The Coastal Post - August 2000

The War On Some Drugs, Medical Marijuana, And Our Local DA

By Carol Sterritt

George Stanton was a local small time drug dealer. Between you and me, that's probably not how he thought of himself. He probably thought of himself as someone with a disability, surviving on a tiny monthly Disability Check, and simply supplementing his needs with the occasional sale of a $2 or $10 baggie of smoke.

Now he had a conscience. Although he would readily admit to his pot use, his take on harder drugs was that they were dangerous. "I've seen a lot of Rolls Royces go up someone's nose," Stanton remarked about the common phenomenon of the mid-eighties here in Marin. He thought cocaine was bad, and that "rock" was worse. And he didn't in his wildest dreams imagine that he'd ever have anything to do with the world of coke.

But word got out in the streets that he was selling. It's possible that when he registered with the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, someone in Big Brother at the County level decided he'd be an easy mark. Starting in the fall of 1998, a man named "Jamil" came along and began hassling Stanton. Jamil was insistent that Stanton score some coke for him. Stanton was adamant at first. But as the months went on, and Jamil wised up to Stanton's situation, Stanton found it harder to "just say No!".

Jamil was canny. He approached Stanton at the tail end of the month, when the Disability Check had already been spent, at that exact point when there was more "month" than "money". Maybe you have never been in that situation, or if you have, more affluent family members can help you out. But Stanton was without such resources. And one day, when the idea of eating three times in a day rather than twice had its appeal, he thought, "Hey, so why not? If I don't get it for Jamil, someone else will" So for a deal involving three ounces of cocaine, and about eight to ten hours of planning and waiting, Stanton realized a tidy profit of several hundred dollars.

It had taken six months for Jamil to wear his target down.

Stanton thought that was the end of it. His plan was now to tell Jamil to butt out. He'd done Jamil the favor. He wasn't going to continue. But within twenty-four hours the cops were at Stanton's house. They tore the place apart. They didn't find any hard drugs. They did uncover his medical marijuana, roughly 300 grams of pot that Stanton had to ease the pain of a bad hip. The smoke was sitting out on his table, in full view of anyone walking in.

Luckily, Stanton was able to scarf up the funds needed for an attorney. This attorney immediately used the defense that Stanton's one time coke score was a simple case of entrapment. But nothing made the charge of marijuana possession go away. Here's where things get weird. Stanton thought that since he had membership in The Cannabis Club, and since he had a script for the marijuana use from his physician, that the marijuana charge would go away too. He had no previous felonies on his record. At the worst, he might have an electronic bracelet on his ankle.

But the court was not appeased. Since Stanton had not signed up with Health and Human Services, with a County of Marin ID card issued for his medical marijuana use, his pot charges stuck. He also found out that the electronic bracelet was only for those able to pay the cost of the program. He had few funds left and that option was out. Instead, the court issued him a sentence of four months in jail.

He was immediately thrown into a program called C Pod. This involved classes to attend every day. It was not just the regimentation or sleeping in an institution every night that bothered Stanton. What bothered him was that C Pod was little more than a school on snitching.

"They wanted names, and the more names the better." Every day while in a C Pod class, his basic assignment was supposed to be informing on others. Stanton resisted the program. He watched horrified as "counselors" let it be known that the more names an inmate provided, the better. With the County of Marin receiving $ 165 a day for everyone inside the C Pod program, and with the state handling the basic costs associated, it was a lucrative business. You're in jail, you help put someone else in jail, so much the better. It's not law and order as our Founding Fathers hoped to fashion. Instead it is a citizen ratting on their fellow citizen program, resembling some weird Soviet Union citizen spy network. You know, the foreign nightmare our tax money once went and built up national defenses against, when the enemy was Khrushchev and not the local District Attorney.

OOPS, did I just say "District Attorney" in the last sentence? Don't see how that happened. Obviously, if our government is spending upwards of $15 billion a year on The War on Some Drugs, then I should realize the enemy is you and I, and all our fellow citizens. Certainly not our District Attorney, Paula Kamena, law-enforcer. Which brings us to the question of how the current recall petition against DA Kamena could possibly have come about.

