“Buzzy Linhart, a whimsically eccentric singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose compositions were recorded by Bette Midler, Carly Simon and others, died on Feb. 13 in Berkeley, Calif. He was 76.” So begins his obituary in the New York Times.

Dale Gieringer commented, “Buzzy Linhart may also be remembered as a medical marijuana advocate whose 1998 felony arrest for growing 13 plants stirred up controversy in Berkeley. Buzzy used MJ to relieve arthritis pain. He later founded the Buzzy Linhart Medical Foundation, a MMJ collective that operated in Oakland.”

Dale sent along this excerpt from a July 4, 1999, Contra Costa Times story headlined “Berkeley May Relax Drug Law”:

The drive to reform the city’s drug enforcement policy is fueled by alarm over an almost threefold increase in marijuana arrests by Berkeley police last year. Police attribute the jump to a crackdown on drug dealing around Telegraph Avenue, but critics worry that medicinal marijuana users are being unjustly punished.

One case [City Councilmember] Worthington and others found particularly troubling was October’s arrest of Buzz Linhart, who uses marijuana to relieve glaucoma and other ailments. He has a doctor’s prescription for marijuana and grew the substance in the back yard of his south Berkeley home.

“It was what we considered to be a legal medicinal garden,” Linhart said.

Linhart declined to discuss specifics of the case because of possible litigation, but according to news reports, police seized 13 marijuana plants even after Linhart showed them a prescription. The plants were confiscated and held for seven months until a judge tossed out the arrest and ordered police to return the plants.

Linhart was one of 109 people arrested on felonious marijuana charges between July and December 1998 — up from just 38 during the same period in 1997, police records show.

“What we’re seeing in Berkeley, even in the aftermath of Prop. 215, is arrests for medical and nonmedical use of marijuana are increasing dramatically,” Duncan said.

There were 305 felony and misdemeanor marijuana offenses in Berkeley last year, police reported. That represents less than one-half of 1 percent of the 68,164 cases the department investigated, police said.