WAMM - Valerie & Michael Corral

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WAMM - Valerie & Michael Corral

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:35 pm

The Brutal War on Medical Marijuana

By Sarah Phelan, AlterNet
Posted on September 6, 2002, Printed on August 30, 2006

The war on drugs is making a comeback -- with a vengeance. Six days short of the Sept.11 anniversary, D.E.A. agents put federal tax dollars to work by raiding the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (better known as WAMM), a Santa Cruz County, Calif.-based cooperative and one of the most successful medicinal marijuana programs in the nation.

At 7 a.m., Sept. 5, a dozen camouflage-clad agents showed up at the Davenport home of Valerie and Michael Corral, who founded WAMM a decade ago. Pointing their weapons, the agents told wheelchair-bound WAMM member Suzanne Pfeil to stand up. "I can't stand up. I told them I was sorry," said Pfeil, who suffers from post-polio syndrome.

DEA agents then arrested a pajama-clad Valerie Corral, along with her husband Michael.

According to DEA spokesman Richard Meyer, the Corrals were arrested and taken into custody in San Jose on federal charges of intent to distribute marijuana, but by mid-afternoon they had been released, with the U.S. Attorney's office declining to file charges.

Their release ended a three-hour standoff between 30 WAMM members and supporters and the Drug Enforcement Agency agents. Bearing placards announcing "Warning: Federal Crime in Process" and "Marijuana is Medicine," outraged WAMMers blockaded the dirt road that leads to the Corrals property in the hills near Davenport.

Destroying WAMM's 2002 crop took the DEA under an hour, as clocked by a WAMM security camera that captured chainsaw-wielding agents mowing down 130 pungently aromatic plants, which moments before stood 6-8 ft tall and only weeks away from being harvested.

But leaving the property proved more complex. When these same agents realized they were hostage to an imminent confrontation, they called the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's office, which has worked closely with the Corrals to make sure the WAMM operation remains within state law.

Summoned to the scene around 2 p.m., a reluctant-looking Sgt. Terri Moore cut through a chain padlock and arranged for the safe passage of the agents, who left in a cavalcade of SUVs and U-Haul trucks once Valerie Corral told WAMM member and security chief Daniel Rodriguez to let them through.

Still, the battle wasn't over yet.

"Shame on You!" shouted WAMM members as the agents drove past, expressions masked by tinted windows

"The whole thing is an outrageous joke, an act of violence under guise of the law, theft at the federal level, war against the people of California, who voted to have this medicine, which they are stealing, " said Joe Wouk, as the agents drove away.

WAMM was born out of founder Valerie Corral's efforts to alleviate her own epilepsy seizures, which began soon after she suffered a head injury in a car accident three decades ago. In 1974, Coral discovered marijuana was far more effective than pharmaceuticals, and for the next 18 years she and her husband cultivated a few plants each year to supply themselves and their friends.

In 1992, they were arrested twice for cultivation -- and both times they cited their right to grow marijuana for medical use as a defense. Valerie Corral was instrumental in drafting California's Proposition 215, whose 1996 passage allowed patients and their caregivers to grow pot for medicinal purposes.

Prop. 215's passage also led to the birth of various "pot clubs," which charged their members for services and products, often for as much or more than the going street value. But WAMM remains a collective in which members volunteer time in exchange for marijuana and hospice-style services.

As one WAMM-member put it, "WAMM is a club people are literally dying to get into. Many of us have AIDS and cancer. 40 members passed to the other side this year."

Since the passage of Proposition 215, many pot clubs have been shut down, including several in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thursday's raid was the latest round in an escalating tug of war between local and federal authorities.

In addition to California, 7 other states -- Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington -- allow the cultivation of medical marijuana. But U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft maintains that Proposition 215 and other such measures violate federal drug law.

After the raid, members of the cooperative and media drove up to the farm that sits on a sun-soaked southerly-facing ridge. But though the farm has an ocean view, the vista was marred by the ravaged scene that greeted them.

Framed by a "Love Grows Here" sign, the once flourishing garden had been reduced to a mess of stumps and tangled wire, on which the occasional leaf hung rag-like -- a sight that spurred some into action and others to tears.

"This was such a beautiful place. What can you say, but fuck? I remember watering this plant," said Sheri Paris, as she salvaged some crushed leaves. "I sincerely believe some of our members are going to be suicidal. They won't be able to get the medicine they need to deal with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and the unbearable muscle seizures that quadriplegics suffer."

Meanwhile a sobbing Diana Dodson wanted to know why the DEA is terrorizing sick people. "We've lost 40 members this year and that number will increase because of this raid," said Dodson, who has AIDS.

Dale Gieringer, who is California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, noted that since Sept. 11, 25 people have been busted for medical marijuana in California, but only one for terrorism.

Danny Rodriguez said his partner, who also does WAMM security, was handcuffed and held for an hour after he followed the D.E.A. agents to the farm at the start of the early morning raid. "It kills me to think Americans are doing this to other Americans, " said Rodriguez, who also has AIDS.

"(D)ead members are buried here. They have desecrated a sacred spot in many ways," said Deb Silverknight, a retired nurse and self-described black Cherokee priestess.

Sitting in a chair amid the carnage, Ralph Trueblood said, "Maybe this will be the turning point in the federal war on marijuana. Let's all hope and pray this is, because the feds have gone too far. We are all emotional, crying, laughing, in disbelief. For nine years, our members have been able to get their medicine. Now that's interrupted. I believe there will be a great outpouring of public sympathy."

Also grieving in the garden was Harry Boyle, 24, and his caregiver and fiancee, Courtney Connolly. Connolly says Boyle's experience has changed her perspective on marijuana. "I used to be anti all drugs and I don't smoke at all, but I see how much it helps him and all the people here. They can sleep, eat, function, and be in a good mood," she said.

Boyle, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, says smoking helps him cope with headaches and the stress of chemotherapy. "I was unable to even keep down the anti-nausea pills," says Boyle, who dropped from 200 lb. to 160 lb. before he joined WAMM.

While Jean Hanamoto described the scene as a tragedy, her husband George, who is one of the chief gardeners, tried to look at the bright side. "Maybe this will be a shot in the arm for volunteerism," he said. "Nothing pulls people together like getting their shit messed with!"

And the arrival of the freshly liberated Corrals helped turn the mood in the garden from a wake to a celebration. With wind chimes tinkling in the background, Valerie Corral, still dressed in her pajamas, stood in the middle of the plot, holding hands with husband Michael and other collective members. She vowed that WAMM will become stronger than ever before.

"It feels as though this garden has been desecrated, there's not a story about this garden that does not intersect with our lives. But we have something remarkable here, which they can never take away," Corral told the group, as marijuana smoke drifted in the air.

"What we are doing is so powerful, so true, nothing the Feds can do to us can change that truth," she said. "You have to stand up against injustice in all its forms."

For more info, contact WAMM at www.wamm.org.

Sarah Phelan is the News Editor at Metro Santa Cruz.

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DEA's War on California

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:41 pm


September 17, 2002

DEA's War on California
The Crackdown on Medical Marijuana
by Heidi Lypps

The month of September has seen a dramatic escalation of the War on Drugs in California, with DEA raids on two leading medical marijuana dispensaries. On September 5th, DEA agents arrested Valerie and Michael Corral of WAMM (Wo/Men's alliance for Medical Marijuana) and destroyed 150 marijuana plants intended for use by WAMM's members, most of whom are terminally ill. On September 12, the Petaluma-based Genesis 1:29 medical cannabis dispensary was raided, and Robert Schmidt, the owner, was arrested by the DEA. On the same day, the agents also raided a garden in Sebastopol, which supplied the Genesis dispensary.

These raids are only the most recent actions in an escalating DEA campaign directed at medical cannabis co-ops in California. The Petaluma and Santa Cruz co-ops were among California's most carefully law-abiding: each required members to have a doctor's prescription, issued ID cards, and worked with local officials to shape agreements and protocols for operation.

The passage of California's Proposition 215 in 1996 legalized marijuana for medical use with a physician's prescription, but any use of marijuana remains a federal crime. President Bush promised in a 2000 campaign speech to leave medical marijuana as a states' rights issue, saying "I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." The DEA's recent actions, however, speak louder than those words; some are calling it a "War on the sick", saying that the DEA has gone too far in targeting those who supply medical marijuana to the ill in compliance with California law.

