Hedges ponders appeal of Tangemans medical pot order as state high court considers deeper debate

March 18, 2008

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

A battle of Titans unfolds: In one corner, a gaggle of California cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies; in the other, the state Supreme Court. In the middle of the ring is a small baggie of medical marijuana which now has become enveloped in an ever-widening philosophical rift. Should California law enforcement personnel be required to return to an owner confiscated marijuana that is legally possessed and medically prescribed, an apparent conflict with federal prohibitions?

A pending high court decision soon will seek to answer this perplexing question. In the meantime, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges has inserted himself into the mix by generating a more local court confrontation, one with its own little confiscated baggie of pot and the same bottomless pool of unanswered questions, by asserting that he is ultimately bound by federal drug laws.

And even as California’s legal contradictions surrounding the use of medical pot intensify, the American College of Physicians has issued a major position paper endorsing medical marijuana’s use, calling for its reclassification under federal law, and advocating an end to criminal and civil prosecution for lawful cannabis patients.

California’s Supreme Court could decide at any time if it agrees with a November appellate opinion regarding the fate of marijuana seized from a qualified medical marijuana patient. In that case, the city of Garden Grove is defending its actions in denying return of about a third of an ounce of pot taken from Felix Kha during a routine traffic stop. The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled against the petitioner’s allegation that federal pot prohibitions transcend California’s “compassionate use” law. In that decision, the court said Kah “was entitled under state law to return of his property” and that return of Kah’s pot “was not precluded by principles of federal preemption” and was “compelled by principles of due process.”

At about the same time the appeals court reached its decision, D. Craig Steffens, an Arroyo Grande resident, was stopped by county law enforcement officers for a routine traffic violation and a small quantity of pot was confiscated. The marijuana was determined to be medically prescribed, and on February 26, 2007, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Martin J. Tangeman ordered Hedges to return the pot to Steffens.

Hedges has not complied and now is considering an appeal of Tangeman’s order while awaiting the state high court decision. That in turn has caused Steffens’ attorney, Louis Koory of James McKiernan Lawyers, to ask Tangeman to order Hedges to show cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.

Koory seeks contempt sanctions against Hedges and his department, the county, and County Attorney Ann Duggan, for what he called in court papers “their willful failure to comply with the order for return of property signed by the court.” Koory told the judge that “any appeal filed by the sheriff will be opposed and attorney’s fees and sanctions sought against the sheriff and his counsel.

“A number of courts have already decided this issue,” said Koory. “The sheriff has no right to keep Mr. Steffens’ property.”

Tangeman has set a May 1 hearing on the matter.

Hedges, in a lengthy e-mail to CalCoastNews.com, suggested he has “heard the argument that I am not required to enforce federal law. I would simply ask if I am required to comply with federal law. My opinion is that I am. I would hope that you would agree.”

Hedges wrote, “As sheriff, I retain all options that any other individual has as far as exercising my right to appeal.” He wondered “what law authorizes me to engage in the distribution of a controlled substance? It is my opinion that the legal system should be given an opportunity to answer the issues as they deal with distribution.”

The appeal court saw the matter through a different lens: “We confront here (in the Garden Grove v. Superior Court and Kah case) the facially anomalous request that we approve state confiscation of a substance which is legal in the circumstances under which it was possessed. This request is terra incognita (unknown territory), as will be most of the many confusing aspects of the current tension between California marijuana laws and those of the federal government.”

In its position paper, the American College of Physicians asked for increased research into the medical attributes of marijuana, and a relaxation of prosecution for medical possession.


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4 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 4/2/08 [Delete]
    The next time you are tempted to jump into the medical mj arguement and hold yourself up as an example in its support – DON'T.

    I used to be in favor of medical mj, but after reading your incomprehensible rants, I'm convinced euthanasia is preferable.

    By: Anonymous on 4/2/08 [Delete]
    A pot smoking, Jesus Freaking, "nursing professional" who knows nothing about drug schedules.

