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Demonstration protests medical marijuana ordinance

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 08, 2001

Medical marijuana patients and their advocates say Berkeley, usually ahead of the pack when it comes to social issues, has passed one of the worst medical marijuana ordinances in the state. 

The Alliance of Berkeley Patients is holding a demonstration this evening to call on the City Council to allow patients to possess more of the herb than the present law allows. 

March 27, the council passed an ordinance implementing Proposition 215, the state law that legalizes cannabis used for medical purposes. The council approved a measure stipulating that a patient could possess 10 plants. 

“Ten plants is inadequate,” said David Taylor of the Alliance of Berkeley Patients. To get enough of the medicine, patients need to be able to have 46 flowering plants – the medicine is in the flowering part of the plant – and 96 plants at other stages, Taylor said. 

But Councilmember Betty Olds, who voted for the ordinance and supports medical cannabis, said that protesters miss the point of the Berkeley law. Patients are allowed as many plants as they need, she said. “The Health Officer (Dr. Poki Namkung) said 10 was adequate, but a patient can have 100 if a doctor signs off on it,” she said, adding that the ordinance allows patients to grow more than 10 plants, simply on a doctor’s word – with no written prescription. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who continues to push for a law that permits a patient to grow more than 10 plants, but says he’s willing to compromise at fewer than 142, said the part of the ordinance allowing doctors to determine the number of plants a patient can grow is confusing and unenforceable. 

Berkeley police have also weighed in on limiting the number of plants to 10, arguing that patients possessing more than that number would become targets for thieves. A police spokesperson was not available for comment on this story. Taylor disagreed, saying that marijuana growers are not targets for vandals. He further pointed to mini-marts at gas stations as targets for thieves and asked whether the city should shut them down. 

The demonstration is tonight at 6 p.m. in front of the council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.