Despite state law, since 2001 many groups and individuals supplying medical cannabis in California have found themselves raided and imprisoned by the DEA. These include the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, the Market Street Cannabis Club, CHAMPS, the Oakland Cannabis Resource Center, Santa Rosa's Aiko Compassion Club, Steve and Michele Kubby, Ed Rosenthal, and others.

The recent busts were carried out without the support, or even the knowledge, of local law enforcement, prompting California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to question the incursion of federal agents; he requested a meeting with federal Drug Enforcement Agency director Asa Hutchison and Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss the WAMM bust. "A medical marijuana provider such as the Santa Cruz collective represents little danger to the public and is certainly not a concern which would warrant diverting scarce federal resources," says Lockyer.

Drug policy reform advocates fear that the raids in California are part of a carefully coordinated campaign on the part of the DEA to snuff out the burgeoning public opposition to the War on Drugs. Eight states - California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington - have legalized medical marijuana in some form, and Attorney General Ashcroft and other federal officials may be eager to break the growing movement before it gains further ground.

Drug policy reform advocates have planned actions in response to the DEA's campaign to eradicate medical marijuana in California. In Santa Cruz, WAMM and the Santa Cruz City council have planned a version of the Boston Tea party for September 17th, where they will defy federal officials and distribute medical marijuana to gravely ill patients.

On September 23rd, the group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is sponsoring a rally at the state capitol in Sacramento to protest these heavy-handed tactics against critically ill patients, and advocate for compassionate use of medical marijuana. They ask all like-minded individuals to join them at the rally.

The ASA event will start with a press conference and rally at 9 am in front of the Federal Building (501 I Street, Sacramento) and will proceed to a demonstration at the Capitol starting at noon, and later a civil disobedience action at an undisclosed location.

<hr class=postrule>
<center><small>Heidi Lypps is Director of Communications at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.
She can be reached at: nemo@cognitiveliberty.org</small></center>

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WAMM Files Federal Motion for Return of Marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:45 pm

The Drug Policy Alliance wrote:WAMM Files Federal Motion for Return of Marijuana Seized in Dispensary Raid 9/27/02

The Drug War Chronicle

The same week that protestors took to the streets in Sacramento, movement lawyers were opening up a new legal front in the medical marijuana wars in San Jose. Attorneys for the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (http://www.wamm.org), the Santa Cruz medical marijuana co-op whose garden was raided by the DEA on September 5, filed a motion in US District Court in San Jose Wednesday seeking the return of 130 seized marijuana plants, as well as personal property belonging to WAMM founders Mike and Valerie Corral.

The legal team, led by constitutional law expert and Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, plans to argue that the federal government has no role in California's medical marijuana laws, Uelmen told the Bay City News Report. Because WAMM did not sell medical marijuana and thus did not engage in commerce, the state -- not the federal government -- should have jurisdiction, Uelman argued.

"[The WAMM case] is ideal because we have such a strong showing that there's no commercial transaction involved," Uelmen said. "This is not a case where the government is closing down a storefront where marijuana is being sold to patients. This is not a drug store."

According to Uelmen, the WAMM case could end up as a test case for the US Supreme Court, which has moved under the stewardship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist to take authority from the federal government and return it to the states. The DEA's raid on WAMM represents a new assertion of federal authority, said Uelmen.

"The federal government is saying now that we have plenary authority to tell doctors how to practice medicine," and that has always been a state-controlled area, Uelmen said.

DEA San Francisco spokesman Richard Meyer was dismissive. While he told the Bay Area News Report he could not discuss specifics of the WAMM case, he scoffed at the idea that the DEA would ever return the seized medical marijuana. "We're not a marijuana distribution center," Meyer said. "We seize drugs."

The motion is set to be heard by US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel on November 4, but WAMM lawyers warned that more legal mores are forthcoming. "This is only our first salvo," said WAMM co-counsel Ben Rice of Wednesday's motion.

The DEA raid on the squeaky clean WAMM operation may have turned out to be a major tactical blunder. It has sparked a nationally covered medical marijuana giveaway at Santa Cruz city hall with the support of city officials. It has caused lethargic state officials, such as Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Gray Davis, to finally rouse themselves on behalf of their constituents. And it has inspired an ever increasing spirit of resistance from the movement.

And if they wanted to shut up Valerie Corral, they erred badly. The co-founder of WAMM appeared in Sacramento and was clearly unbowed. "We need more nonviolent resistance," she told an appreciative crowd. "They can arrest us, try to intimidate us, try to take everything we've worked for," said Corral. "The federal government knows this is the end. All their screaming and busting people and guns and threats can't stop us. We have the truth."

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Raid reinvigorates WAMM, medical pot debate

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:47 pm

The Santa Cruz Sentinel wrote:December 29, 2002

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR VALERIE AND MIKE CORRAL: Raid reinvigorates WAMM, medical pot debate

The Santa Cruz Sentinel

DANENPORT — Sept. 5 was a nightmare for Valerie and Mike Corral.

Just before dawn, federal agents stormed their Davenport-area home, ordering them and friend Suzanne Pfeil to the floor.

In the hours that followed, about 167 marijuana plants the Corrals say were destined for members of the Wo/men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana would be plucked from the ground and the Corrals would find themselves in a federal jail.

The raid drew national publicity and put Santa Cruz front and center on the media map for two weeks, reigniting the national debate over medical marijuana and whether states have the power to enact laws the fly in the face of laws adopted by the federal government.

But the raid was hardly the death knell for the group. As 2003 begins, WAMM and its roughly 240 members continue their efforts, albeit with much less marijuana than before the raid, and now the Corrals are even deputized officers of the city of Santa Cruz.

Their roller-coaster ride of 2002 makes the Corrals — and the local medical marijuana movement — the Sentinel’s 2002 County Newsmaker.

The couple shares the honor with the Aptos Little League team, which brought attention of a different kind to the county this year. The boys of summer made it to the Little League World Series, and played with an infectious enthusiasm and respect for the game that made county residents proud.

While the federal raid brought plenty of attention to WAMM, the Corrals say they would rather be quietly doing the work for which the cooperative was formed, caring for sick people, some of them terminally ill.

Twenty-five members have died during the past year, Valerie Corral said.

"That’s the big news," she said. "That should be the headlines."

In typical Santa Cruz style, the county Board of Supervisors and the Santa Cruz City Council passed resolutions condemning the bust. They were joined by elected leaders from U.S. Rep. Sam Farr to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

The City Council took its support a step further, allowing the group to dispense medical marijuana to about a dozen of its members on the steps of City Hall at an event that was part rally, part protest and part publicity stunt.

About 1,000 people crowded the City Hall courtyard, with a helicopter — rumored to be a federal Drug Enforcement Administration chopper — hovering high above, and a media horde clicking and recording every second.

To supporters, the couple and the group were doing saint’s work. To the DEA, though, it was just another pot bust, medicinal or not.

A DEA spokesman said the agency was simply enforcing federal drug laws in carrying out raids against WAMM and a string of other medical marijuana groups in California. While state law has made provisions for medical use, federal law hasn’t.

"Anybody who is growing marijuana, distributing marijuana, shouldn’t be surprised if we pay them a visit," DEA spokesman Richard Meyer told the Sentinel in early December, echoing a message repeated often since September.

Though the Corrals were already well-known in the medical marijuana world, the raid pushed the couple into the national media spotlight and revived the medical-marijuana debate.

The New York Times, CNN, USA Today and a plethora of other national news outlets ate up the story.

The Corrals, who were released by the feds after a few hours in custody, still have not been charged. Moreover, rather than defending themselves in court, they have gone on the offensive by suing the federal government to get their pot plants back.

The first round of that effort failed earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel denied the request, but that was expected.

Getting the plants back is unrealistic and not even the point. The couple’s goal, they say, is to push the medical marijuana issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The couple’s odyssey with medical marijuana dates to 1973 when Valerie was involved in a car accident that left her with brain injuries that cause seizures. Years of traditional treatment only put her in a stupor. Then one day Mike read in a medical journal that marijuana could help relieve the seizures she was suffering.