    Why am I not surprised?

    By: Anonymous on 4/2/08 [Delete]
    AS far as I am concerned on this issue, pot is nothing compared to more harmful pharmacy drugs that are dispensed every day. I have all my eggs in one basket. I am protected by state law. And being in the nursing profession how many have seen a pt w/ aids or cancer go through hell with being poisoned with extremely large dose's of morphine, oxycotin, duladid to ease the pain in their bodies? According to the bible, yes I said the bible, God created
    this green as a means to feed, (hunger), calm the soul, (pain, anxiety,suffering)it is a herb, not a pharmcy drug man made. It all depends on each person on how they percieve pot. I would rather apply it to the skin, to aid in discomfort that my body is going through, or smoke it so I can regain my appetite which is surpressed by Chemo, help me sleep a peaceful sleep instead of restlessness. As God said "do not bear false witness."

    By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]
    Susan states:
    "FYI LSD & Heroin are classified as Schedule 3 for narcotics. Get your facts straight on that topic. Marijuana is classified as Drug Schedule 1 the lowest of all drugs that aid in chronic pain and life threatening illness's."

    You are the one who needs to get your facts straight, Susan.

    "Schedule I drugs have a high tendency for abuse and have no accepted medical use. This schedule includes drugs such as Marijuana, Heroin, Ecstasy, LSD, and GHB."

    The above quote is from the DEA's website.

    Schedule 3 drugs are defined as: "Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse or addiction than drugs in the first two schedules and have a currently accepted medical use." LSD and heroine would never fit this definition.

    Get you facts straight, Susan.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]
    I tend to disagree that pot is up there with coke or heroin. I am a medical mj pt, with a letter from my doctor that states I am allowed to use pot as means of theraputic purposes. I have cancer, and personally I would rather use pot to ease the pain to my body then to fill it with prescribtion drugs that are harmful to the human body. Go to safeaccess.org in regards to the laws of Compassionate Act 96 and read up on what ca voters approved in 1996. The Federal Government has legal issues pertaining to weed not the state. We are taking the business of the Federal Government away, this is for the cause of unness. raids. Pat Hedges should give back the pot to the pt. If used correctly set by the guidelines of the state and the attending doctor, I don't see the harm. Have you ever watched someone dying from cancer and being shot up with tons of Morphine? Some of us can't use Morphine or other high powered drugs to relieve pain. It upsets our DNA makeup. FYI LSD & Heroin are classified as Schedule 3 for narcotics. Get your facts straight on that topic. Marijuana is classified as Drug Schedule 1 the lowest of all drugs that aid in chronic pain and life threatening illness's.

    By: Anonymous on 4/1/08 [Delete]
    I tend to disagree that pot is up there with coke or heroin. I am a medical mj pt, with a letter from my doctor that states I am allowed to use pot as means of theraputic purposes. I have cancer, and personally I would rather use pot to ease the pain to my body then to fill it with prescribtion drugs that are harmful to the human body. Go to safeaccess.org in regards to the laws of Compassionate Act 96 and read up on what ca voters approved in 1996. The Federal Government has legal issues pertaining to weed not the state. We are taking the business of the Federal Government away, this is for the cause of unness. raids. Pat Hedges should give back the pot to the pt. If used correctly set by the guidelines of the state and the attending doctor, I don't see the harm. Have you ever watched someone dying from cancer and being shot up with tons of Morphine? Some of us can't use Morphine or other high powered drugs to relieve pain. It upsets our DNA makeup. FYI LSD & Heroin are classified as Schedule 3 for narcotics. Get your facts straight on that topic. Marijuana is classified as Drug Schedule 1 the lowest of all drugs that aid in chronic pain and life threatening illness's.

    By: Anonymous on 3/28/08 [Delete]
    The drug problem would be solved if all you homo hippie pot smokers would simply do what the rest of us do – drink booze, beat up on our wives and kids, and slaughter innocent people in our cars.

    COMMIES!

