Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
CHP Insists on Disrespecting
Mary Jane Winters, 54, and Tiffany Simpson, 23 are two
of eight plaintiffs in a suit Americans for Safe Access has filed against
the California Highway Patrol for confiscating marijuana from bona
fide patients in defiance of the medical marijuana law. The two women
were in Oakland on Tuesday, 2/15, to address the media before ASA attorney
Joe Elford filed the paperwork. By coincidence, both women had letters
of approval from the late Richard White, M.D., of Mendocino.
Winters, 54, is a traveling nurse who lives in Ukiah; a tall, handsome woman,
the mother of four (one of her strapping sons came to Oakland with her for
moral support). Winters ruptured three disks in her back in 1987 lifting a
grossly obese patient. This resulted in three years of being unable to work
at all, and ongoing pain.
On Thanksgiving Day 2004, having worked all night at a convalescent home in
Healdsburg, Winters was heading north on Highway 101, intending to drop off
some flowers at a homeless shelter on her way home. She was stopped by a CHP
officer for speeding. He asked to see proof of insurance, which Winters produced.
Instead of showing leniency to a nurse who had worked all night, the officer
scrutinized her car and noticed a bag with the red-green-yellow reggae emblem.
He nodded towards the bag and said, “Why are you trying to hide your marijuana?” She
responded, “I’m not trying to hide my marijuana, I have no reason to, I have
a 215 card.” He said “We don’t recognize 215 cards. Do you have any other drugs
in the car?”
“At that point I became fearful —a little-bit-terrorized
As Winters tells it, “He had reached in and begun going through my
bag. He asked me to go sit in his police car while he searched my car.
He said again, ‘The Highway Patrol does not recognize Prop 215.’ And
at that point I became fearful —a little-bit-terrorized feeling. And
I did proceed to his car because I felt if I didn’t that he was going
to cuff me.”
Winters was written up for speeding and possession of marijuana (approximately
two ounces). She has paid her $150 fine and is finishing a traffic-school course
at home. She went to court in Ukiah with public defender Linda Thompson to
get charges dropped. She asked at the CHP office in Ukiah about retrieving
her medical cannabis and was told to get a court order, which she intends to
Winters says, “I think mariuana should be tried on all patients before they
go on psychiatric drugs. The biggest thing I’ve seen is many kids, adults too,
who are self-medicating because of their psychiatric problems. It makes them
feel better, whether they’re up or down or yo-yoing... They’re using it with
and without the prescription to temper their personality. With the bipolars
it gets rid of some of the hostility... and I know it’s brought the crime rate
No Christmas Mood
Shortly before noon on Christmas day, 2004, Tiffany Simpson was stopped by
a CHP officer as she drove north on Hwy 580 in Hayward. She had just purchased
three eighths of an ounce of cannabis from her favorite dispensary, Dragonfly
Holistic Solutions, and was driving home to Richmond.
Tiffany looks young for 23, until you notice the dark rings under her eyes.
She’s a full-time student at Contra Costa Community College, majoring in biology
and African American studies. She lives in Richmond with her mom and dad and
a brother and a sister call her “Big Momma” because she does the cooking and
cleaning and is a decision-maker.
Tiffany has a painful spasmodic condition that has not been diagnosed definitively.
The fact that cannabis eased her symptoms sufficed for a letter of recommendation
from Dr. White (Tiffany had befriended White’s son Ali when they took a class
together at Diablo Valley College.)
She worries that her condition, which seems to be slowly worsening, may be
hereditary. Her biological father reportedly had multiple sclerosis, and her
mother has a painful muscle disorder that Kaiser doctors are now trying to
identify. Tiffany does not have health insurance to pay for diagnostic tests,
23 being the age at which you’re no longer covered under your parent’s policy.
Here is Tiffany’s story of the CHP encounter:
I was braiding my sister’s hair for eight hours the previous day and I really
needed some medicine. Braiding hair is prolonged, physical work, done while
you’re standing up...
