The answer is, yes, we were (and continue to be) crazy and, no, we were not insane. There were several practical reasons in March 1997, when Todd set up his research facility, to think medical marijuana patients growing their own medicine in California was perfectly legal.
First, there was Proposition 215, now the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, passed by an overwhelming majority in November 1996. More Californians voted for Proposition 215 than voted for Bill Clinton in the same election. The Proposition permitted medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to "cultivate" medical marijuana.
Second, it was the duty of California’s then-Attorney General, Dan Lungren, to challenge Proposition 215 in court if he felt it legally improper. Lungren did not do this. Indeed, California’s Attorney General said it was all right to break federal law and grow "1 to 2 plants". (You can grow one plant, you can grow two plants, but how on Earth can you possibly grow "1 to 2 plants"?) Besides, even if AG Lungren didn’t like medical marijuana, the Constitution of California said "It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to see that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced." It also says the AG "has no power . . . to declare a statute unenforceable or to refuse to enforce a statute on the basis that federal law or federal regulations prohibit the enforcement of such statute..." Those, and other admonitions of the California Constitution, we thought, would keep the AG in line. That is, we were foolish enough to believe Dan Lungren would follow the Constitution of the State of California.
Third, our national Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey, had pulled back from his initial assault on California’s medical marijuana users after a federal court in San Francisco told him in early 1997 to leave physicians alone. McCaffrey, having taken a beating in both the court and the press over medical marijuana, commissioned in January 1997 a $1 million study from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and went from attack mode to distancing himself completely from, as he called it, "the medical marijuana issue." When asked a question about medical marijuana, he would turn it aside with, "It is in the hands of science, and scientists will decide."
(The report, released in March 1999, found that (a) marijuana is medicine, (b) it is not a gateway drug, (c) there is currently no alternative to smoked marijuana for some patients, (d) patients who need medical marijuana should be able to obtain approval within 24 hours, (e) if marijuana is addictive at all it is only mildly so and any withdrawal symptoms are minimal, and (f) there is no reason to believe that medical marijuana will increase recreational marijuana use. See page 259. Since the report’s release, McCaffrey has done nothing to implement it except to grossly misrepresent its findings before Congress.)
Fourth, the press discussed the medical use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana in California as a commonplace event. For example, The New York Times Magazine featured a cover story on how well law enforcement and medical marijuana suppliers were getting along—cooperating, even—to honor the will of the people of California in getting medicine to the sick. The press universally portrayed an easy truce, growing into trust, between patients, caregivers, and law enforcement. Although arrests for recreational marijuana use continued unabated in the United States (one every 39 seconds), arrests for medical marijuana in California were, it seemed, a thing of the past.
Todd’s arrest in July 1997 was the first federal medical marijuana arrest in the nine months following the passage of Proposition 215. Why didn’t the DEA enforce federal law on the 30-or-so clubs that were openly growing and selling medical marijuana during that time, and why it pick on Todd, who wasn’t selling anything at all? Surely, we thought in mid-1997, if the federal government was going to crack down on medical marijuana, it would start with the more obvious—and more extreme—violators first.
I was emboldened to put in a garden myself. I felt like a Florence Nightingale-George Washington Carver hybrid. I had 300 plants. As you shall learn in this book, each plant produces 7 to 10 grams of medical marijuana, or three plants to the ounce. As I used medical marijuana at the rate of two ounces per week, the 100 ounces from my garden would last me a year. If I decided to make concentrated medical marijuana resin (CMMR, also known as hash), as I had decided to do, it would reduce that amount to a four-month supply.