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Medical Marijuana Advocates Accuse California AG Lungren of Lying About Prop. 215 -- Then Lying More to Cover-up the Lies

February 12, 1998

By Jeff Meyers

Medical marijuana advocates are charging California Attorney General Dan Lungren and his associates with using false and misleading statements in a smear campaign against Proposition 215 -- and then lying about ever making the statements.

Last month, Lungren sent California narcotics agent Christy McCampbell to Florida to speak to the Florida Cabinet, which was holding hearings on a ballot proposal that would legalize medical marijuana. Without citing any study, McCampbell said marijuana use in California was increasing since the passage of Proposition 215, and not only among sick people.

In a story that ran in the Miami Herald, she went so far as to claim that "anyone of any age can virtually get marijuana in the state of California now -- it has been legalized." After the California agent's testimony, the Florida Cabinet unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Florida voters to reject the medical marijuana initiative.

McCampbell's statements mirror Lungren's own. In a speech on the "State of the Public Safety" last week at the Comstock Club in Sacramento, Lungren linked the passage of Proposition 215 to the rise in marijuana use among California youth, saying Proposition 215 sent a "damaging signal" to both adults and children.

"As a result, here in California our young people are using marijuana more than at any other time during the last 10 years," a story in the Sacramento Bee quoted Lungren as saying.

Through spokesmen, both Lungren and Campbell denied ever making these statements. Lungren spokesperson Peggy Bengs said that the phrase in the story -- "as a result" -- was not said by Lungren and that the headline -- "Medical Pot Spurs Teen Drug Use" -- "did not reflect what the Attorney General said."

Bengs also said that Lungren's remarks had been taken out of context by the Bee. "The attorney general's point was, it's the message of Proposition 215," she said. "He wasn't talking about the ballot measure passing and all of a sudden everything happened. He was talking about a message that went out to young people."

The Bee reporter, Dan Bernstein, said his story is accurate. The Associated Press reporter, Bill Kaczor, who wrote the story on McCampbell for the Miami Herald, has her statements on tape.

At best, Lungren's statements are pure conjecture, experts say. Youthful marijuana use has been rising not only in California but throughout the country for the last five or six years. The 1997 study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research doesn't even break down usage by states, and the last California state study was done in 1996, months before the initiative passed in the November elections.

Asked where Lungren got his information, Bengs said it was based on an article in the San Jose Mercury News that quoted a Department of Health and Human Services official who attended a focus group in which kids allegedly said that marijuana wasn't bad because it was medicine.

But a spokesperson for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs refuted the purported link between Prop. 215 and teen marijuana use. "We can't make that link," said Maria Caudill. "There's no credible study or empirical data."

Lungren apparently made another error in his speech by saying that the only other state to experience an increase in illegal drug use by minors was Arizona, which also approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1996. But Christy Dye, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, disputed Lungren's allegations.

"He's tying two unrelated things together," she said. "Kids were smoking more dope over the last three or four years, predating" the initiative.

Lungren is running for California's Republican gubernatorial nomination and is wooing the party's right wing.

His opponent in the primary is Dennis Peron, founder of the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators Club and target of criminal charges filed by Lungren's office. Peron was asked about Lungren's recent remarks linking Proposition 215 to increased marijuana use among teens.

"Lungren is trying to ride to the governor's office on the backs of sick and dying people," Peron said. " But I don't think people buy into his lies. He tried to influence people last time (when Proposition 215 got 56% of the vote) and what did it get him? Nothing."

One medical marijuana advocate who preferred to remain anonymous asked, "Why is Lungren sending California narcs to Florida to lie and get them to arrest medical marijuana users. She should be here looking for crack dealers. Isn't this illegal?"

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Jeff Meyers will report soon in Marijuananews.com on the use of tax dollars by various narcotics law enforcement agencies to influence public opinion against medical marijuana, exploiting their credibility to deceive the public at public expense.

Longtime journalist and a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, Jeff Meyers is a documentary filmmaker living in Ventura, Ca. He is the producer of "The M Files," a short dramatization of the absurd origin of marijuana prohibition. He is currently working on "The Emperor Wears No Clothes - the Film." His phone number is (805) 648-3952. Fax: (805) 641-3449. E-mail: jmeyers@isle.net.

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