The Highway Patrolman got behind me on the freeway and pulled me over originally
for registration. However once he ran my registration he came back and said
the car was registered through 2005. He said he smelled marijuana. I said, “You
do smell marijuana.” He said, “Do you have marijuana on you?” I said, “Yes,
I do. And I also have my doctor’s recommendation.” He said, “What kind of weed
do you have?” I said, “Don’t you mean ‘How much medical marijuana do you have?” He
looked at me and said “Well, yeah.” I said I went to a cannabis club right
here in Hayward. I showed him my receipt and my doctor’s recommendation and
my license. He ran it and came back and was like “Well, um, yeah, it was clear,
but we don’t recognize medical marijuana.” “What?” “The Highway Patrol doesn’t
recognize medical marijuana.”
He asked me to show him where the marijuana was and I pulled it out of my purse
and handed it to him. It was three eighths. Two eighths of purple and one eighth
of shake. He took it back to the car. He called back-up and two more cars arrived.
Then he came back and said he was going to perform a search. I said I’m not
going to consent to a search. I’m not on probation or parole...
They searched anyway and of course there was nothing to find. He gave me a
ticket that said possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and no insurance.
I went straight home and took a motrin and went straight to sleep. I was completely
discombobulated —not in no Christmas mood! It took me about two or three weeks
after that before I could do somebody else’s hair so I could afford to obtain
some more medicine.
The Law’s Delay
Tiffany mentioned that her mom is afraid to obtain a doctor’s approval to use
cannabis, even though her Kaiser doctor said it works to reduce pain. Tiffany’s
mom is a counselor at a Berkeley homeless shelter. Her fearful reluctance typifies
the attitudes of millions of Californians towards medical marijuana. “I’m telling
her to go get a card,” says Tiffany, “and she’s telling me ‘no, it’s not legal,’ and
I’m telling her it IS legal...” Now, in their internal debate, Tiffany’s mom
cites the CHP seizure as proof that she’s right —there is really no such thing
as legal medical marijuana in California.
To retrieve the cannabis taken by the CHP, Tiffany has to get a judge’s order
that it be returned, then she has to bring the paperwork to a police station
and hope that her three eighths are there and in good condition. (She never
got a receipt confirming the quantity taken.) She has already made three trips
to the courthouse in Hayward. The second time a clerk told her to come back
on a Tuesday evening. She did, only to find herself before a night court judge
who was there only to accept payment in full from those who had it. He wouldn’t
even look at her letter of approval to use cannabis, and told her that CHP
cases were handled on Wednesdays and Fridays. Tiffany now has a court date,
March 16. “It’s ridiculous. How can a regular citizen fix their schedule around
just for the convenience of the Highway Patrol?”
The CHP is under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who claims in the abstract to
be “for” medical marijuana. Ha ha, the joke’s on you, Kahleefawnia... The CHP
is making public promises to comply with California law as soon as the Department
of Human Services issues identification cards as mandated by SB-420. Apparently,
medical cannabis users who choose not to get ID cards -their right under Prop
215- will continue to be subject to ticketing and confiscation by the CHP.
At least until ASA goes to court for them.
ASA Asks Return of Property
By Kris Hermes
Americans for Safe Access has organized a campaign to demand back medical marijuana
wrongfully seized from California patients and caregivers. Patients in 36
counties have submitted return-of-property motions seeking the return of
nearly $1 million worth of confiscated medicine. Some of the motions have
succeeded while others are still under court consideration.
