It's important to realize, and I would be derelict in my duties if I didn't give you this portion of it, is that substance abuse is a very serious issue in our community. The Police Department has a legal responsibility to deal with crime. There is a direct correlation between crime, which includes violent crime and property crime, with narcotics, which include marijuana. The possession of, the sales of, and the transportation of, are contributing to the gang and youth violence activity, which unfortunately crowds the front page of the paper on a daily basis...
A long-line of public speakers then described how people suffering serious illnesses had been put in the position of having to deal with the additional burden of an LBPD arrest.
Councilman Dan Baker indicated he favored more immediate relief than a task force could provide...and asked City Manager Jerry Miller what timetable he could offer.
Mr. Miller said that after consulting with the Deputy Chief, City Prosecutor and City Attorney offices, LBPD would make a "good faith effort" to revise its policy within 90-180 days...and management would bring that draft final policy to gain public comment, for Council discussion or committee discussion, after which LBPD would implement a revised policy consistent with state law "as quickly as possible."
Councilman Baker replied, "Being the extremely patient person that I am, I'm sure you understand that that timeline doesn't necessarily meet up with what I was expecting this evening."
Councilman Baker acknowledged that it would take time to work with other agencies, and sought LBPD's agreement to a judicious policy on enforcement in the interim...to ensure some immediate relief while a final policy was worked out.
Deputy Chief Luna then said the Dept. had to discuss the issue with other outside entities, including the L.A. County District Attorney's office...and to ensure the City Attorney's and City Prosecutor's office were in accord.
The following colloquy ensued:
<Councilman Baker: I understand that completely, however...your policy officers report to you, not to a District Attorney, not to me, not to anybody else. And if you tell your police officers to use extreme judiciousness in applying current policy, until we have a written policy in place that conforms with everything we discussed, that's what they will do...
If we're going to go forward with a plan that calls for basically a year-long process to get the policy in place to bring us into compliance with a law that's eight years old, I would like to know that we are not going to be putting these people into a situation where they are already dealing with debilitating illnesses and facing [large amounts] of legal fees, having to show up in court. That to me seems like, not only is not in compliance with state law but seems to be rather ridiculous.
So what can we do to ameliorate that.
Deputy Chief Luna: It's a very complicated issue. [audience scoffs, boos]...We have to find a balanced approach...I personally feel for everybody who has spoken. I don't have an issue, the Long Beach Police Dept. doesn't have an issue with anybody who needs to use medical marijuana. But the fact remains...if you're a police officer on the street tonight and you run into somebody who has marijuana and he says or she says it's for medical purposes, how does that police officer prove that? What position am I putting those officers in on the street?
...I could fill this room ten times with the victims of homicides and shootings because of narcotics including marijuana. I could do that. [more audience scoffs]...[W]e're doing everything we can to review and then ultimately rewrite the policy, but we have to do it the right way...We've got to find a balance, and it's going to take some time to put a policy together that's going to work for all of us.<
At this point, Councilman Baker had heard enough. He made a immediate floor motion directing the City Manager to return to the City Council by September 14 (91 days) with a policy ready for implementation on the issue of medical marijuana.
Baker's motion drew immediate Council support and was passed within minutes.
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