She tried it, and within four years was off traditional medicines.

That set into motion the creation of WAMM. In the early ’90s, the Corrals were busted by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and state agents. Charges against Valerie were dropped based on a medical-necessity defense. A 1993 raid resulted in no prosecution.

But as word spread, like-minded sick people came together to form the cooperative that now works cooperatively with county and city authorities.

The Corrals were at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement in the mid-1990s, helping to craft the state ballot measure approved by voters in 1996 that allows patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana.

"We’ve worked diligently to change the law," Valerie Corral said. "To have the federal government uproot that is sorrowful."

"It’s so hard to shake that old image," she said. "It’s not people just laying around sitting on a couch. They actually use marijuana so they can just get off the couch."

Contact Brian Seals at bseals@santa-cruz.com.

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In Calif., Medical Marijuana Collective Loses Hope, Patients

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 5:09 pm

The Washington Post wrote:
In Calif., Medical Marijuana Collective Loses Hope, Patients

State Law Provides No Shelter From DEA

By Evelyn Nieves
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 7, 2003; Page A03
The Washington Post

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The line began forming 45 minutes before the doors to the meeting hall opened, with those who could stand on their own making way for those with wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes.

A favorite weekly ritual, small talk and political debate, had barely started before word of an unexpected death began to spread. As the news rippled through the line, nearly everyone was shaking.

"I thought I'd go long before she did," a gray, twig-skinny man of late middle age said with a cough.

"That's three in one week," said a pale young man, bundled fat in three sweatshirts and a windbreaker on a mild night this week.

Meetings of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana -- WAMM, to everyone who knows it -- are not always so grim. But these are times that try the most resilient souls. The patients' cooperative, which made news around the world last fall when federal agents arrested its founders and seized the collective's plants, has been losing members at an alarming clip. Twenty-nine people have died over the past 14 months -- including three in an eight-day stretch recently -- and two more are on their deathbeds.

Beyond their own mortality, WAMM members worry whether their collective will survive. It exists to dispense marijuana to the sick and dying, which California law allows it to do. Federal law, however, does not, and the Drug Enforcement Administration considers what WAMM does no different from dealing heroin or cocaine.

Just last week in San Francisco, a man who had been deputized by the city of Oakland to grow marijuana for a local patients' cooperative was convicted by a jury in federal court on three felony charges of cultivating drugs. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

True, half the jurors in that case stood on the steps of the federal courthouse in San Francisco on Tuesday with the defendant, Ed Rosenthal, and renounced their decision. The jurors said they had been duped into convicting Rosenthal because the judge had not allowed the defense even to mention the phrase "medical marijuana," since the federal government does not recognize medical use of the drug. But the jurors' regrets are small comfort to WAMM.

"If a jury in San Francisco will convict in such a case, then where are we safe?" said Valerie Corral, stunned and shaken after she heard the verdict. Corral and her husband, Mike, helped draft California's groundbreaking 1996 medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, which allows patients whose doctors recommend it to consume the drug. They have lectured all over the world on the benefits of marijuana in alleviating pain and improving the lives of the seriously ill, such as by increasing appetite. They also care for the sick and dying as though they were family.

In Santa Cruz, they are heroes.

Last Sept. 5, the Corrals were handcuffed and jailed after DEA agents raided the farm near here where WAMM had been growing marijuana for its 225 members, 85 percent of whom are terminally ill with cancer or AIDS. The U.S. attorney has five years to prosecute the Corrals for cultivating banned drugs with intent to distribute.

But the Corrals, and WAMM, are fighting back on two legal fronts. In the first case -- WAMM's attempt to sue the DEA for the return of its marijuana plants -- they lost a decision but are appealing. In the second, which their attorneys plan to file in U.S. District Court in San Jose within the next two weeks, WAMM will seek an injunction telling the DEA to leave the collective alone. The city of Santa Cruz, by a unanimous vote of the city council, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, on the grounds that it cannot provide the kind of hospice care that WAMM provides members of the community.

"The biggest argument is that it is a violation of these people's constitutional rights of due process under the Fifth Amendment to deprive them of this medicine that is making the last days of their lives more tolerable and, in some cases, literally keeping them alive," said Ben Rice, one of WAMM's attorneys. "Since the September raid, a number of patients have died, and their lives ended in a less comfortable way because of the DEA raid. We also have the issue of states' rights."

Despite the DEA raid, WAMM has not stopped distributing marijuana to its members, who range in age from 8 to 92. "We have very generous friends," Valerie Corral said with a smile when asked where the marijuana comes from these days. About 150 members show up at the weekly WAMM meetings to pick up their doses. Housebound members have theirs delivered.

But Corral said members have had less than their usual weekly doses of the drug. The cause of the unexpected death of member Kathy Nicholson, who suffered from paralyzing rheumatoid arthritis, was still being investigated, but Corral said she suspected that Nicholson accidentally overdosed on painkillers she began taking to compensate for the much smaller amount of marijuana she had received over the past several months.

It was Nicholson's death, two days before this week's meeting, that was the talk of the night.

Members -- who did not want their last names published because of their jeopardy under federal law -- were particularly upset because Nicholson's life partner, Tony, a blind WAMM member, would be left to fend for himself. The couple had been inseparable. They had met in the weekly line for the WAMM meeting about four years before, and their common-law union had been celebrated at WAMM's office by scores of members.

"Who's going to take care of Tony now?" a man in the back of the room wailed.

"We will!" some one else shot back.

One member reminded the group of the importance of writing a will. Nicholson had not left one, leaving Tony with no legal right to anything connected to her.

As Tony stood before the group, weeping, Corral reminded members to tell him their names as they consoled him, "so Tony knows who's hugging him."

That got a laugh. But the overall mood of the evening was despair. Richard, one of the most active members, was disconsolate. "The season is supposed to start soon, and we don't have anywhere to grow," he said, referring to the marijuana they usually begin planting in March. "What are we going to do? Who is going to help us? Are the feds just going to keep busting us?"

Another member, Lenny, suggested that federal agents might be infiltrating WAMM.

"Guys," Corral said, "let's get a grip!"

Later, privately, she said that the spate of deaths was clearly getting to the members. But, she added, she did have some good news.

"WAMM is going to be opening a hospice facility," she said. "We've been wanting to do this for years."

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Green Milestones

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Aug 30, 2006 5:19 pm

<img src=./bin/spacer.gif width=500 height=0>
MetroActive wrote:<table class=posttable align=right width=350><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/corral-michael_2003.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Looking to the Future</span>: WAMM co-founder Michael Corral says recent DEA crackdowns on medical marijuana are stirring public outrage.</td></tr></table>

Green Milestones

<blockquote>Six months after the DEA raided their land and left the threat of incarceration and forfeiture hanging over their heads, medical marijuana activists Valerie and Michael Corral are making plans for the future</blockquote>

By Sarah Phelan
March 12-19, 2003

It's not easy to find the way to WAMM's garden. First, someone has to tell you where it is--and for them to tell you where it is, you have to earn that someone's trust. Then you have to climb a long and winding road. And when you finally round the last bend in this rite of passage, you don't even get the skunky scent of marijuana to let you know that you've arrived.

At least not in February, and probably not for a while, given that the Wo/Men's Alliance of Medical Marijuana, which lost its last marijuana crop in a predawn DEA raid last fall, is not planning to grow any flavor of cannabis, at least not this year.

Which is not to say that WAMM won't be cultivating other crops--and other projects.

At a time when groundhogs back East are typically checking their shadows, I find group co-founder Valerie Corral making prayer flags with the help of a new WAMM crop that's doubtless a groundhog favorite--the lowly potato.

"You cut the potato in half, carve a pattern in it, smear it with paint and stamp it onto one of these cloth squares," Corral explains, as she stamps tangerine squares with a lime-green fish pattern.

Nearby, Corral's husband and WAMM co-founder Michael Corral turns the former marijuana plot with a spade and unearths ... more potatoes.

"It's still a bit early to plant," says Michael, retrieving a moist, earthy-smelling spud, "but we're preparing the ground to grow vegetables and fruits."

