Ask for 'Safe Place'
A group that helped legalize marijuana for medical purposes asked Orange County supervisors Tuesday to help them find a "safe place" where the seriously ill can use the drug without fear of arrest or harassment by law enforcement.
Mission Viejo resident Anna Boyce, a co-author of the marijuana initiative, said at least "two to three dozen" county residents have had encounters with law enforcement officials who ignored proof of a doctor's recommendation that they use the drug for medical reasons.
"Orange County needs a safe place like the one they have in Los Angeles," Boyce said. "There, they have a church and nobody bothers them." Boyce and half a dozen other speakers were part of a statewide effort to bring attention to such problems on the initiative's third anniversary. They say hundreds of people in the county suffering from AIDS, cancer and glaucoma are being victimized by overzealous law enforcement.
"We have people with neurological diseases and several others with crippling spinal arthritis," she said after the meeting. "These people are not addicted to marijuana but using it as medicine, and it's a shame that they can't get it because so much pressure is applied against them and their caregivers."
Supervisors said they want more information before taking a position.
Steve Kubby, 52, of Laguna Beach, who said he has terminal cancer of the adrenal glands, told supervisors he has been arrested in Northern California, where he once lived, and would just "like to stay alive and be allowed to use marijuana."
"This is a law that was passed but is being ignored," Kubby said. "We've been arrested, thrown in jail and strip-searched." Kubby, who also was last year's Libertarian candidate for governor, was arrested Jan. 19 when narcotics officers raided his home near the Squaw Valley ski resort.
Agents confiscated 265 marijuana plants growing in the basement and arrested the politician and his wife.
The drug case has thrust Kubby, who said he smokes pot daily to control a rare form of cancer, into the forefront of the roiling battle over medical marijuana.
While dozens of people have tried to use the law as a shield against prosecution, few have succeeded. Although other patients say the drug helps them cope with illness, Kubby goes farther. Marijuana, he contends, has kept him alive.
Kubby's case is scheduled to begin in Placer County on Feb. 15.
In September, David Lee Herrick, the first county resident to try to use the initiative's medicinal-marijuana provisions as a defense to drug sale charges, won an appeals court reversal of his conviction.
Herrick won a new trial when the appellate court found that a county prosecutor had engaged in "willful misconduct" and misled the jury.
Though the ruling didn't address the merits of the initiative, medicinal-marijuana advocates hailed the decision as a positive one.
Herrick, 49, was a member of the Orange County Cannabis Co-op, which was formed after the initiative's passage. He was convicted in May 1998 on two counts of felony marijuana sale and was sentenced to four years in prison.