California medical marijuana patients should have an easier time getting their weed back if they’re cleared of the charges that led police to seize it.
The state Senate passed a bill May 23 that would require police to return marijuana and paraphernalia to MMJ patients who are acquitted of charges tied to the seizure of the drug. The same would apply if the charges were dismissed.
If authorities destroy a patient’s pot or paraphernalia, the bill provides that the patient may collect “reasonable” compensation for the loss. In addition, the bill allows drug defendants to examine their seized property before it’s destroyed.
“It’s a pretty noncontroversial bill,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the California branch of NORML. “As long as medical marijuana users are taken care of, we’re fine with the bill.”
Sen. Noreen Evans, a Democrat from Santa Rosa, sponsored the legislation, S.B. 1193. Along with requiring return of seized cannabis, it reduces the holding requirement for police in drug cases.
Currently, authorities must keep at least 10 pounds of confiscated marijuana on hand in pending cases. Under the new law, that will be reduced to 2 pounds and five representative samples, cutting back on the amount of storage space police must set aside for pot investigations.
That’s the primary reason the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association both signed on in support, despite the law’s protections for defendants.
“This bill serves the dual purpose of assisting law enforcement at a practical level with marijuana storage and securing the rights of individuals who are following the law,” Evans said. “It’s not too often we have the collaboration of peace officers and the medical marijuana industry on legislation.”
In part because of that consensus, the bill sailed through the Senate with relatively little controversy or media attention. It was approved unanimously, both in committee and in the full Senate, where it won a vote of 32-0.
Weed seizures have caused major problems for many California patients targeted by local and federal law enforcement in recent years. The drug is often kept as evidence long after charges are dropped, or is destroyed with no compensation. Several patients have sued to get their pot back, with varying degrees of success.