Watching her stamp and him dig, surrounded by a dozen WAMM members, many of whom are sick and dying, it's hard to believe that a federal court could deem this couple to be felons and seize their property, including this solace-bringing garden, for doing nothing more than implementing Prop. 215, the state's medical marijuana legislation, which California voters passed in 1996.

But clearly the will of California voters and the federal law of the land (as interpreted by federal drug czar John Walters) are not on the same page these days--as the Corrals found out last fall, when semiautomatic-toting DEA agents arrested them in a raid that reduced their marijuana plants to stumps and left the threat of incarceration and asset forfeiture hanging over their heads.

"It makes me want to cry, what's happened, but everyone is taking it so well," says WAMM member Don Ivey, as fellow WAMMster Jean Hanamoto pegs prayer flag squares to dry and her husband George, one of WAMM's lead gardeners, discusses vegetable and flower planting with Michael.

"Anyone want to watch the videotape on Ed Rosenthal?" interrupts a voice from a nearby work shed, and next thing you know everybody crowds inside the shed, which currently houses a sewing machine for prayer flag manufacture, a VCR--and a security camera.

<table class=posttable align=right width=225><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/durst-susan_2003.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Field of Dreams</span>: Susan Durst sits against the backdrop of WAMM's garden.</td></td></table><b><span class=postbold>The Rosenthal Debacle </span></b>

The last time I watched a videotape in this shed was shortly after the DEA raid, as WAMMsters reviewed footage (captured on said security camera) of chain-saw-wielding DEA agents mowing down 160 marijuana plants that moments before stood 6 to 8 feet tall and were only moments away from being harvested.

That video triggered a whole lot of anger, frustration and tears, and had several WAMMsters shouting, "The DEA are the terrorists!"--a comment that was all the more poignant, given that the DEA raid happened six days before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Today, the atmosphere is lighter, though this video is equally heavy, since it deals with Ed Rosenthal, a 58-year-old family man, gardener, and bestselling author, whom a federal court recently deemed a triple felon for growing medical marijuana for the city of Oakland--an activity authorized not only in California, but also in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington.

"Everyone agrees not to talk?" says Michael Corral, and we watch in silence as jurors who found Rosenthal guilty now say they feel guilty.

"This man is no criminal. He's a hero to thousands of people," says one juror, recalling how she wasn't allowed to hear the words "medical marijuana" in court, and only later learned that Rosenthal, whom the feds portrayed as a drug kingpin in court, was growing weed with the state's blessing to help people with AIDs, glaucoma, and cancer.

Much like the Corrals, Rosenthal was busted in a predawn raid. But unlike Michael and Valerie, who have yet to be formally charged, Rosenthal, who writes the Ask Ed column for High Times, has been sentenced to a minimum of five years in jail.

All of which helps explain this bizarre videotape in which jurors apologize to Rosenthal for a "travesty of justice," federal drug czars accuse California of "thumbing its nose at the feds" and California's Attorney General Bill Lockyer predicts a sharpening of conflict between states' rights and federal law.

But while some might see the case of Ed Rosenthal as a bad omen for medical marijuana growers, the Corrals take it as a hopeful sign, because of the public outrage it has stirred.

"We feel that people nationwide are saying that arresting medical marijuana providers is stupid. And I think public outrage is what it'll take, because I don't think the democratic process is strong enough for this administration," says Valerie, after the video ends.

"One of the most important things we've learned from all this is to do what we're doing and not live in fear. A myriad of things could happen, a couple of them very threatening, but this could also force the recognition of medical marijuana by the federal government."

Michael nods. "The trial of Ed Rosenthal awakened the judicial awareness of a lot of people, because once the jury found out what was going on, that they'd been kept in the dark about him growing it for medicinal purposes, they were outraged."

"We are the DEA's worst nightmare," adds Valerie, who has maintained scrupulous records and respectful relationships with elected officials and law enforcement officers at local and state levels.

And while they'd rather be growing and providing medicine along with emotional support to the members of their cooperative, the Corrals say they're prepared to go to jail.

"This is not really about marijuana, but about civil liberties, freedom and truth, and we'd go to jail not only believing but having experienced something to substantiate those claims," says Valerie, who discovered marijuana's healing powers firsthand after a car accident left her with epileptic seizures.

Michael agrees. "The 'criminal' part is OK, because we could win that round, but the asset forfeiture is the hardest. It threatens everything we've done for almost 30 years."

<table class=posttable align=right width=225><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/corral-valerie_2003.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Homegrown Movement</span>: 'We are the DEA's worst nightmare,' says WAMM co-founder Valerie Corral. </td></tr></table><b><span class=postbold>Prayer for the Dying</span></b>

Though they could spend years dwelling on worst-case scenarios, the Corrals have opted to make prayer flags, plant another garden and open a hospice--activities which, they say, help them feel like they are building while they figure out how to make the medicine without losing their land, a threat which will dog them for the next five years.

"We're still doing what we would do, it's not just about pot," says Valerie, noting that since the raid, 31 WAMM members have died, five within a single span of 11 days.

"I believe that the DEA's raid has led to these members meeting their graves sooner and with more distress," she says, "in part because of tremendous stress and worry, and in part because of a reduction in the amount of marijuana available."

And since WAMM is a club whose members are literally dying to get in--many have cancer and AIDs-- it seems only logical for the Corrals to open a hospice, thereby putting into practice all the lessons about death that their members and others have taught them in the decade since WAMM was founded.

"Often people have that Grim Reaper impression of death, a lot of darkness about what's unknown, laced with fear, but when people have the opportunity to be met with grace of love and gentleness, often they embrace death and take it as a lover, and so begin a courtship that changes them profoundly, and allows them to seek death, instead of running from it, and to see that nothing is more important than that moment," says Valerie.

Michael nods. "Ours is human response to suffering, while the federal government fails to provide universal health care," he says.

"And if you think about the Supreme Court, all the Republican cronies, all the corporate attorneys all placed there by other corporate attorneys and the CIA and Nixon, who was placed there by the pharmaceutical industry, it's insidious, a serpent eating its tail as the American public and the rest of the world are squeezed," interjects Valerie.

"The administration gives us the message that 'Your peace marches don't matter' as they try to make a unilateral decision that affects the whole world." She shakes her head in disgust. "Great change does not come about without personal risk. You have to be willing to lose something, and what we're holding in terms of land and property has no great value in the face of loss of freedom."

For all their criticisms of the current administration, the Corrals both warn that we cannot only blame our federal government.

"We are responsible, we must act, we must be willing to risk," says Valerie. "Do we know that we risk a lot? Yes, but we don't focus on that. Prison and forfeiture of our property are just two possibilities. And though Bush and his cronies sit in their bunkers, there is no safety--illness is not partisan, and suffering is human."

"And just because you have money to buy yourself better care doesn't make you more comfortable and less afraid of death," says Michael. "We have to personally prepare for our own deaths and to prepare the world for the coming generations. We cannot forget either of those. If we do, we make it a less pleasant place to live in. And the idea of prohibition within a supposed free society is a contradiction in terms."

<table class=posttable align=right width=225><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/corral-mike_2003.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Ace of Spades</span>: Corral with his garden's new prayer flags. </td></tr></table><b><span class=postbold>Legalspeak </span></b>

This month Congressmember Sam Farr, along with California Reps Lynn Woolsey and Dana Rohrbacher, will introduce legislation that creates two legal categories of marijuana--medical and criminal.

Farr, who authored this bipartisan legislation, says "it will allow individuals who can prove they possess or cultivate their product for medical use only to use that fact as a valid defense in a federal trial."

For, as the Rosenthal case so vividly illustrates, federal judges currently instruct juries to disregard any claim of justified growth and distribution of marijuana, even if it occurs in any of the eight states with medical marijuana statutes, a situation that leaves growers like the Corrals subject to raid, arrest, prosecution and forfeiture.

"The DEA and the Justice Department, both led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, have no respect for the laws that we here in California have established to allow patients to live pain-free lives," said Farr in a recent press release. "The purpose of this bill is to allow defendants in federal criminal trials to introduce evidence that their marijuana-related activity was performed for a valid medical purpose under state law. If a jury finds that a defendant was following state medical marijuana law, then the defendant should not be sent to prison. It's as simple as that."

