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More MS news articles for February 2004

New group promotes use of pot for medical use

Saturday, February 7, 2004
Kelly Brusch
North County Times

A Temecula couple who uses marijuana regularly to alleviate pain from various illnesses recently formed a nonprofit group focused on informing people about marijuana and its medical uses.

Martin and LaVonne Victor held the Cannabis Acceptance Project's first meeting last month at the Temecula Public library. The Victors say their main mission is to engage residents, police and elected officials in positive discussions on marijuana and new regulations that govern its use for medical purposes.

The pair has used marijuana for years to lessen pain from their multiple, chronic illnesses. LaVonne, 48, suffers from multiple sclerosis, acute depression and panic attacks, while Martin, 51, has been diagnosed with optical edema, or a swelling of his optic nerve. They say the issue of marijuana use for the chronically sick should be left between doctors and their patients and not law enforcement.

"It's time to stop crucifying the sick and start helping them," LaVonne said.

However, they also support lifting prohibitions on adult marijuana use. They believe regulating the sale of pot would reduce marijuana-related crime and violence while providing the state with a new source of income.

The Victors' group is an offshoot of an organization based in the Coachella Valley called the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, Martin Victor said.

He often refers to the work of judge and author James Gray, who spoke at the group's first meeting. Gray advocates decriminalizing the use of pot for adults in California and regulating its use in much the same way alcohol and tobacco are regulated.

Around 30 people of all ages came to the meeting last month to hear Gray speak, ask questions and pick up literature the Victors and their friends distributed. LaVonne said Thursday that she's received dozens of calls from people interested in the group and its mission. Most people want information on how to obtain pot for medical reasons, she said, and she points them to their doctors.

Temecula police Chief Jim Domenoe said communication with such groups about the use of marijuana for medical purposes is essential. New laws such as SB 420, which further clarified Proposition 215 ---- a 1996 initiative legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana ---- are still being interpreted and law enforcement officers are often caught in the middle.

"Since we're breaking new ground, I think it will take a combined effort to come to some common ground," he said. "We certainly want to take part in this (discussion). We all have to deal with the Senate bill and what the law has left us."

The Victors once faced prison terms for cultivating marijuana; however, the charges were dropped late last year as part of a plea agreement with the Riverside County district attorney's office. They could have faced up to three years in prison if they had been convicted on the original counts of cultivating marijuana and possessing it for sales.

According to the agreement, Martin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of furnishing one ounce of marijuana and was fined $100. Charges against LaVonne were dropped.

The Victors receive written authorization from their doctor to use marijuana under Proposition 215.

LaVonne Victor said many people are unfairly prosecuted even though they have obtained pot legally, which is why she wants to educate people on what the law allows.

The Cannabis Acceptance Project meets at 2:30 p.m. the second Saturday of every month at the Temecula Public Library, 41000 County Center Drive.

Copyright © 2004, North County Times