<!--:es-->CA Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Legalize Pot<!--:-->

CA Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Legalize Pot

Hi Readers!

I blanched when I glanced at the newspaper headline which is also the title for my article today. I saw who the author of the proposed bill was. My immediate reaction was: “…not another Ammiano idea…”. Those who know me also know I haven’t been rightfully accused of experiencing any chronic heart bleed for many decades.

So, yes, it’s true. As a rule of thumb, I am NOT and probably never will be a Tom Ammiano fan. No, I haven’t been able to read his bill yet that would decriminalize pot, if it is signed into law. However, I believe it deserves closer inspection before any lawmaker votes against it.

Here’s why. Marijuana has been the illegitimate stepchild of the CA Health and Safety Code for a long, long time. Felony convictions for possession for sale, sales of or transportation of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine can result in enhanced sentences.

This can happen if the defendant:

has prior convictions for such offenses,

possesses a quantity of them greater than a certain amount,

transports such drugs between counties that do not share contiguous borders, or,

possesses such drugs while armed with a firearm.

Such enhancements can make relatively short sentences considerably longer. But, such enhancements do not accompany any sentences for defendants who illegally profit from marijuana transactions, unlike the federal system which still treats marijuana in a rather draconian fashion.

If a defendant is prosecuted in any Superior Court in this state, the maximum sentence they face for possessing marijuana is four (4) years. So, hypothetically, a simple user who buys his pot a pound at a time and expects it to last him for a year?

That guy faces the same sentence a smuggler would face who has a tractor trailer loaded with tons of marijuana, is armed with an armory of weapons, has prior convictions for doing this and is driving the load from San Diego to San Francisco when caught. As mentioned before, this does not apply to federal cases.

I complained about this many years ago to a state lawmaker when I was still the Deputy-in-Charge of the Major Narcotic Violator Program for the DA’s office in the Eastern Division of Riverside County. I said I was tired of my dope cops being asked to step into harm’s way to serve search warrants on marijuana cases when I was not likely to be able to get the offender a prison sentence.

Keep something in mind. This is not meant to be a criticism of Superior Court judges. This is political reality. The lawmaker I was speaking to grimaced when he looked at me and said “…there is no support whatsoever for any bills that would increase penalties for marijuana…”, or words to that effect.

Refusing to be stumped by this, I responded “…then, perhaps the Legislature should start being intellectually honest on this issue…”, or words to that effect. In return, I got a stare, so I tried again. “…You guys are mugwumps…”, I charged.

I explained. “…When it comes to marijuana, your mugs are all on one side of the fence and your wumps are on the other…”. Personally, I have believed for a long, long time that the Legislature must stop sitting on the fence on this issue.

They either need to give the H&S sections dealing with the illegal profiteering from marijuana legitimacy by adding the same types of enhancements profiteering from heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine already have. Or, if they won’t do that, then perhaps it’s time to remove it from the H&S Code, so to speak.

Here’s what our lawmakers might wish to consider. Draft penalties for the possession or usage of marijuana by adults so they are similar to those pertaining to alcohol misuse by adults. In order to safeguard our youth, however, I believe there must also be absolutely draconian penalties for the following violations:

usage or possession of marijuana within certain prescribed distances from pre-schools, schools and playgrounds.

distribution of any marijuana to anyone under the age of 21.

any advertising that would glorify marijuana usage by minors.

Perhaps it’s time to paint or get off the damned ladder.

Martin C. Brhel, Jr.

Editors Note: Martin Brhel is an Attorney, former prosecutor with the District Attorney’s office, Writer, Consultant, Security advocate, Journalist, blogger and frequent analyst for La Prensa Hispana.