Asked what they think of Farr's efforts, Valerie says, "It's particularly helpful in the wake of Rosenthal. Of course, we don't want to be arrested in the first place, but our main stumbling block in court is not being able to say the words 'medical marijuana,' so Farr's legislation is the first brick."

Michael agrees. "I have to congratulate Sam for taking that step. If we're not able to say 'medical,' they'll convict us. Will they still be able to take our property? Yes. So, we're not able to resolve suffering through one small step. We've still got 'Farr' to go."

Locally, the Corrals' legal defense team, which includes Gerald Uelman and Ben Rice, has got the county to join as a plaintiff in a lawsuit they're filing March 24, and they're also appealing the denial of their motion for a return of the pot and other property, including a computer, that was seized in the Sept. 5 raid.

"In his denial of our first motion, the judge made it clear that he was inviting us to file an appeal, and if the Corrals face criminal charges, I'm coordinating that effort,' says Rice. "Bunches of lawyers have agreed to work on this case pro bono."

Asked about the Rosenthal case, Rice says, "The part that was alarming to us was that a San Francisco jury would convict Ed. We were concerned that this would embolden the feds to come after Valerie and Michael, since the feds would have an easier time convincing a San Jose-based jury of their guilt. The flip side is that with so much outrage around that verdict, maybe it's even better for the Corrals. The more people look at this issue, the better."

As for the Corrals, they believe the war on medical marijuana is all about economics and control.

"And, I should also add in, fear on the part of the government. All governments are afraid of the people," says Michael.

And Valerie adds that she'd like to see states' rights to medical marijuana respected, access increased through rescheduling marijuana as a second class drug, and each person allowed to grow the green stuff individually.

"Otherwise, you find yourself at the whim of pharmaceutical companies and HMOs. And I don't want to hear that the feds are concerned for my health, because if they were, they'd provide us all with health insurance."

Adds Michael, "What's really necessary here is the face of patience, because there is a real need for medical marijuana. People focus on the Rosenthal trial. And I say, great, but really what this is about is that people are sick and dying. Everything always gets down to people. So, it's important that more and more people be in the peace marches, and write their reps about the war and medical marijuana, and whatever, and at least vote--and turn off Fox News and read a book instead."

<hr class=postrule><center><small>A comedy show benefiting WAMM will be held at Moe's Alley,
Sunday, March 16 at 8pm; tickets are $10.</small></center><hr class=postrule>

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Fighting Back in Santa Cruz:

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:05 am

CounterPunch wrote:April 28, 2003

CounterPunch News Exclusive

Fighting Back in Santa Cruz:
Medical Marijuana Patients Sue The Feds


California medical marijuana patients blocked a country road in Santa Cruz county last September, trapping DEA agents who had just chainsawed 167 marijuana plants grown by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). Agents driving U-Hauls stuffed with the patients' seized medical cannabis, were forced to negotiate the release of WAMM founders Valerie and Michael Corral from custody in exchange for their own safe passage.

These same patients, together with their city and county officials, are now suing the federal government, and the individual DEA agents, to prevent such raids from taking place again. On April 23, the City and County of Santa Cruz became the first public entity to file a lawsuit against federal drug warriors. Plaintiffs charge that the government is violating the right of medical marijuana patients to make decisions about their pain relief -- and ultimately the final moments of their lives.

"The heart of the matter is the fundamental constitutional right of every citizen to control the circumstances of his or her own death,'' said plaintiff's attorney Gerald Uelmen. ``That right is so fundamental that the federal government cannot interfere with that right unless they show a compelling interest, and that is the challenge that we are posing to federal authorities in this case.''

WAMM provides medical cannabis under California's Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) which the federal government refuses to recognize. Its members have worked openly with the community and local law enforcement for ten years. But unlike other medical marijuana dispensaries, WAMM also serves as a hospice for its patients, most of whom suffer from terminal illnesses. During the September raid, as two dozen armed DEA agents stormed the Corrals' home and led them away in handcuffs, agents carted off WAMM's patient records, and seized the patient's weekly medical marijuana allotments.

The WAMM raid was one of a series of at least eight medical marijuana raids by federal agents which have taken place in California. The lawsuit, filed against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Acting Administrator of the DEA, John Brown, and Drug Czar John Walters, seeks to enjoin the federal government from any future raids on the WAMM cannabis gardens. The plaintiffs, are also demanding a judicial declaration stating that the federal government has no right to interfere with WAMM or similar organizations.

Valerie Corral says WAMM is still distributing donated cannabis. But since the raid, she says 15 of WAMM's 250 patients have died. Deaths that might have been eased, made less agonizing, if the collective could again grow cannabis. ``WAMM members arrive at our supply and our support meetings because they have no alternative,'' says Corral. ``But our supply is limited and daily, more of our members face excruciating pain and agony because we do not have enough medicine to ease that suffering away.''

The Corrals, who were arrested without a warrant, have not been charged with any crime. They believe that the DEA operation was part of a strategy of strictly punitive raids. The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages from the DEA agents involved in the raid, as well as local law enforcement officers who participated. Government officials acting outside the U.S. Constitution have no protection from lawsuits, and plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial if the government contests the case.

San Jose Police Chief William Landsdowne reacted to the WAMM arrests by pulling his department's officers off the DEA joint task force that conducted the raid. Lansdown stated that it was unfair to force his officers to enforce a federal law that conflicts with California's Compassionate Use Act.

<span class=postbold>Fighting Back With The US Constitution</span>

While resistance by the Bush Administration has helped stall drug law reform legislation, much of the fight has moved away from Congress and into the courts. In 1998, the federal government filed a preliminary injunction to halt the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (OCBC) from distributing medical cannabis. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2001 that the OCBC could not dispense medical cannabis under ''medical necessity,'' it did not consider the constitutional rights of individual patients. Plaintiffs in the WAMM lawsuit, County of Santa Cruz et. al. v. Ashcroft et. al, charge that the federal government is violating their Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment rights.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include seven WAMM patients who say they rely upon medical marijuana to, among other things, control seizures and severe pain, stimulate appetite in AIDS wasting syndrome, and ease the nausea caused by cancer treatments.

Plaintiff Michael Cheslosky says he uses medical marijuana to ease his many medical problems associated with AIDS/HIV. ``I'm scared to death that at any moment the door will be knocked down and my five grams of marijuana will be taken out of my house,'' said Cheslosky who is recovering from pneumonia. ``When I use marijuana, I don't have to use Chlorophen, Valium and Vicodin and morphine and pain killers and anti-anxiety agents and anti-depressants or aspirin even. I can control the dose and it has no side effects.'' Pat Ramey, caregiver for WAMM plaintiff Dorothy Gibbs, says medical marijuana is the only medicine that eases the pain of Gibbs' post polio syndrome. ``She is 93 years old and she has the right to die with some dignity,'' says Ramey.

WAMM members argue that the seizure of their medical marijuana violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment which protects unenumerated liberties from federal intrusion if they are fundamental rights. The Ninth Amendment also protects unenumerated liberties, which plaintiffs say include the fundamental right to ameliorate pain, maintain bodily integrity, preserve life, consult with their physicians regarding treatment, and act on the physician's recommendations. ``We have five justices on the Supreme Court who recognize that the right to control the circumstances of your death is a fundamental right,'' said Uelmen.

In addition to the violation of their Fifth and Ninth Amendment rights, WAMM charges that the raid violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and the Tenth Amendment which grants the state powers not exercised by the federal government. The lawsuit excoriates the federal government for violating the right of Santa Cruz municipal authorities to protect the health and safety of its citizens under its police powers.

DEA Spokesman Richard Meyer declined to comment directly on the pending lawsuit. But he noted that the FDA has refused to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule One drug, meaning it has no established medical use and a high potential for abuse. ``The court will have the last word, but we feel we are on very firm legal ground when we come to this issue of marijuana,'' said Meyer. ``Marijuana advocates don't want to stop at marijuana. Their ultimate goal is to make every drug legal and make it an issue of personal choice, and I don't think the American public wants that.''