    By: Anonymous on 3/28/08 [Delete]
    It's easy to tell the posts that are posted by pot smokers and non pot smokers.

    Do you pot heads realize how freeking dumb you sound?? Are you aware you are killing brain cells?
    Really pal! Put down the pipe and get your life back on track!

    By: Anonymous on 3/26/08 [Delete]
    re: I Looked It Up:

    Where's the conflict? The states should make their own decision on this issue.

    And your last line made my point for me, so thanks. In the first half, you basically told me to ignore the letter of the law, and read how it has been interpreted. CJ Marshall did not write the constitution, he interpreted it.

    Then, you told me there isn't a right to privacy in the Constitution. By letter of the law, you are correct. But by interpretation, as you seem to advocate, the right to privacy has been given constitutional protection in many cases, most notably Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut.

    I would argue that the Supreme Court overstepped its authority in both of those cases as well. Leave it to the states.

    But thanks for making my point.

    By: Anonymous on 3/24/08 [Delete]
    Marijuana should be completely legal. If more people smoked pot and drank less alcohol, we'd all be better off.

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    Some of you may want to look up the Calif. law on this issue and read it. Doctors DO NOT write prescriptions for medicinal marijuan because the law doesn't permit it, they recommend it. If you read the law you can add the numbers up and clearly see that the distribution centers are nothing but fronts for dope dealers. The law is also very conflicting when it comes to whom a caregiver is, how many he can care for, how he cares and if he is the distributor. All of this is very conflicting. I have nothing against the use of marijuana but this California law definetly needs to be addressed prior to implementation.

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    Article VI clause 2 of the US Constitution was first defined by Chief Justice Marshall and on many other occasions by other Supreme Courts as granting federal law supermacy over state law when a conflict occurs. You may argue that the Constitution does not say that, but I can't find a Constitutional right to prvacy either

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    This is ridiculous. Hedges probably smoked it, which is why he doesn't want to return it.

    Those of you who are arguing that pot is a "gateway drug" are watching to many Just Say No commercials. I bet you believe it's going to make you shoot your buddy, too.

    The federal government exists to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Prohibition of drugs is not a constitutional issue, therefore the feds have no business dealing with it. It is clearly a states issue, and the courts need to leave these decision to state courts and lawmakers.

    I don't smoke pot. I have no moral issues with it or those who do, I just don't like it. But those who choose to smoke some pot, or frankly, rail a line of coke off their bathroom counter, should be allowed to do so. If they get in a car, start a fight, etc, then they should be prosecuted. But possessing a personal amount of anything, for personal use, should be a decision the individual should make. Let me do what I want, and leave me alone to make those decisions. I don't need the federal government trying to save me from myself.

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    Hedges is Sheriff of SLO County. As such, it's his job to uphold county and state laws. Federal laws have nothing to do with his job. Under California law, medical marijuana is legal with a prescription. Hedges, as ordered by a judge, should immediately return the medical pot his office illegally confiscated, and Judge Tangeman should hold Hedges in contempt of court! If Hedges wants to be a federal crime fighter, perhaps he should apply to the FBI or the ATF. Maybe then, after the FBI conducts their vetting of him and finds him unsuitable for the Bureau, will we find out exactly who and why he illegally tape-recorded as Sheriff.
    Hedges is a power hungry nutball who should be removed from office immediately!

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    After 30 years as a cop in Calif. I believe that weed should be legalized and taxed. Smoking anything is bad for you. So is eating poorly, drinking too much booze, driving too fast, and having unsafe sex. Weed is only a 'gateway drug' because the buyers deal with DEALERS. Kind of like when prohibition-years folks were going blind from bathtub gin. Need to apply some common sense here if it exists any more.

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    Anyone who has ever smoked a joint knows what a crock it is that weed is in the same class as heroine.

    When you smoke weed (as most eventually do) and see that it is more benign then even booze, yet is classified alongside heroine, credibilty evaporates.

    Essentially zero people per year die from weed related addiction, as opposed to hundreds of thousands of yearly booze related deaths. People understand this.

