Smoke and Smearers

Potheads distort the record -- and endanger the justice system -- as they try to recall the Marin DA

The petition itself -- still a relic of Mardeusz's all but forgotten family-court gripes -- made no mention of marijuana.

I've always wondered how promoting illegal drug use had managed to place itself toward the heights of the progressive pantheon, a position ordinarily reserved for vanquishing injustice, comforting the unfortunate, and toppling the mighty and cruel. I thought perchance a call to Lynette Shaw, founding director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and leader of the recall campaign, might shed some light.

Shaw rejects the idea that Kamena has sought to tread a reasonable path through the vagaries of California narcotics law. Rather, she sees Kamena as leader of a veritable police state, with shock troops routinely brutalizing citizens whose only crime is seeking medical attention for painful disease. Shaw says she is acting as a consultant to parallel DA-recall efforts in Placer, El Dorado, Shasta, Butte, and Sonoma counties.

By drafting guidelines that acknowledge that state and federal law still consider marijuana possession to be illegal, Kamena is encouraging Marin law enforcement officers to terrorize residents, Shaw says.

"She's violating the state Constitution; I think it's Section 2, Chapter 2 ... um, I'm going to get a copy of the state Constitution here on file pretty soon," says Shaw, before returning to more familiar ground. "She's violating Prop. 215, which says patients should be allowed to have their cannabis."

Shaw says she began the alliance after finding solace in marijuana for a laundry list of medical conditions. A long laundry list.

"I have chemical injury illness. I grew up in Antioch, California, where they manufactured DDT, fiberglass, and other chemically based products," Shaw explains. "I was formerly a battered woman; I was almost strangled to death. I have a shoulder injury that's a source of constant chronic pain. I had to go through abused women's services here. I got a lot of support. I will never be the same and will always hurt every day of my life. I can't take common medicines they prescribe for this. I have to live in Marin County, a pollution-free area. I'm always having allergic reactions. The use of cannabis really helps to strengthen me. I think it balances me out, or strengthens my immune system -- actually I have a hyper immune system. I used to have anorexia. It seems to reduce the symptoms of having a hyper immune system. If someone sprays pesticide, I have an allergic attack. I'm shaking. I'm ready to throw up. My boyfriend will run and get me a joint. I'll take one hit -- it's a bronchial dilator -- and I can relax, I can breathe, the swelling reduces. One hit will reduce a lot of these symptoms, and it reduces the panic. It treats the panic and anxiety along with the physical symptoms. Also, eating the brownies with marijuana was also good for me. It balances out my system. Now I can even go to L.A. with all that smog. I can be less of a woman in a bubble, and if a car drives by, I don't faint. I really just want to be a normal person. I tried everything -- everything. I was on disability, I was on welfare. It was very frightening, and the doctors couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally I found a doctor who believed me. He started me on macrobiotic brown rice, then we started on cannabis, and that stopped it."


If Shaw and her Marin pothead allies succeed in toppling district attorneys from here to Oregon, they would, quite simply, degrade law enforcement.

Marin Sheriff Robert T. Doyle, for one, told me that he would turn to the state Attorney General's Office if marijuana users manage to install a district attorney who refuses to enforce the law. There's an attractive prospect -- state shock troops enforcing laws, because local jurisdictions refuse to do their duty. The alternative, a Humboldtization of California where local officials corrode into lawless lackeys of armed-and-dangerous marijuana entrepreneurs, seems equally unsavory to me. With Kamena and other rural district attorneys as a precedent, the recall mechanism might cease to be a mere method for removing public officials who fail to uphold their oaths of office. "This kind of thing, if it snowballs, will become a threat to district attorneys around the state," said retired Marin Superior Court Judge William Stephens when I spoke with him last week.

Then there's the simple danger of allowing stoners to dictate how California is run. Fairfax, a town some residents fancy as a monument to counterculture, provides ample warning that this would be an awful fate.

"There's leftover burnouts who pretend they're the heart and soul of the town. They're working hard to climb down the social ladder by being too lazy to succeed at anything and trying to make some kind of religious experience out of it," notes Peter Ethridge, who lives not far from Shaw's office in Fairfax. "I'm 50-plus years old. I experimented with every drug under the sun as a kid. The one thing I know is, you have to keep chemicals out of the hands of children. It wrecks their lives before they even live them. In a family town such as Fairfax, I'm amazed that people haven't run them out of town. I'm surprised what that little activist has been able to do."

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