Document:California Press Release 1 September 1999 Five Reasons Why Proposed Changes to Medical Marijuana Laws Are Wrong

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400 Capitol Mall, Suite 900
Sacramento, CA 95814
For immediate release: September 1, 1999
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 506-0200

Five reasons why proposed changes to medical marijuana law are wrong

SACRAMENTO -- The Libertarian Party of California sharply criticized Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) today for proposing amendments to his medical marijuana bill, SB 848 -- amendments that are unconstitutional, violate patient privacy, and simply won't work.

SB 848 would establish a voluntary medical marijuana registry system for qualified patients to protect them from unnecessary arrest and incarceration. However, a memo obtained by the Libertarian Party reveals that Vasconcellos intends to amend SB 848 to make that registry mandatory -- a decision Libertarians vehemently object to.

"Forcing patients to register with the government is not what the voters intended when they passed Proposition 215," stated Libertarian state chair Mark Hinkle, referring to the 1996 initiative that legalized medical marijuana in California.

Libertarians have identified five reasons why Vasconcellos' amendments should be opposed:

1 -- The amendments violate the U.S. Constitution.

"A mandatory registry would violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and the Fifth Amendment's protection against self- incrimination," said Hinkle. "Against their will, patients would become targets of federal law enforcement authorities."

2 -- The amendments violate the California Constitution.

"The Legislature is prohibited from making substantial changes in voter-approved measures without the consent of the people. A mandatory registry clearly violates the letter and spirit of Proposition 215," explained Hinkle.

3 -- The amendments violate doctor-patient privacy.

Physicians would be forced to report marijuana-qualified patients to the government - whether the patient wants to be reported or not. "Any patient with a serious medical condition would need to be reported," Hinkle predicted. The California Medical Association has already announced its opposition to these changes.

4 -- Vasconcellos is ignoring the work of his own Task Force.

The state Medical Marijuana Task Force, which drafted SB 848's language for Vasconcellos, had agreed that any patient registry needed to be voluntary. "By trumping this decision, Vasconcellos is double-crossing the Task Force members and proving that government 'Task Forces' are exercises in futility."

5 -- A mandatory registry will not attract any patients.

"No patient will participate in a mandatory registry system. The risk is simply too great." Hinkle pointed out that Alaska's mandatory patient registry contains only 17 names -- proof that such a system is doomed to fail.

SB 848 is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee today and, if approved, would head for a vote on the Assembly floor. Governor Gray Davis has indicated that he will veto the bill unless Vasconcellos adopts the proposed amendments, which law enforcement groups are seeking. Hinkle hopes that Vasconcellos reconsiders making the changes.

"Although the Libertarian Party of California has not taken a position on SB 848, we definitely oppose the proposed amendments," Hinkle declared. "Senator Vasconcellos is caving in to political pressure. If he succeeds in amending his bill, Vasconcellos will be betraying the very patients he says he wants to help."