    The crime argument associated with weed is also transparently moronic as it only exists because grass is illegal.

    If you don't want to legalize yet another substance that people use to get impaired, just say so. That's reasonable. But to demonize a substance known to all who have actually tried it as less harmful than booze is to voluntarily forfeit your credibilty.

    By: Anonymous on 3/20/08 [Delete]
    I'll concede that there's probably some "gateway" effect with marijuana, and I remember reading of a study that found this. But I got high a lot when I worked for Ronald Reagan, and never moved on to meth or coke, which is why I've long advocated decriminalization.

    The criminalization of drugs justs make the problem worse, and encourages users to commit more serious crimes to feed their habits. When the local cops seize a bunch of grass, their just drumming up more business for themselves in other areas. (And the corruption of police in enforcing drug laws is by now legendary.)

    And jailing people solely for drug offenses is just insane.

    By: Anonymous on 3/19/08 [Delete]
    How would the Sheriff be held responsible for returning the weed? Wouldn't that fall onto the judge who ordered him to do it?

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 3/19/08 [Delete]
    I have a story for those who don't believe in the value of medical marijuana. This occurred before our state had addressed the medical marijuana issue.

    My friend Mike was dying. The medicines they gave him made him very nauseous, all the time. He couldn't eat. His poor mom was cooking all his favorite foods, trying to find something he could keep down.

    It was heartbreaking watching this man, who used to LOVE to eat, wasting away. He was weak and frustrated. He was dying way too quickly and it was painful.

    Finally his doctor pulled him to the side and said, "Ya know, I would NEVER recommend you try marijuana, even though many people claim it relieves the nausea. Of course, as a doctor, I could never recommend it, even if all evidence points to it working."

    Mike found a source and starting using marijuana. He used it just enough to keep the nausea at bay so he could eat. And boy, did he eat!

    Although still dying, he became a new man for the months he had remaining. He was able to function again. His mom got her son back. We got our friend back. Mike got the time and energy to settle his affairs.

    Since then I've strongly believed that marijuana has valid medical uses. Compared to the side effects of other drugs out there, marijuana could really be "just what the doctor ordered" for many people.

    By: Anonymous on 3/19/08 [Delete]
    " It is said that most drug addicts start with marijuana."

    Too, most robbers had mother's milk during their formative years, and most murderers drank water on the day before their crime.

    Dew, I often agree with you. This time I don't.

    By: Anonymous on 3/19/08 [Delete]
    Mr. Schultz,
    Do you know that almost all crime is directly related to drugs. It is said that most drug addicts start with marijuana. The distributinon of medical marijuana has to be done within parameters of the law.
    When doctors agree to write a prescription for its medical use and it is distributed thru a legitimate legal means is when I can accept it.

    By: Anonymous on 3/19/08 [Delete]
    It's great to see the time and resources of the Sheriff being devoted to the clear and present danger of marijuana. This is so silly the county should consider it a misappropriation of funds by the Sheriff's Dept.

    By: Anonymous on 3/18/08 [Delete]
    Doesn't federal drug law conflict with the 10th Amendment, which guarantees "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

    By: Anonymous on 3/18/08 [Delete]
    The question here is whether Federal law supersedes State Law. The answer has always been yes. Do you follow the law? Or do you pick and choose which law you want. Liberals will pick and choose.
    Whether Marijuana has any medicinal value is a whole other argument. I'm sure that it has like some other drugs. Although if that is the case then it should be PRESCRIBED by a doctor and distributed by a pharmacist. I have thoroughly looked into the State law and looking at it from the side of the law there are major loop holes that would lead to the illegal growing and distribution of marijuana as the law is written today.
    Sheriff Pat Hedges is correct in applying the law as it is today. The Feseral law prevails and he would be negligent for not enforcing it.

    By: Anonymous on 3/18/08 [Delete]
    Weed is a Schedule 1 drug, the same as LSD and heroin.

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Comments are closed.