The lawsuit charges that by attempting to regulate medical marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act,the federal government is exceeding Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. WAMM points out that their cultivation and possession of medical marijuana takes place within the borders of California. Their patients do not purchase marijuana, sell it or distribute it to others. They argue, therefore, that WAMM's intrastate and non-economic activities have no effect on interstate commerce and are beyond the power of Congress to regulate. ''Unless enjoined,'' reads the lawsuit, ``the federal government will continue to conduct medical marijuana raids that exceed federal authority under the Commerce Clause.''

Medical marijuana clubs that charge patients present different issues for the Commerce Clause argument. But the WAMM lawsuit could help shield other medical cannabis growers from prosecution. Plaintiffs are also seeking a judicial declaration that WAMM members are immune from criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act. A provision of the Act exempts from prosecution those deputized by municipalities to handle controlled substances. In December 2002, the Santa Cruz City Council adopted a resolution deputizing Valerie and Michael Corral as medical marijuana providers authorized to enforce the City's Personal Medical Marijuana Use Ordinance. Mardi Wormhoudt, a member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, says she was grateful for WAMM's services. ``I know that unless people were able to help themselves in this way, many people would end up needing help from county health services, and these are times that we can barely maintain the services that we do provide for people.''

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently deciding whether the City of Oakland has the power to offer the OCBC similar legal immunity. Convicted medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal argued that he too received such immunity through the OCBC. Uelmen, notes that WAMM has also filed a motion with the appellate court to have its seized marijuana returned, and has asked that both cases be heard together this summer.

Another related case in front of the 9th Circuit involved two medical marijuana patients who sued DEA chief Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General John Ashcroft last October. Raich v. Ashcroft charges that the federal government's ongoing attacks against medical cannabis patients and providers violated plaintiff's Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment rights. Plaintiffs have asked the court to enjoin the federal government from prosecuting them for growing or possessing medical cannabis. A federal judge denied a motion for preliminary injunction in March, and the decision is on appeal.

Should the courts decide that the City and County of Santa Cruz can immunize the Corrals from prosecution, the next question is whether the local government is willing to grow medical cannabis for WAMM patients. Twelve days after the September raid, City of Santa Cruz demonstrated its support for WAMM by allowing members to collect their weekly allotment of medical marijuana on the steps of City Hall. San Francisco is now considering whether it will grow medical cannabis for its patients. But Santa Cruz major Emily Reilly, says she has not yet been asked to consider the issue.

"I think its imperative that it happen,'' says Michael Corral. "We do need to get more governmental bodies behind us to push the issue to the feds, because this is real, this is not going away.'' Corral predicts that more communities will begin to file similar lawsuits in support of local medical marijuana patients. But he adds that while WAMM would like to plant another cannabis garden this spring, they do not want to put a private property owner at risk for asset forfeiture.

Michael Foley knows for sure that the federal government's current crackdown on medical marijuana is not yet going away. A few hours after WAMM announced its lawsuit, Foley's partner, Robyn Few, sat sobbing in San Francisco federal district court as he was sentenced to five months in federal prison for growing 95 medical marijuana plants. Foley is among at least eight people sent to federal prison for cultivating medical marijuana in California in the last two years.

Ann Harrison is a freelance reporter working in the Bay Area. She can be reached at ah@well.com

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Another Victory in California

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:25 am

Another Victory in California:

Federal Judge Tells Feds to
Leave Medical Marijuana Co-op Alone


A year and a half ago, the Wo/men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana ( http://www.wamm.org ) had an unpleasant encounter with some unpleasant visitors: the DEA ( http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/254 ... ning.shtml ). A cooperative established by Mike and Valerie Corral to help medical marijuana patients help themselves, WAMM provided marijuana to more than 250 people qualified under California law to use the herb as medicine. Despite the legality of the operation under state law, the Justice Department of Attorney General John Ashcroft was determined to nip the medical marijuana movement in the bud, and the raid on WAMM and its patients was part of that effort.

But Ashcroft's offensive has run into a series of reverses in the courts, from the judge's refusal in the Ed Rosenthal case to sentence him to prison, to last December's US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Raich vs. Ashcroft, where the court held that the federal Controlled Substances Act did not apply to patients receiving medical marijuana in states where it was legal and who were not engaged in commerce ( http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/316/victory.shtml ).

The raid on WAMM also led to a slew of unfavorable publicity for Ashcroft and the DEA, as Santa Cruz officials publicly responded by allowing WAMM to distribute marijuana from the steps of city hall. Some of those same officials also appeared on nationally-televised programs to criticize the raid, the DEA, and the Justice Department. Even California Attorney General Bill Lockyer joined the critics, sending a letter to Ashcroft calling the WAMM raid a "provocative and intrusive incident of harassment."

In the most recent reverse for the feds, US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose Wednesday ordered the federal government to keep its hands off WAMM -- at least for now. WAMM and supportive Santa Cruz city and county government had sued for relief from federal harassment after the DEA raid, in which federal law enforcers seized 167 marijuana plants and left WAMM members dry and not high.

Fogel's ruling Wednesday was the first to interpret the meaning of Raich v. Ashcroft in a wider context than single patients and their sole providers. In the December Raich ruling, the 9th Circuit held that: "The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking. This limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug market, as well as any broader commercial market for medical marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in this case is not intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce."

Judge Fogel had thrown out an earlier lawsuit seeking the return of items seized in the raid, but attorneys for WAMM and the city and county of Santa Cruz filed a new lawsuit in April 2003, challenging the federal government's authority to interfere with medical marijuana activities that are legal under California law.

Federal officials had argued that the commerce clause of the US Constitution preempted state laws allowing for medical marijuana. According to the feds, marijuana use of any kind constituted interstate commerce. But the 9th Circuit didn't buy that argument in Raich, and Judge Fogel didn't buy that argument Wednesday.

Instead, he issued a preliminary injunction barring the feds from harassing WAMM until remaining legal issues are sorted out. Applying the Controlled Substances Act to the WAMM cooperative "is an unconstitutional exercise" of federal power, said Judge Fogel.

"We applaud the court's decision and we are profoundly pleased as we prepare to replant our garden," said Valerie Corral, cofounder of WAMM, during a Wednesday conference call with reporters. "But we also steady ourselves for a tug of war with the present administration's unwillingness to honor the democratic process."

"In the face of overzealous federal law enforcement, for the first time a court has applied the law in a way that protects the right of a group of sick people to grow and share their medicine without fear," said Judy Appel, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance ( http://www.drugpolicy.org ), which provided part of the legal team that argued the case.

"Today's decision affirms the right of WAMM's members to cultivate and use marijuana for medicinal purposes free from federal interference," said Neha Shah Nissen, an attorney with Bingham McCutchen, a law firm that worked with DPA. "The federal government can no longer ignore the will of the people of the State of California and the City and County of Santa Cruz to protect the health and welfare of terminally and chronically ill individuals."

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the WAMM ruling, but it did announce this week that it is appealing the Raich decision to the US Supreme Court. And the injunction issued this week by Judge Fogel is only temporary, barring the Justice Department from raiding or prosecuting WAMM until he has had a chance to rule on the applicability of the commerce clause to medical marijuana co-ops. But in the meantime, WAMM is free to plant, and its member patients are free to get their medicine.

Hear Valerie Corral live on Cultural Baggage, live on the Internet or via the airwaves in Houston this Tuesday, April 26. in Houston. Tune in at 7:30 EDT, 6:30 CDT or 4:30 PDT to http://www.kpft.org or 90.1 FM, or check it out in the Cultural Baggage archives after the following morning at http://www.cultural-baggage.com/kpft.htm online.

<center>-- END --</center>

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Shattered Grass?

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:30 am

MetroActive wrote:
Shattered Grass?