ASA attorney Joe Elford is representing James Blair, a medical marijuana patient
and cultivator who has filed a civil suit against the City of Emeryville and
the Emeryville Police Department for damages resulting from his wrongful arrest
and the seizure of his medicine. ASA is using the Bane Civil Rights Act to
seek triple damages for Blair and attorneys fees for the organization. This
case not only hits law enforcement in the wallet, but allows the issue of return
of property to be discussed in the media (the case has already received media
ASA is filing a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of San Leandro patient Michael
Lee who had 99 marijuana plants seized from him in 2000 by the Contra Costa
Sheriff Department. After charges against him were dismissed, Michael filed
a motion for return of property. The court denied the motion on the grounds
that the case was still under investigation and that the statute of limitations
had not run out. Michael then waits three years and with ASA’s assistance files
another motion for return of property. At an August 2004 hearing, Michael finds
out that police have destroyed his property without his consent. The judge
denied the motion for return of property, but made comments that are extremely
helpful for taking Michael’s case to federal court to argue Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment (due process) violations. This may result in damages for Michael,
but just as importantly may also create good publicity for a federal court
to rule that local law enforcement is violating law by seizing and destroying
Humboldt County patient Martin Watson had just under a pound of medical marijuana
seized from him by California Highway Patrol (CHP). After his case was resolved,
Martin was granted a court order for return of property. However, when Watson
attempted to obtain his property from theCHP, he was informed that it had been
transfered to the Drug Enforcement Administration. ASA is representing Martin
in holding both CHP and DEA in contempt of court given that the CHP did not
seek a turnover order and did not notify Martin of the transfer until after
Kris Hermes is legal support coordinator for Americans for Safe Access.
CA to Issue ID Cards to MMJ
Patients and Caregivers
By Ellen Komp
Robert Krause, Chief of the Program Support Section in the Office of County
Health Services at the California Department of Health Services (DHS), said
Feb. 1 that DHS plans to launch a pilot medical marijuana ID card program
as outlined in SB420 in 10 California counties sometime between April and
Regulations drafted with input from the pilot counties will go through management
review, then to the office of regulations, then to legal counsel and finance,
and finally to the office of administrative law, when a public comment period
will be scheduled. The process could take 18 weeks, Krause said.
The pilot counties are Amador, Del Norte, Marin, Mendocino, Sacramento, Santa
Cruz, Shasta, Sonoma, Trinity, and Yuba. Other counties should be online within
months after the pilot begins. Krause estimated a $14 fee for cards at the
state level but counties will also attach a fee.
Extrapolating from programs in other states, he is anticipating 150,000 people
in the program statewide: 100,000 patients and 50,000 caregivers.
The department has been working on the program for over a year, Krause said.
The DHS Information Technology department conducted a feasibility study and
is developing a web-based verification system for patients and caregivers.
Three bids were received from outside vendors to produce the ID cards and a
committee will soon decide on a supplier.
Information on the cards will be right out of SB 420: a picture, unique identifier,
county of issuance, and whether the person is caregiver or patient. Seven or
eight data fields (excluding name and address) will be transmitted on a firewalled
system from counties to the state and to the vendor who will produce the cards.
Krause’s office has been working with legal counsel and he said they expect
litigation. They are following the letter of the law; he noted that in SB420 “caregiver” is
spelled singly and so a patient may designate only one caregiver under the
program. Also county officials involved should be health, not law enforcement.
They are also adhering to the Health Information and Portability Act. If patients
don’t have addresses they can supply an affidavit that they live in county,
similar to residency requirements for MediCal.
CHP and the parole department have been asking DHS, “Where are you people?” Krause
said. CHP officials have said publicly they would follow the law only when
ID cards are issued and meantime have been subjected to complaints and suits
against officers who have seized medicine on the road.
DHS has drafted protocols for the counties suggesting they keep patients’ names
and addresses, plus physician information, on file for one year. Krause says
some counties are reluctant to do so since those records could be seized by
FDA or other agencies.
The department will soon have a webpage with timelines and other information
on the program. In the meantime, Krause suggests patients and caregivers carry
their doctor’s documentation with them.
Suit Challenges SB 420
DHS director Sandra Shewry and Attorney General Bill Lockyer have been named
in a lawsuit filed by Richard Davis in Los Angeles to block implementation
of SB420 on constitutional grounds. The California constitution Article 2,
Section 10 (c) states, “The Legislature . . . may amend or repeal an initiative
statute by another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the
electors unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without
No such legislative permission was included in Proposition 215. That voter-approved
law, now California Health and Safety Code 11362.5, does “encourage the federal
and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable
distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”
Ellen Komp works with the Marijuana Monitoring Project in Redway.