A bill under consideration in the California state Senate would require law enforcement agencies that file charges against medical marijuana users in the state, to return confiscated marijuana and paraphernalia if the charges are dropped or there is an acquittal in the case.
The Los Angeles Times reports that State Sen. Noreen Evans, a Democrat, introduced the bill. Apart from requiring agencies to return confiscated drugs, it would also reduce the amount of marijuana that police are required to store in evidence while a case is considered in the courts.
Currently, agencies must keep up to 10 pounds of seized marijuana. The proposal would reduce that requirement to two pounds and five random samples. The change in the evidence requirement has prompted many police departments to support the bill.
Storage of large quantities of marijuana evidence has become an expensive problem for California police departments.
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“Many sheriffs’ departments, particularly in rural Northern California counties, have found the storage of the “ten pound” requirement burdensome … the storage space alone is troublesome and expensive,” Evans said in a press release.
The bill would also instate other procedural changes regarding drug confiscation. It would allow the defense of the accused to inspect the property before it is destroyed. It would also enable the defendant to receive “reasonable compensation” should the drugs be destroyed prior to an acquittal.
A woman in San Luis Obispo recently won a case in which the sheriff’s department had to pay her $20,000 after destroying her medical marijuana, according to local ABC affiliate KERO.
While such a stipulation may seem like a potential financial burden for local police departments, many still support it in light of the reduced burdens involved in evidence storage.
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Evans claims the bill would be a win for both law enforcement and the rights of individuals.
“This bill serves the dual purposes of assisting law enforcement at a practical level with marijuana storage and securing the rights of individuals who are following the law,” she said. “It’s not too often we have the collaboration of peace officers and the medical marijuana industry on legislation.”
The bill has been approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee and could go to the Senate floor for a vote next week.