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Pot Law A Good Trip Or Bad Trip? Police Fear ‘Anarchy;’ Others See ‘Growing Co-Ops’

Thu., Nov. 7, 1996

About the only people in California who couldn’t score pot - the crippled, sick and dying - now have legal access to it.

Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative, passed by a 60-40 vote. People who can benefit from marijuana because they suffer from AIDS, cancer, arthritis, migraines or other illnesses now will be able to grow or buy it.

But the victory may be largely symbolic, with too narrow a focus to transform the practice of medicine - or, alternately, the victory of Prop. 215 may open the floodgates of abuse.

California Attorney General Dan Lungren ordered a meeting of the state’s police chiefs, sheriffs and county prosecutors on Proposition 215, which voters approved Tuesday by 55 percent to 45 percent.

“We have legal anarchy,” said Steve Telliano, Lungren’s spokesman. “No one knows what this means.”

“This is a message from the people about love and compassion,” said an elated Dennis Peron of the Pro-215 Californians for Compassionate Use, and founder of the controversial Cannabis Buyers’ Club in S.F. He is facing conspiracy charges brought by state Attorney General Dan Lungren in connection with an Aug. 4 raid on the club.

Supporters predict that in three months, cities in California will have “cultivators’ co-ops,” where standardized and pesticide-free plants are grown, harvested and sold.

But opponents hope that federal laws banning marijuana as an illegal drug will be enforced - superseding the state law.

“This thing is a disaster,” Lungren said. “The door is wide open. We’re going to have a hell of a time limiting marijuana use among young people.”

But the overall impact might be less than either side predicts.

“I think it is pretty symbolic,” said Dr. Laurens White, chief of staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

“I don’t think marijuana is as great or as bad a drug as implied. But maybe it will get us to think seriously that our approach to drugs might be wrong.”

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