<blockquote><i>It's not looking good for medical marijuana advocates in the landmark case currently before the Supreme Court. As they watch with a mixture of hope and horror at justices arguing about wheat production rather than the medical and humanitarian importance of the case, they're already asking the toughest question of all: 'What happens if we lose?'</i></blockquote>
By Sarah Phelan
December 8-15, 2004

"WAMM is a club you literally have to be dying to get into," says Val Corral, co-founder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

As if to illustrate her point, the photos of 140 WAMM members who've died cover "The Wall of the Dead" in the collective's West Side office. They are only barely outnumbered by the group's 175 surviving members, including spiritual luminary Ram Dass and novelist Robert Anton Wilson, whose access to pot's pain-relieving, nausea-inhibiting properties hangs in the balance on the opposite coast.

And yet, the value of medical marijuana itself will hardly be considered in the landmark medical marijuana case currently before the Supreme Court. Recently, Supreme Court justices heard Raich v. Ashcroft, a case centered on two chronically ill California women, who want the feds to stop interfering in their medical marijuana use.

Though 11 states (Montana is the most recent) allow some medical marijuana use, the federal government continues not to recognize marijuana's medical usefulness, nor to address the question of legalizing it across the board.

Instead, the Supreme Court debate on the case, Raich v. Ashcroft, has been framed in terms of interstate commerce. Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project has been dumbfounded to hear the justices invoking Wickard v. Filburn, a 62-year-old Supreme Court decision used to uphold Congress' efforts to support grain prices by controlling wheat production. But he holds out some hope for a medical marijuana victory.

"Certainly some previous decisions suggest some justices have respect for states' rights and the commerce clause," says Mirken. "Theoretically, the feds' ability to ban illicit drugs comes from its ability to regulate interstate commerce. But the feds arguing that two women in California, using their own soil and equipment, and not selling anything, are engaging in interstate commerce--I'm sorry, but that's crazy!"

Crazy like a radical right-wing activist judge.

"It looks like Wickard to me," said Justice Antonin Scalia on hearing preliminary arguments on Nov. 29, including those from attorneys for Angel Raich and Diane Monson, who argued that the pot their clients use is not grown for money and never crosses state lines.

Said Scalia of marijuana cultivation, "Why is this not economic activity? This marijuana that's grown is like wheat. Since it's grown, it doesn't have to be bought elsewhere."

<b><span class=postbold>Waves of Grain</span></b>

The Supreme Court's ruling is expected by spring 2005, and will quickly reverberate across California, since Raich, who lives in Oakland, has the exact same thing at stake as WAMM: protection from the feds.

Raich, who uses cannabis to treat scoliosis, endometriosis, severe headaches, chronic nausea, seizures, uterine fibroid tumors and a brain tumor, first joined forces with Diane Monson, who grows and uses pot to treat severe back spasms, two years ago. Their alliance began after DEA agents raided Monson's garden in Oroville, in Butte County. After a three-hour standoff with local law enforcement, the federal agents seized and destroyed Monson's six pot plants. Outraged, Raich and Monson petitioned a federal district court in California to force the DEA to butt out of their doctor-prescribed medical marijuana use. Though that court refused to grant their request, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ordered the lower court to issue a preliminary injunction.

WAMM, whose garden of 167 plants was raided a month after the Monson bust, subsequently won a similar injunction against the feds. Until it was issued, the Corrals--who were arrested during the 2002 raid, but released the same day--were living in legal limbo, thanks to a clause in the Controlled Substances Act that allows the feds to forfeit people's property up to five years after a bust.

Their federal fears temporarily assuaged, the Corrals began growing another pot garden, including a monster named Victoria which WAMM cheekily billed as "Our country's first federally protected marijuana plant."

The U.S. Justice Department, however, immediately appealed the Raich injunction to the Supreme Court, hence the Nov. 29 hearing. Should the justices rule against Raich, the Corrals would reopen themselves to the possibility of forfeiture if WAMM grows another garden next spring.

And so far, the case does not appear to be going in their favor. Supreme Court justices met the Raich/Monson states' rights defense with more than a little skepticism. Acting Solicitor General Paul D. Clement argued that it would be impossible to allow medical use of marijuana while banning recreational use. And the U.S. Justice Department maintains there is no separation between private marijuana use and interstate commerce, insisting that homegrown pot stimulates the illicit drug market by increasing the amount of marijuana available in the nation.

<b><span class=postbold>Bench Press </span></b>

As Santa Cruz attorney Ben Rice, who represents WAMM, explains, "The feds believe that if you let marijuana be grown like this, prices will come down and it will be easier for people to use more of it. And then there's the fact that people believe that if you want to stomp on the left, keep going after marijuana, because they're the folks most likely to be caught with it."

Rice, who attended the Nov. 29 Supreme Court hearing in person, admits that it was not what he was hoping for. He says the two justices who've already had cancer, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, both seemed sympathetic to Raich and Monson's case. Since Clarence Thomas, who didn't say anything that day, and Rehnquist, who was not in court because of ill-health, are big on states' rights, he thinks the case could go WAMM's way.

But he says that once Randy Barnett, a Boston University Law School professor who's representing the two women, got up, "the knives came out."

"There was no sympathy from Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy," says Rice. Justice Stephen Breyer, who told Barnett that his clients should ask the FDA to reclassify marijuana as appropriate for medical use, was "really unsympathetic," says Rice.

In the end, framing the debate as a states' rights argument, rather than emphasizing compassion for the sick and dying, is a strategic decision by Raich and Monson's attorneys that Rice says may or may not backfire.

"It's easy to say in hindsight, 'Oh, they goofed in taking that tack', but we usually always also argue the right to ameliorate pain when someone is close to death," he says.

If the court rules against Raich and Monson, Rice says the Corrals likely wouldn't be in danger if they cease to operate WAMM, "but if they continue to do so, they definitely risk being arrested and having their property forfeited."

As for where a loss in the Supreme Court would leave the rest of California's medical pot users in general, Rice believes individual patients aren't going to be at risk, given the state's medical pot initiative and the county's 3-pound limit, but cannabis clubs, coops and dispensaries could be in danger.

"The alarming part of all this is that patients who aren't able to grow their own medicine, or grow with others, will be back to buying on the black market, a situation in which they'll have no control over the quality of the pot they buy, including whether it was grown organically or with pesticides," he says.

With Santa Cruz County Sheriff Mark Tracy having resigned Dec. 1, Rice hopes that Chief Deputy Steve Robbins, who'll take over until the next election, will continue to treat marijuana as a community health issue.

"The 3-pound limit is not that much if you're really sick," says Rice, noting that someone who smokes a pack a day consumes 5 pounds of tobacco annually. But whatever happens in the Supreme Court, Rice says the justices' decision won't gut California's medical marijuana laws.

"It's just gonna make it more difficult to produce pot," he says, noting that the Supreme Court has also left the Conant decision intact, thereby protecting doctors' rights to discuss and prescribe marijuana.

<b><span class=postbold>The Big Picture</span></b>

Meanwhile, MPP's Bruce Mirken says whatever happens in Raich v. Ashcroft, time will show that Bush was on the wrong side of history.

"In Montana's 2004 election, medical marijuana outpolled Bush by three points, " says Mirken. This despite the fact that Montana was a "red state" in which Bush clobbered Kerry with a 59 percent win--medical marijuana did even better, winning in a 62 percent landslide.

He also notes that support for the two women's case currently before the Supreme Court has come from some conservative quarters, including the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri, which take a hard line on drugs and punish first-time users with prison sentences as long as 10 years.

"These three states aren't exactly a den of pot-smoking hippies the last time I looked," Mirken says. "Their support is more about preserving states' rights, than promoting medical marijuana use."

So, while Mirken feels it would be a tragedy if the women don't prevail in Raich v. Ashcroft, "The fact is that the train has already left the station."

"Thirty years from now, we'll look back at the current federal policy of jailing medical marijuana growers as every bit as incomprehensible as the burning of witches," he says. "Ultimately, we will win. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, it cannot overturn Prop. 215, and the protections of patients in California and other states with medical marijuana initiatives."

WAMM, of course, is also contemplating what it will do in the unhappy event that the Raich case goes south.

"To quit at this point is to lose every step forward we've taken," says Corral, sitting in WAMM's West Side office that in spite of the current stressful situation has a peaceful ambience, thanks to a healthy dose of wind chimes, prayer flags and statues of the Buddha. "The real question is how to succeed in a way that not only saves lives but our own work, too ...other than writing a book from jail."

