For marijuana activists, the “stoner” caricature is beyond ludicrous. Those most affected by the vicissitudes of cannabis legislation are as versed in legalese as they are in discussing trichomes or your plant’s CO2 uptake.
Pebbles Trippet – a representative of the Medical Marijuana Patient’s Union and secretary of the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, asserts with her Oklahoman single-mindedness her constitutional right to obtain, use, possess, cultivate and transport marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s approval. She also believes in her right to distribute and sell as permitted within a “closed-loop” membership association of collectively or cooperatively organized patients and caregivers – to enhance access to her medicine.
Trippet learned years ago that cannabis controlled her searing migraines. Endless court battles, jail time and appeals – stemming from arrests for transport of mere ounces of marijuana “leaf” resulted in “the Trippet Standard”- where legal precedent was set regarding the transportation of medical cannabis, seen today as an implicit right.
“In the ’90’s, I thought, am I going to have to be on trial for the rest of my life?” says Trippet, who was arrested 10 times in 11 years between 1990 and 2001.
She raised constitutional questions that were presented to the Supreme Court but never heard. Trippet posited whether punishing someone for possessing medicine could be deemed
cruel and unusual, whether confiscating medicine could be considered unreasonable search and seizure and how cannabis-derived prescription medications like Marinol were considered medicine, but not their plant derivative.
Jim and Trelanie Hill investigated medical marijuana seven years ago for treatment of serotonin imbalances and digestive problems. They began to grow cannabis for patients and themselves.
“In June of 2006, COMMET raided our home and took our bank accounts, IRAs and our plants,” said Jim Hill. When Hill reads the affidavit supporting COMMET’s search warrant, he discovered that the raid was based upon a confession of a friend of their daughter, who stole some “shake,” got caught and told law enforcement to head for the Hills.
“She confesses, admits to stealing, and the sheriff doesn’t care if you get burglarized? We had no knowledge of the burglary until I read about it in the affidavit,” Hill states.
Their case was dismissed in December of 2006, with charges dropped.
What was more egregious than the raid itself, says Hill, was an after-the-fact seizure of business checks from their bank account, two months after their arrest.
“They claimed the money was ill-gained,” says Hill, displaying dozens of checks – for large and small amounts. “These checks were income from my business,” explains Hill. The family sued the county and their property was returned in early 2007 – all their property, with the exception of their cannabis.
“The order to release the marijuana was signed in March of 2007. It is supposed to be held in custody by the court. It has never been returned,” he said.
The only solution, according to Hill, is the cessation of asset forfeitures.
“Asset forfeiture is a crime against an object, not a person. Money doesn’t have the right to an attorney. These are civil actions, so if you don’t have money, there is no way to sue them to get your money back,” Hill said.
Another raid by the DEA in the past weeks left the Hills feeling times may be changing.
“The agents were polite, non-threatening and treated us with dignity and respect. I believe they were sending a signal that their enforcement policy was about to change,” Hill suggests.
Agents seized 19 mature, zip-tied cannabis plants and a number of un-sexed seedlings, which are not considered mature under California law. Hill once again asserts the legality of his operation, presenting a notebook filled with hundreds of medical marijuana physician recommendations. “We’re not hiding. If there is anyone that’s complying with medical marijuana regulations, it’s me,” says Hill.
The California Supreme Court in 2008 strictly defined caregiver, ruling that holding medical marijuana recommendations for others as a caregiver was illegal if all you were doing is growing patients’ pot for them. Many former “caregivers” are now asserting their right to grow multiple plants as collectives or cooperatives, the limits of which are still undefined by the courts.
Hill is succinct. “People trying to provide medicine are labeled criminals. When they arrest another patient they create another activist.”
One would think that Trippet and Hill, who last month named Sheriff Tom Allman party in a suit challenging the county’s Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance, would be at serious odds with law enforcement. Not so. “We have an excellent relationship,” says Hill of the sheriff, and though they disagree on many issues, Trippet and Allman have a relationship based on mutual respect, she said.
Trippet now advises other patients and writes prolifically on issues pertaining to cannabis legislation. She is strongly opposed to county Supervisor John McCowen’s proposal for changes to the County’s 9.31 Medical Marijuana Ordinance. “We don’t want to be classified as a nuisance, as garbage,” explains Trippet.
“We’ve come out of decades of punishment,” says Trippet, who will continue to fight for her belief that a simple plant, revered by societies throughout the world for thousands of years, should be accessible to people who might benefit from its healing medicine.
At the home of Trippet, the autumn light begins to wane and fingers of fog just begin to settle into the coastal hills. She picks up a wooden plaque resting near a statue of the Buddha. She reads the words aloud:
“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”
As she reads, her voice breaks. Tears drop onto the weathered pieces of wood. “I just love this,” she says. “This is truly the way I feel.”
MORE FROM GROWERS
On the impression that people “fake” illnesses to get a recommendation:
“Marijuana is good for headaches. Do I ask you, why do you take aspirin?
“How can you tell if a person has diabetes, cancer or depression?”
On the idea that patient/growers don’t need the amount they grow:
“Replace the medicine and ask the question – Why do you need so much ibuprofen? Why do you buy so much at one time?”
On the dangers of marijuana gardens:
“Look at any 400-acre vineyard. How many people may be killed or seriously hurt someone else because of grapes? The likelihood of someone dying because of MJ is very small.”
By Carole Brodsky