Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/20/1994 02:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  CSSB 332 - WEIGHT OF LIVE MARIJUANA PLANTS                                   
  CHAIRMAN PORTER announced  the next order of  business would                 
  be SB 332 relating  to the weight of live  marijuana plants.                 
  He asked Joe  Ambrose to come  forward and give the  sponsor                 
  JOE  AMBROSE, Chief of  Staff to Senator  Robin Taylor, said                 
  the Senate Judiciary  Committee introduced  SB 332, said  SB
  332 was introduced on  February 22, 1994, at the  request of                 
  law enforcement agencies,  and with  the cooperation of  the                 
  Department of Law.  They would like to address concerns over                 
  the aggregate weight provisions  of our controlled substance                 
  laws.   Current  law requires  that  marijuana seized  in an                 
  investigation be reduced to its most commonly used form that                 
  is a saleable  product.  This  is a time consuming  project.                 
  It took the Ketchikan narcotics team  of 32 officer hours to                 
  process 200 mature marijuana plants.   When SB 332 was first                 
  introduced  it  was  an  attempt  to  directly  address  the                 
  aggregate  weight calculations  provided under  current law.                 
  That proved  difficult with  any suggested  revision in  the                 
  current  formula, raising  questions  that could  jeopardize                 
  prosecutions   in  some  cases.    The  Judiciary  Committee                 
  substitute, which was  approved unanimously  by the  Senate,                 
  would instead  give law enforcement agencies and prosecutors                 
  an  alternative to using  the aggregate  weight calculation.                 
  In cases of  misconduct involving a controlled  substance in                 
  the  fourth  degree,  which   is  a  Class  C  felony,   law                 
  enforcement officials could use either  the possession of an                 
  aggregate  weight  of one  pound,  or 25  or  more marijuana                 
  plants  to  prove  their  case.    This  bill targets  large                 
  marijuana   growing   operations.      It   would   simplify                 
  prosecution,  and  avoid  the  need  to process  the  seized                 
  plants.  He noted the bill  has a zero fiscal note, and  did                 
  pass the Senate unanimously.                                                 
  Number 825                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN  PORTER  asked  Margot  Knuth   if  there  was  any                 
  differentiation, or could there be a problem with regards to                 
  the maturity of the plants.                                                  
  MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division                  
  Department of Law, stated that there  is nothing in the bill                 
  requiring  the plant  to  have reached  a  certain level  of                 
  maturity, and every  baby marijuana plant has  the potential                 
  of  becoming  a  nice productive  healthy  plant.   To  that                 
  extent, we are fairly comfortable that if you have 25 plants                 
  you can identify,  the point is  well made that  this is  no                 
  longer close to personal  use, if we have such  an amount of                 
  marijuana anymore.  The big advantage of the bill is we will                 
  be able  to take  our law  enforcement officers  out of  the                 
  business of drying marijuana to preserve  it for trial.  The                 
  amount of effort,  energy, and time  that goes into that  is                 
  almost staggering, and the larger the case is, the more work                 
  it is  to do, and it  becomes truly frightening  that we are                 
  spending our time  this way.  And if you do not do that, you                 
  put  the prosecutor  in a  real  bind, because  juries think                 
  about everything, and there is nothing worse than going into                 
  court with spoiled evidence.  If you go in with moldy little                 
  plants, your case  will just go out  the window.  This  is a                 
  very practical bill.                                                         
  Number 850                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN PORTER  wanted to say,  for the  record, that  this                 
  could be  a little tiny plant  or a big  plant, because from                 
  little  tiny  plants, great  big  plants grow;  and somebody                 
  should not get off just because you bust them too quick.                     
  Number 855                                                                   
  MR.  AMBROSE added  one  more comment  with  regards to  the                 
  processing of the product.  Depending on the time frame from                 
  the time of  the arrest, to the  charge, until you take  the                 
  individual to trial,  this product can continue to  dry, and                 
  actually fall below the  weight that is required in  the law                 
   to prosecute a case.   So you may  have a pound at the  time                
  you  charge the individual,  and the  weight can  fall below                 
  that.  It can get pretty complicated.                                        
  REPRESENTATIVE  NORDLUND   asked  how  the  number   25  was                 
  MS.  KNUTH said they  went around the  offices statewide and                 
  asked what people  felt was a  comfortable quantity to be  a                 
  felony level.  She said they tried to be conservative in the                 
  sense that they did not want it to be too small of a number.                 
  Ms. Knuth said 25 plants at  moderate growth will weigh well                 
  over a pound.  It is meant to be on that side of the line.                   
  TAPE 94-62, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 001                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN moved that CSSB 332 (JUD) be passed out                 
  of the  House Judiciary Committee, with  accompanying fiscal                 
  notes, and individual recommendations.                                       
  There being no objection, the motion carried.                                
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN added an anecdote.   There is a highway                 
  between Huntington Beach and La Habra, CA, that is a divided                 
  highway.   The police  officer had  his picture  taken on  a                 
  ladder.  He was  holding up two seven feet  marijuana plants                 
  that had been growing wild there.  Representative Green said                 
  he didn't know  marijuana could get anywhere  near that big.                 
  How many pounds would that be?                                               

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