Before marijuana became legal, California voters passed an initiative allowing possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The voters intended to relieve the suffering of elderly citizens with glaucoma, help increase the appetites of those undergoing chemotherapy, and so on. The goal was compassionate care.
However, there were no limits in the law. Almost all of the dozens of medical marijuana cases that came in front of me involved, not senior citizens or cancer patients, but healthy twenty-year old young men.
I required two things for me to dismiss these cases at the arraignment stage. First, did the defendant have a medical marijuana prescription from a doctor? Second, was the medical condition in the “ball park” of what the law intended?
I quickly dismissed criminal cases where marijuana was taken to help with cancer treatment, appetite, attention deficit disorder, and serious anxiety disorders.
However, most of the medical marijuana cases that came before me were bogus.
One young man was taking marijuana for shin splints.
Another young man said he was smoking marijuana for asthma. I responded, “That’s nuts. Maybe your doctor prescribed marijuana for your asthma, but I don’t think he wanted you to smoke it. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do if you have asthma. You need to go back to your doctor and double check.”
Another young man was smoking marijuana for acne.
I asked one young man in open court with a room full of people, “What are you taking the marijuana for.” His lowered his head and mumbled, “A medical condition.” I asked more loudly, “What medical condition?” He mumbled more softly, “Genital herpes.” The entire audience laughed at him. I said, “I don’t know what marijuana has to do with genital herpes, but I am going to dismiss your case in the interests of justice.”
(Basically, I gave him credit for my humiliating him in front of an audience.)
I had a young man who said he was smoking marijuana for depression. I interjected, “Depression! Marijuana is a ‘downer.’ That’s the last thing you should be taking for depression.” I almost blurted out, “You should be taking an ‘upper’ like coke or meth.” Luckily, I caught myself just before the words rolled off my tongue. I could see the headlines or editorial page comments: “Orange County judge advocates cocaine and methamphetamine.”
I had an older man who had a real “attitude.” He was obnoxious and confrontational. He was loud and rude. When I asked him what he was using marijuana for, he replied, “Anger management!” I immediately responded, “It’s not working!”
After a while I noticed that the majority of “prescriptions” came from the same doctor at a medical clinic in famous Venice Beach, California. This was an obvious sham. But then, who am I to question an expert medical opinion? After all, I majored in English Literature and Law.
Another absurdity of medical marijuana prescriptions is that no quantities are specified. With every other prescribed medication, the doctors always give an amount. Most prescriptions also contain warnings about the side effects and specify maximum dosages. Not so with medical marijuana.
I asked one young man how much marijuana his doctor told him to use. He smiled and confidently replied, “As much as my lungs can handle.”
HIPPA Medical Privacy Laws — Oops
After months of asking people in open court about their medical conditions, one of my wise colleagues reminded me about HIPAA medical privacy laws. Oops! He was right. I should not have been asking people to reveal their medical conditions in open court. So, I stopped. There went my entertainment!
In the end, it didn’t matter. Once the camel got its nose in the tent, the rest of the camel followed. Now, marijuana is legal in California.
Marijuana Dispensaries Declared “Essential Service” During Covid-19 Shut Down
During the 2020 coronavirus shut down, California government declared that marijuana dispensaries were an “essential service.” Probably makes it easier for people to “chill out” at home. Unlike alcohol, we don’t have the domestic violence collateral damage with marijuana usage.
Now, we are dealing with an rash of cases of people driving while under the influence of marijuana. The number of DUI marijuana cases that come into my courtroom has greatly increased.
Eventually, California will need to establish a scientific limit for the amount of THC in the blood, like Colorado. (In Colorado, 5 micrograms of THC is considered to be under the influence.) California will also need to educate the public about the dangers of smoking marijuana and driving.
Interestingly, the Orange Country Crime Lab does three THC tests. Most people have heard that marijuana can be detected in the system for days or weeks. THC in the system changes as it metabolizes. The THC test measures the amount that entered the system within hours. The Hydroxy THC test measures the amount that entered the system within days. The Carboxy THC test measures the amount that entered the system within weeks.
The increased DUI cases are the collateral and unintended consequences of the voters’ and legislators’ making marijuana legal. They were either clueless or didn’t care. DUI cases, whether alcohol or marijuana, are deadly. It was obvious to us judges, and anyone with common sense, that this would happen. We are now paying the price.
(See: http://www.londonedition.net — Fri. = Court Cases, Tues. = History/Literature, Sun. = Religion)