Two separate groups of citizens have connections to this recall. The first group includes Jean Taylor and Martin Silverman. Because of concern over more than a decade's worth of complaints of oppression and misruling by local judges, they took action. First they collected enough money to set up an independent overview of Marin County's Family Courts. They brought in a special investigator from New York State, one Ms. Karen Winner.

The resulting study concluded that strange things went on inside the Family Court System. In general, custody issues were resolved with the more affluent parent receiving custody. And those times that the less affluent parent did receive custody, a great deal of the resulting child care monies was siphoned off to "A" list therapists who were court-appointed to oversee the child's new lifestyle. A parent receiving $ 800 a month in child custody might have only a mere $ 150 of those monies left after going to court-ordered "therapy".

The worst offender in this system of injustice was Judge Dufficy. He has recently taken a leave of office. But DA Kamena certainly knew, or should have known, about the inherent corruption of the Family Court's bogus operating rules. And when the report was issued, her first response was not to question those judges, lawyers and therapists who were part of the alleged illegalities, but to investigate Martin Silverman himself. As of this writing, neither Jean Taylor nor Martin Silverman support any recall petitions, but do expect things to change through alternate means.

In addition to the Family Court issue, DA Kamena was making a bad reputation for herself through her handling of the medical marijuana issue. Medical marijuana is not simply an idea by which a few compassionate liberals began mucking up current drug laws. Rather it is an officially sanctioned, legally structured reality created when 58% of all voters in California approved Prop 215 back in 1997. Here in Marin, close to 80% of all voters approved of medical marijuana.

Lynnette Shaw, who heads the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, based in Fairfax, explains that DA Kamena "has gone out of her way to enforce the Federal ban on marijuana. Her guidelines, adopted in Sept. 1999, tell law enforcement agents to ignore our law, arrest patients, and kill all plants. Persons living with AIDS, cancer, seizures, chronic pain, and many other types of illness have been confronted with arrests confiscations and fear tactics."

Recently in a Bay Area District Federal Court, one Judge Breyer has ruled that because no one has provided him with evidence that any other substance outside of marijuana possesses marijuana's ability to reduce pain, reduce "wasting-syndrome", and ease other physical complaints, he is forced to rule that the Oakland Club for Compassionate Use of Marijuana does have the right to exist and to do so without threat of legal repercussions. No doubt this ruling will give the Fairfax Center some breathing room.

In the meantime, the petition for DA Kamena's recall is on the streets, asking for your signature. (If you are inclined to sign, call 415-256-9328.) Those being asked to sign fall into several groups. Currently many of America's finest young citizens believe themselves too hip, too cool and too attached to their own cynicism to be politically involved. Since a citizen must be registered to vote in order to sign a petition, these possible recall supporters remain ineffective dead weight. The second group that recall promoters working Fourth Street in San Rafael encounter daily are County employees. Perhaps rightly so, these employees feel that signing the recall petition could endanger their jobs. They also refer to the political processes going on within the Civic Center as being "unbelievably corrupt."

A third group are those who enthusiastically sign. They fall into all lifestyle and age groups. Many comment on how horrifying it is that sick people are thrown before the courts. Often they know someone in their own circle of family or friends who has experienced Marin County Gestapo tactics. They are appalled that Prop 215, and the will of the people that it represents, are treated so shabbily.

Meanwhile George Stanton's life has gone back to normal. Although he has been called into court several times after his release from jail, now that he has signed onto the Health and Human Services Medical Marijuana ID program, he believes he will be left alone. At his last court hearing, Judge Sutro blasted the County for violating Stanton's rights. It is now determined that Stanton has the right to 28 grams of medical marijuana, which he may have on his person or at his residence at all times.

By the way, if George's last name was Bush rather than Stanton, he would have experienced a much different outcome. Currently, forces within the state of Texas convince those in the know to keep their mouths shut. This makes it possible for "Cocaine" George to make a possibly successful run for the position of Commander-In-Chief of The War on Some Drugs, and President of our own USA. Has to make you wonder, doesn't it?

The name "George Stanton" is a pseudonym for a Marin County resident who spoke to this reporter. He insisted that I use his real name. I can think of too many reasons for giving his some anonymity. Wish it wasn't so.

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