As the U.S. House of Representatives discussed an interstate commerce bill amendment that would defer federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act against medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, a pair of relevant cases hit the county docket.
Before a San Luis Obispo Superior Court on June 27, Kenneth Parsons of Arroyo Grande issued a challenge to the Grover Beach Police department to return his 20.4 grams of medical marijuana, seized at the time of his arrest. After Parsons entered a not-guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge of possession, the case was dismissed on a medical defense, at which point the law requires a return of all non-evidentiary property.
However, police opted to withhold the marijuana as evidence, referring the matter to the county courts. Lou Koory, Parsonsâ€™ San Luis Obispo-based defense attorney, chalked the action up to law enforcement flying in the face of the voter-approved 1996 Compassionate Use Act and Senate Bill 420.
â€œTheyâ€™re just thumbing their noses at our state laws,â€? said Koory, who provided legal council to Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers coordinator Charles C. Lynch when he opened his facility in Morro Bay in April.
The law allows patients with a doctorâ€™s recommendation to possess up to six mature cannabis plants and eight ounces (226.8 grams) of dried bud.
Arguing that marijuana can bear no evidentiary value in a closed misdemeanor case, Koory demanded the return of his clientâ€™s property. Grover Beach City Attorney Martin D. Koczanowicz, who was unavailable for comment, opposed the motion. The case was rescheduled for July 11, allowing the District Attorney time to file a formal opposition.
The following morning, Koory made a similar motion on behalf of Ben Breschiniâ€”also recently cleared of drug chargesâ€”for the San Luis Obispo Police Department to return that manâ€™s 45.7 grams of marijuana.
Breschini claims that he was carrying documentation proving his patient status at the time of his arrest, a point contended by San Luis Obispo Police, according to the proceedings. As of press time, the department had not responded to a phone call requesting further insight on their decision not to return the property.
The District Attorneyâ€™s office submitted paperwork late on the afternoon of June 27, declaring its opposition. Judge Dodie Harmon sided with the deputy district attorney, who made the case that immediately approving the motion would force local police to defy federal laws. The matter will return to court on Aug. 9.
Additionally, Harmon directed Kooryâ€”despite the lawyerâ€™s objectionâ€”to submit a copy of the motion to the San Luis Obispo Police Department for review.
â€œWe are going backwards in the way San Luis Obispo courts deal with the return of medical marijuana,â€? Koory said. â€œMy position is theyâ€™re not a party to the case. Theyâ€™re simply a custodian to this property.â€?
In a situation almost identical to the Parsons case, a county judge ordered San Luis Obispo Police in 2002 to return a small amount of marijuana to Donovan Lee No Runner after his misdemeanor possession charge was dismissed on a medical defense.