Stick ‘Em Up and Say Ahhhh
The recent New Times story by Kylie Mendonca ( www.newtimeslco.com ) “Why Worry? Sheriff Hedges obtained the confidential records of medical marijuana users. Could that be a problem?” outlines an interesting case.
Seems that when the Sheriff raided the Morro Bay medical pot dispensary, they carted off medical records of the dispensary’s clients. And since those records are covered under federal privacy laws.one of the dispensary’s medical patients is Elaine McKellian who “ . . . On June 20, [ ] filed a lawsuit against the County of San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department, and Sheriff Hedges himself, seeking unlimited damages for his role in busting the dispensary.
“I filed the lawsuit to ensure that other patients in San Luis Obispo County have the same rights as patients in other counties,” McKellian said.
“Although it was a federal agency, the DEA that raided the dispensary, she can’t seek redress in federal courts. She claims she was denied medicine, but what California recognizes as legitimate medicine, the federal government considers nothing more than a fix of a dangerous, illegal controlled substance. So McKellian’s suit is with the state courts against a local agency over an allegedly illegal search and seizure of medicine records that was never warranted by the state.
“She claims invasion of privacy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations. HIPAA is a federal patient privacy law. She also alleges violations of due process and alleges the raids violated equal protection statutes, arguing that the sheriff selectively enforced the law by choosing to ignore Proposition 215. McKellian is seeing compensation for the alleged privacy violations, as well as the time she spent without medical marijuana. She is also calling on the county to investigate whether the sheriff improperly used public funds for the investigation or the raid.”
If her case on the HIPAA violations holds, that may add another wrinkle to what has unfortunately turned into Another Fine Mess for the Sheriff – wiretapping employees, now illegal seizures? Somebody needs to chill out here? Maybe take a little toke?
Sadly for patients like McKellian, the American public remains completely insane on their failed and disastrous “drug wars.” They’ve had numerable opportunities to make changes at the federal level as well as the state level and instead they allow themselves to get demagogued into Reefer Madness and so we continue on this hideously expensive, pointless, failed and destructive path.
If successful, it’s possible Ms. McKellian can at least strike a blow for patient privacy, if nothing else. The protection of which is more and more sliding down into corporate hands because the citizens of the U.S. refuse to consider themselves citizens and instead are content to merely be corporate consumers, and as such, granted no rights, except what the corporations wish to grant them – after the fleecing, of course.
Signs! Signs! I See Signs
And while you’re at the New Times website, check out Patrick Howe’s wonderful story, “Is it a sign?” and ask yourself, Maybe Sheriff Hedges isn’t the only one running amok?
Seems the enforcement folks – you know, the ones after Dan DeVaul’s behind -- are now going after Bob Finley who planted a car in his front yard – Cadillac Ranch, anyone? And stuck on the back of it some lettering saying, “Slow Down.”
Well, first the enforcement people send Mr. Finley a letter declaring the car was on the county right of way and as such was a nuisance and if he didn’t remove it they’d sock him with $500 per day. When he notified them the car was entirely on his property, they chugged off for a while and then up popped another threatening letter telling him that the car was a “monument sign in Ag zoning with commercial use” (Mr. Finley owns a nursery wherein the car is half buried and nearby “white stones spell out the word ‘nursery’ on the embankment”) and not a “stored vehicle” and as such was out of compliance and he’d have to get a monument sign permit or remove it or they’d shoot his dog and burn his place down to the ground. (I made up that last part, but you get the idea.)
To Mr. Finley, the car is an art piece and thus a piece of free expression on his property, same as if he’d painted his fence puce and put up some garden sculpture or something. But to the code officials – pumped and steaming after the deVaul run in, perhaps??? – it’s an AFFRONT! AN OUTRAGE! And – wait a minute, hold on, fluffle, ruffle, fluffle of turning code book pages – AN ILLEGAL MONUMENT SIGN!
Mr. Finley notes that “. . . it doesn’t seem like code officials are trying to objectively enforce written codes, instead he thinks they want to get rid of his car, and they’re searching for a written code that will let them.” He plans to take his case before the Planning Commission on Nov 6. That’ll be an interesting meeting.
What was missing from this story is this: The car has been out front since 2004. There was no information as to whether all the neighbors were complaining, or had signed petitions because they thought it was an eyesore. Apparently “representatives from the county’s Public Works Department, the Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol” all came out to take a look see and nothing happened. Until, the story goes on, “the family was told the county had received a complaint about a ‘stored, abandoned, or illegal parked vehicle along the county Right of Way.” Of course, the car wasn’t abandoned or illegally parked along a county right of way, which would have been clear if a code enforcer had paid Mr. Finley a visit.
So, a mystery. Who made the “complaint.” What criteria does code enforcement use to ensure that complaints aren’t a matter of someone running a personal vendetta against a neighbor? And how does a car turn into a sign? Or do we have a code department now running amok? We may get some answers Nov. 6.
Condolences to Al Barrow
And finally, I got word that Al Barrow’s longtime companion, Blackjack, went over the Rainbow Bridge after a long, eventful life. He was in attendance outside a gazillion CSD meetings, which I’m sure certainly made his life feel very, very long indeed, as it did all of us humans as well, but he got to greet folks coming and going and likely could hear the hub-bub inside.
It’s always hard to lose a dog that’s been such a part of your life for so long, so my condolences to Al for his loss. And to Blackjack, I’ll think of him as being free and happy and running over that Rainbow Bridge.
A Poem for Blackjack & Al
A Guardian Tanya
By Thomas Carper
Guardian animals . . . adorn tombs in every civilization, accompanying the soul
On its crossing of the river of death
Kenneth Clark, Animals and Men
Sensing when I must travel, she refuses
To sleep downstairs. She comes into the bedroom,
Nuzzles her biscuit into a corner,
Circles twice, and lies down at my feet.
Her sleep is sound, and I sleep soundly too.
As if we two were sculptures in an abbey,
Memorialized by a forgotten artist
Who understood necessities of friendship.
It’s likely she will die before I die,
And though I have no faith in streets of gold,
I have half confidence that I will meet her
On this side of a bridge across death’s river,
Letting arriving spirits pat and scratch her,
Or stretching out, her head between her paws
As if for sleep, but with her eyes wide open,
Watching, waiting, sure that I will get there,
Sure that I will find her among thousands,
Coming gladly with a leash to link us
So we can go to death as on a walk.