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Geeking out

A serious legal battle over pharmaceutical bud ends with justice blind and laughing

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This really isn't funny. No, it shouldn't be.

Hardly a lunar revolution since DEA agents crashed through the doors of nearly a dozen dispensaries in Los Angeles snatching sacks of medical cannabis and leaving tightly coiled piles on the canon of California law the matter of an Arroyo Grande man's pot still definitely meant something. At least it's no joke, despite all present indications.

While the Grover Beach City Council recoiled into chambers Jan. 18 to discuss whether or not to defy a court order requiring the return of 20-some grams of medical marijuana to the acquitted patient Ken Parson, the potential punch-lines flowed like molten resin. What's so funny?

Perhaps it's the subject matter. For Californians, the political value of this story certainly lies in snaring that elusive victory of state's rights over federal rule. Still, let's be honest. The topic of conversation alone the sticky icky warrants a snicker or two.

Maybe the comedy emanates from the helter-skelter state of affairs of a judge requiring police to violate trumped federal law by handing over a controlled substance. It's hard to imagine hard-nosed lawdog Jim Copsey escorting Parson to the evidence locker for a mysterious exchange, a la Julio and Paul Simon down by the schoolyard.

It really was against the law. What Uncle Sam saw, it was against the law.

Then again, it's possible that the real laugher came from speculating why the police would face contempt-of-court penalties to fight tooth and nail against the will of California voters. No DEA agent, nor lawmaker, nor judge would ever begrudge Copsey for committing a theoretical transgression under such obvious duress, so what's with the hubbub?

Not long before the council meeting, just when things couldn't seem more interesting, a call came into New Times from Parson himself, suggesting that the marijuana in question was already up in smoke. After all, what other rationale could exist for this continual crusade in the face of all odds and devoid of legal argument? Parson suggested that the police were searching to replace the product already destroyed.

Wait, I've seen this one before. This is the strip where Jon Arbuckle leaves his favorite fern out while going on a business trip. Of course, Garfield always the cheeky fellow eats the fern and must then devise a plan to convince Jon that his stand-in plant is the real McCoy. I can't remember how it ends, but I think Odie gets kicked off a table and Garfield tries mailing Nermal to Abu Dhabi.

Either way, Arbuckle ain't smoking the same fern.

But the marijuana did exist, and Grover Beach not without much grandstanding and legal feigning did relinquish the controversial stuff. Stating that it lacked the funding to file an expensive appeal to a federal court, the city "determined" that it was "less than prudent to pursue this action."

This reasoning may, in part, prove correct. This columnist only employed the facetious punctuation after witnessing judge after judge acknowledge the city's lack of standing in the case. Federal court, while certainly more sympathetic to Copsey's plight, can't recognize courtesy appearances as wantonly as SLO Superior. Grover Beach, in other words, had no legal ground on which to appeal.

It's difficult for the liberal mindset to understand the GCPD chief, but it's essential to try. The bristle-nosed archetype of an honor-bound lawman, Copsey remains married to the antiquated notion of oath to an authority still worthy of merit. With unwavering composure, he held steadfast in his duty never to violate even an invalidated law like a 17th-century tradesman starving through a record winter rather than accept a bizarre Inkan staple crop that grows beneath the warm soil.

For those hungry and shivering in the Neocon freeze, this may seem contemptible, but, in all fairness, we never took that oath.

Anyway, back to the joke.

It starts this way: A man drives into Grover Beach with a bag of bud. So a copper stops him and asks for license, registration, and anything else a copper might ask someone who drives like, "What is that marijuana doing in the front seat?" Accounts diverge slightly at this point, with police reports indicating that Parson held the doctor's recommendation necessary to possess the pot legally. Nevertheless, the officer decided to confiscate the property.

Criminal charges soon came and later dissolved on a medical defense. Parson then asked for the property back, to which the Grover Beach city attorney stepped in and said, "No dice," doing his best Ted Striker impression. Judge Michael Duffy seconded that emotion, while Parson's attorney, Lou Koory, fumed that the city had no standing in the case.

A stay on destruction of the property followed, along with a successful appeal to the county appellate, which overturned the judge's decision. In late December, Duffy a former cop himself begrudgingly ordered the return of the marijuana. Grover Beach stutter-stepped on the mandate and wriggled back into court on Jan. 17 on the claim that the city wasn't properly informed of a previous opportunity to argue new points.

There, Grover Beach assistant city attorney Larry Donaldson and Chief Copsey proceeded to re-argue on contradictions in the laws, filed a motion for reconsideration on the basis of the alleged non-notification, and even pitched an offer to reimburse Parson for the pot based on dispensary values. To Koory's surprise, the retired-cop-turned-judge sided again and again with the former defense, bearing an exacerbated countenance as if to say, "Time to pack it in, boys."

By the time Duffy had deflated the final motion, a few ruffians in state orange began exchanging jovial nudges and ironic smiles. Friends and family of prisoners paused to collect themselves as a blizzard of whispers postulated on what bizarre series of events could culminate in such a curious scene.

Citing the need to "just get this thing over with," Duffy drew a big red X over Jan. 19 as a compliance deadline.

Afterward, the two defeated representatives from the city of Grover marched down the populated annex corridor without uttering more than a sentence to present media. Court officials led arraigned suspects, still hewing and hawing over the arcane spectacle, down the opposite route into the mysterious belly of the justice system.

On second thought, it's pretty goddamn funny.

New Times staff writer Patrick M. Klemz never got why Cheech became so popular, because he dug Chong so much more. Ask him if he's seen Dave at pklemz@newtimesslo.com.

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