Saguro Doven, 33, is either very lucky or he has the best attorney money can buy. Doven was arrested with 60 pounds of marijuana in his car, bundled in individual bags. At current rates that would represent a street value of about $400,000. Facing 4 years in prison in what appeared to be an open and shut case, defense attorney Glen T. Jonas succeeded in not only getting his client off scott free, last Friday, but also in convincing the judge to order the CHP to return the pot.
Doven's defense was that he was a member of a medical marijuana collective and under California's medical marijuana law members of a collective may transport marijuana on behalf of the group and are exempt from prosecution.
Since the law was enacted as a result of the voters' approval of Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act," in 1996, marijuana dispensaries have spread rapidly. According to the city clerk's website there are 966 outlets now registered in Los Angeles alone.
On Tuesday, a key committee of the California legislature carried the situation a step further when it voted for a bill to legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults and for the establishment of a tax structure to apply to its production and sale. It was estimated that such a law would raise $1.3 billion in tax revenues. Timing constraints are expected to prevent the bill from moving forward this year but plans are already in place to put the matter on the fall ballot.
A medical marijuana bill was approved by the legislature in New Jersey on Tuesday and Governor Jon Corzine has said he would sign it into law before he leaves office next week. The legislature has gione to great lengths to emphasize that the bill is not patterned after the California law.
The New Jersey governor's signature will bring to 14 the number of states with medical marijuana laws. Another 15 states have pending legislation or ballot measures to legalize the drug. The subject is expected to be hotly debated by the Colorado legislature which convenes today.
Marijuana has been shown to be of benefit to those suffering such diseases as cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease and muscular dystrophy. Studies have attempted to compare the dangers of smoking tobacco with those of marijuana use, but it has been difficult to assemble reliable control groups.
A Canadian research study released last year analyzed the relative effects of tobacco and marijuana on cultured animal cells and bacteria. The results showed that marijuana smoke caused considerably more damage to cells and DNA than tobacco smoke but that tobacco caused chromosome damage whereas marijuana did not.