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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 20, 2001

Proposed regs for medical pot already found viable 


By Don Duncan  


Tonight the City Council will once again take up the issue of medical cannabis use in Berkeley (Pot growing limits on council agenda, Weekend, March 17-18, 2001). The medical cannabis ordinance before the council is virtually identical to the policy adopted by the city of Oakland more than three years ago. It allows patients to possess quantities of medication and grow a number of plants based on the Federal Investigational Use Program that currently supplies medical cannabis to nine patients in the United States.  

The Oakland protocols have been remarkably successful at protecting the health and safety of patients, while setting clear and consistent guidelines for the community. No one in Oakland – including the police department, health officials, or civic leaders – believes that the protocols have led to widespread abuse or an increase in crime. 

The Berkeley City Council has the rare opportunity to adopt a policy that has already been tested in a neighboring city. Unfortunately, the Department of Public Health has joined the City Manager and City Attorney’s office in opposing this important measure. Despite their public statements, this opposition from city staff is clearly not based on the facts. 

At a special meeting of the Community Health Commission on January 25, expert witnesses testified that the Oakland protocols were more likely to provide for the needs of patients than the arbitrary limits set by city staff in their counter-proposal. In fact, one cannabis cultivation expert dismissed the staff’s 10-plant limit as "utopian." Federal studies have shown that a variety of factors contribute to plant yields – most importantly the skill of the individual cultivator. City staff chose to ignore the testimony of doctors, cultivation experts, and patients by submitting a highly restrictive version of the ordinance. Additionally, city staff has again defied the wisdom of the Community Health Commission, which has twice voted in favor of the Oakland protocols. 

The Community Health Commission made its decision after hours of testimony and weeks of consideration. The Council should listen to the commission and adopt the medical cannabis ordinance as approved by its members. The city staff’s recommendation is arbitrary and does not protect patients. It may also leave the city vulnerable to more lawsuits and legal challenges from patients and their loved ones. 

We must urge the City Council to see past the staff’s rhetoric and remember the overwhelming mandate of Proposition 215. More than 85 percent of Berkeley residents voted to support medical marijuana. We must adopt local guidelines that protect patients and set reasonable limits. 


Don Duncan is the director of the Berkeley Patients’ Group 



Glory-seeking authorities must slow down when at the wheel 


By Raymond A. Chamberlin 


Year after year the California Highway Patrol and nearly all its local emulators around this state pursue their real-fun road game of chase a drunk, teenage thrill-seeker or whatever – anyone who is, at the time, mentally unfit to drive a car in a normal manner, let alone as chased at speeds well over double the speed limit – into any innocent bystander or other handy obstacle.  

Public safety is totally subordinated here to 'get your man', regardless of the relative risk of not doing so within the chase. That is the rule of our glory-seeking authorities. Somebody ends up killed? Just label the crazed fugitive as the murderer and the presumed cool-headed pursuers as heroes totally free of fault. 

A year and a half ago it was a woman pedestrian in Oakland at a busy hour in the morning next to a high school – knocked thoroughly dead against a gas pump. The fugitive had merely displayed unsafe driving and was not wanted on warrant for any crime. So the Oakland Police chasers made up a false and very corny story that the fugitive had threatened one of them with his vehicle.  

The fugitive ended up getting nine years for manslaughter but the woman is still very dead. 

Early this Wednesday morning, it was a man driving legally on Berkeley streets – crunched indisputably dead in his totaled automobile. The fugitive is said to have been driving under the influence and was known to have a warrant out against him for a previous DUI. The authorities are thinking of charging him with second-degree murder – whatever will improperly establish him as the killer – while these police, whose heads we’re supposed to think of as having been clear at the time, were obviously the cause of this innocent driver's death. 

Particularly, in this state, whose Southland has long been entertained by hot pursuit, we are just on the street as clay pigeons, at the mercy of our police authorities.  

We're told, though, that Berkeley's police are much more restricted as to when and how they may chase. But what is the actual legal setting that perpetuates, in this state, the equivalent of human sacrifices to the gods as once practiced in primitive societies? 

Look up California Vehicle Code Sections 17004 and 17004.7: 

Those are the code sections that give the CHP and its local copycats license to kill anything in the path of anyone they take a fancy to chase. None of us who legally walk the sidewalks or drive the streets of this state will ever be safe from the police until we get the members of our Legislature to CHANGE THIS OUTRAGEOUS LAW! 


Raymond A. Chamberlin lives in Berkeley. 



Reviewer got play’s essence  



I have frequently admired John Angell Grant's excellent reviews but have been slow to write to you. The review of “Agamemnon” was especially fine. Without talking down to readers, Grant managed to convey the essence of the play in recognizable contemporary language. I always look forward to his reviews. 


Estelle Jelinek 




$1.44 billion but not for housing  



No matter how you look at it and no matter how it’s raised, $1.44 billion – raised by UC Berkeley alumni since 1993 for the “New Century Plan” – is a whole lot of money. I’m still blown away, and before I get any further let me congratulate all who helped achieve that amazing feat. 

But let’s not get too carried away. Some great stuff will undoubtedly come out of that gargantuan effort, but there was also something that was noticeably lacking in everything that I read about the UC Berkeley New Century Campaign. While there were a few programs that seemed to directly benefit undergraduate students, including scholarships and research 

programs, the one program that students repeatedly say is their No. 1 priority was totally ignored. In short, where the heck are students going to live? With $1.44 billion on hand, you would think that there would some interest in beginning to address a situation that is already at crisis levels. The housing situation has reached an emergency level, but we still don’t seem to be getting much help. 

While I occasionally enjoy the benefits of the new Haas Pavilion, it seems odd that the sports facility is the headliner in the plan’s “Improving Undergraduate Life” category, while housing and so many other important student issues didn’t even receive an honorable mention. Who set these priorities, anyway? If I had anything to do with it, the basketball teams would still be playing in Harmon Gym (which some say was one of the best in the land) and all students would have close, safe, affordable housing. But, then again, nobody seemed to ask me what I thought was most important. 

Now is the time to take serious action to address the housing emergency. Actually, the time was about ten years ago, so we have some catching up to do. With $52.6 million in unrestricted gifts to the Chancellor’s Millennium Fund, Berdahl could do a great deal to help, even with just 1 or 2 percent of his stash. For example, the Cooperative Student Association, which manages all the student-run coops, offered to cover all capital costs for construction 

and expansion of student housing, in exchange for a very low lease on available university-owned land. The Berkeley community has been supportive of the idea of increasing student housing, yet Berdahl turned them down. 

The university’s obsession with cars also hurts students and the greater community. Even though nearly 3/4 of students who commute to Cal would trade in their car if they could live close to campus, the Chancellor still seems to prioritize parking over housing. 

And don’t think the housing situation is going to get any better, either. If you haven’t heard yet, a tidal wave is about to crash on our campus and across the UC system.  

Tidal Wave II is expected to increase the whole UC population by about 64,000 by the end of the decade, and bring about 4,000 more students to our own home-away-from-home. The university’s gracious 

response to absorb this increased pressure on the dwindling housing stock is a planned increase of about 900-1000 beds over that same time period. That means 3000 more people fighting over your next apartment, or backyard shack if you’re lucky. Good luck! 


David Nabti 

Student, UC Berkeley