From Aundre S: A close friend had a disturbing encounter with a CHP officer last week. I hope this isn’t part of the zero tolerance trend. My friend was a passenger in a vehicle traveling from Mendocino to the Bay Area. He and the driver had been doing construction work and were on their way home, when they stopped at a gas station in Lake County. As they were pulling out, they were pulled over by a CHP officer. He said it was because the driver had not yet fastened his seat belt, but he immediately began quizzing them about cannabis. I believe they were profiled as they were two young men riding in a large, somewhat flashy truck, traveling along what’s known as the “Green Highway.”
The officer claimed he smelled cannabis and was going to search the truck and asked them to give up any cannabis they had. The only cannabis they had was the approximately 3 grams in the passenger’s backpack, which he handed over along with his valid recommendation from his family physician, and identification. The officer seemed frustrated about the small amount and about cannabis in general. He told them that medical marijuana “brought crime and murder” and they did not want marijuana people, medical or not, around their town.
He gave the driver a field sobriety test which he passed.
He began quizzing them about their cannabis use and got them to admit to smoking a couple of grams or less most evenings before bed, but never in the day or when they were going to drive. The officer then claimed that since they had admitted to him that they used cannabis on a regular basis, he was going to have to report them to the DMV as “chronic drug abusers” and that they were going to have their licenses suspended. He served them both with a “Notice of suspension for non-compliance,” even though he gave back the cannabis and did not cite them for any other charges. This notice is given to the DMV by doctors and law enforcement who believe that a driver is incapacitated by addiction,
mental illness, physical illness, etc., and unable to drive safely. The officer wrote on the passenger’s form “admitted long term drug user” and “passenger in vehicle transporting cannabis” (the only transportation was the three grams!).
After being given this notice one must appear at a DMV hearing within five days, or lose your license. I went to the hearing with the passenger at the DMV office. The DMV reps were very upset that he had brought someone with him (even though you are allowed to, and there are signs saying one may have representation of their choice at the hearing ). She was very angry that we had a printout of their drug addiction policy which is worded such that the burden is on the DMV to prove addiction thanks to a past ASA lawsuit. [Read O’Shaughnessy’s original story on the lawsuit against the CHP and the follow-up report on the apparent victory.]
The outcome of the DMV hearing is determined by the officer and is highly subjective. The officer grilled me as to how I had a copy of their internal policy, and she claimed that I had no right to that information!
My response was that I had found it on ASA’s website and that I believed it to be public information. The officer told me in response, “You better not open your mouth again.” After a very tense hearing where the passenger said all the right things (he had not done anything illegal anyway) she was forced to reinstate his license and drop the case. This is a very worrisome situation. The two involved told me they were very polite to the officer, he just had a problem with cannabis. I wonder how many people this may have happened to that did not have the information or resources to fight it.
if not for love then why?
Pebbles Trippet Comments: That CHP guy was all wrong, boxing him in to admit addiction. That’s their new MO —steer people down the addiction shuttle, reduce penalties if they plead out to their “drug problem,” and bingo, you have stats with thousands of new enrollees in addiction treatment programs, where weed is considered the problem, when it is the solution.
From Kris Hermes of ASA: While this example of CHP behavior is pretty egregious, it appears that this individual cop was acting in a rogue fashion. My staff informs me that we have NOT seen an uptick in negative CHP encounters, and the fact that both of these guys had their licenses quickly reactivated by the DMV shows that our efforts to change DMV policy have worked well.