Corral hasn't forgotten that the city and the county of Santa Cruz have put their necks on the line here, too, thanks to staged medical pot giveaways on the steps of City Hall following WAMM's 2002 bust, and the county's recent OKing of a 3-pound-per-person limit for medical marijuana users and the introduction of a medical cannabis voluntary ID card. She realizes there's a lot at stake in this case for a lot of people.

"I don't for one moment want to deny the importance of what has already happened, " says Corral. "We grew the only legal medical marijuana garden in the nation that didn't belong to the government."

But she has to be realistic about the possibility that whatever protections WAMM has now could quickly be lost, and yet the group's work must somehow continue.

"The feds' actions have not stopped the suffering of our patients. They haven't cured anyone with their policies. There is no cure for AIDS. Not one paraplegic is up and running. All they offer is suffering, so for us to stand down in face of that would be an absurdity," she says. "There's always something else we can do."

That something else, says Corral, could take the form of small collectives that maintain a low profile and work together to share their knowledge of growing cannabis.

<b><span class=postbold>Meet the New AG, Same As the Old AG</span></b>

Still, even she admits that the collective is currently facing what potentially could be a very frightening and painful immediate future. And her fears certainly weren't eased by the news that Alberto Gonzales, Bush's former White House Counsel, will likely replace John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General.

"You mean the guy who called the Geneva Convention 'quaint and outdated'? I can't imagine anyone in Bush's back pocket would have any sense of compassion. Why would anyone want to be Bush's attorney general if they did? The only news that I think could be good at this point would be that Bush is no longer president," says Corral. "It's such a criminal element that's operating it, there's a focus on overtaking the world through economics."

Weirdly enough, though, all of the current obstacles have made her even more resolute.

"We cannot continue to close hospitals and kick people out of vets' homes here, and destroy people's medicine, while blowing up other people's countries," she says. "It's suffering that makes people say 'No more!' and which inspires WAMM to carry on, no matter what. You cook it down and it's as simple as that."

Many people are under the impression that a negative Supreme Court ruling would make medical marijuana illegal, and Andrea Tischler of the medical pot-friendly Compassion Flower Inn in downtown Santa Cruz realizes that. But she wants people to remember that individuals with a medical marijuana prescription will still be protected by Proposition 215.

Tischler does, however, note that there continues to be a Catch 22--people who have medical pot recommendations but can't grow their own can't get their medicine, since there currently aren't any dispensaries in the county.

"Maybe we'll have to go underground on the growing front, and take care of it in our own community. WAMM is very visible, very public. So, maybe we will need to form smaller groups, with 20 people in each cell, until this difficult period passes, which hopefully will be over in four more years, with impeachment always being an option."

Tischler says that with an estimated 1,500 medical pot patients in the city, and 4,000 patients countywide, most have to hop on a bus to Oakland or San Francisco to buy an eighth to last a week or two.

Which is why Tischler's been in communication with the Santa Cruz City Council, asking if they're in favor of a city ordinance allowing medicinal users 3 pounds of dry mature cannabis buds, 100 square feet of garden canopy--and a greater amount with a doctor's approval.

She'd also like the city to pass a resolution making cannabis possession a low law enforcement priority, and see a task force recommend where dispensaries and cooperatives can operate in the city.

<b><span class=postbold>The Devil in the Details</span></b>

Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin says he supports the idea of a citywide ordinance, though he thinks we're already covered by the county ordinance. He says the SCPD already makes a low priority of enforcement against people for private use.

Rotkin is not however a fan of the task force idea, preferring to amend current ordinances to allow dispensaries in locations that seem appropriate--namely ones not close to schools, residential zones or downtown in the commercial area. That leaves the city's large industrial zones--an idea that seems to fit those of Capitola Police Chief Rick Ehle, who concluded, after 25 years in Oakland, that most major turf battles were about selling pot.

"I'm not taking a position against medical marijuana," says Ehle, " but if we had community or commercial grows with guards, that would be great from a public safety point of view. Three pounds of pot, or six if there's two patients growing together, in a house is too much, when you can have your throat slit for $500 or less."

A Capitola resident recently did in fact have his throat slit, in an incident that illustrates the safety issue that often gets left out of the medical marijuana debate. Gang affiliates from Southern California violently burglarized a home in Capitola where the occupant was growing large quantities of bud. Though the victim survived being stabbed and shot multiple times, Ehle worries about what it means for the safety of residential communities to have large medical marijuana gardens in their midst.

One WAMM member who grows her own marijuana says she somewhat solved the problem this year by installing a $70 closed-circuit camera. This allowed her to capture images of the thief, thus helping the police track down the perpetrator, who was charged with felony burglary and breaking and entering.

"My advice to anyone growing theirs at home," she says, "is keep your mouth shut and don't let anyone know what you're doing--except the police, because I don't want my staff walking unknown into the middle of potentially lethal situations."

Meanwhile, Tischler points to the September arrest of dealers on Pacific Avenue as evidence that without dispensaries for medical marijuana patients, many will be left to get it on the street.

"Which is not what we want. We want safe, group access, not on the streets, which would be good for a city's image, too," she says.

<b><span class=postbold>Back in Court</span></b>

Ironically, the Corrals' main hope of growing a garden in 2005 may lie with the decision-making abilities of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Corral believes the court could end in a draw if Rehnquist is too sick to rule, in which case the decision reverts back to the 9th circuit--and she believes that court will uphold WAMM's original injunction. But were Rehnquist to die, the Corrals fear that Bush would appoint a radical conservative judge who would rule against Raich and thus jeopardize WAMM's garden and the Corrals' freedom.

"This may be a states' rights issue, but we don't think the Supreme Court will view it as such," she says. "They'll see it as a Controlled Substances Act issue. It would be wonderful if this court were willing to look past that, but we don't think they're interested in the rights of people who are sick and dying. But in some cases, they've made some remarkably enlightened decisions in the last few years, so one can only hope."

That said, she fears that since DEA head Karen Tandy is an expert in forfeiture, if the Raich case goes down in flames, the feds won't be arresting people so much as taking everything they own.

"That's a good way to destroy someone in the USA. America is all about what you own, that's how you fit in socially, by what you have.

"Mike and I have worked for 30 years, living in a shoe box, washing in a teacup. We had a very simple life, before all this started," she says. "But now I think we'll be under the gun, if they catch us growing or distributing anything, in the event the injunction is overturned, which they'll probably do by next spring, just in time for the next planting season. Probably, they'll be there the next day, with their guns drawn. They told us they'd be back."

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Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Sep 01, 2006 11:19 am

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: State Medical Mariuana Laws Remain Valid Despite U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Gonzales v. Raich - June 6, 2005

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: Local medical pot users disheartened by decision - June 7, 2005

The Santa Cruz Sentinel wrote:
July 15, 2005

<table class=posttable align=right width=200><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/fitzhenry-jackie.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell>Jackie Fitzhenry, a member of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, readies signs for the group’s parade down Pacific Avenue on Saturday.</td></tr></table>
Medical pot parade to put festive face on ongoing, hard-fought battle

March planned through heart of S.C.

<blockquote>Medical marijuana march

The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana march begins at noon Saturday at Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street. It will proceed north to Church Street, and end at City Hall where a press conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. Several streets will be closed to traffic 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. </blockquote>

The Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — Organizers of a medical marijuana march planned Saturday in downtown Santa Cruz promise a bit of festivity and a bit of reverence for their deceased colleagues.

And, they hope to make a social and political statement.

But as members and friends of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana wage a public-relations battle, attorneys continue to craft a legal war strategy behind the public limelight.

Far from going into seclusion in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 6 that dealt state medical pot laws a setback, WAMM is continuing a very public battle.

"Our hope is we can turn out thousands of people" for the parade, WAMM co-founder Valerie Corral said from the group’s Westside office. "We want to demonstrate to the federal government the people of this community support medical marijuana."

About 150 members of the cooperative plan to march through downtown starting at noon Saturday, with participants toting about 25 live marijuana plants.

Corral said she wants to show the compassionate side of the issue.

"We want to assist each other," Corral said. "This is America at its best, people helping people."

Medical marijuana users say they need the drug for a variety of ills, such as relieving pain without side effects of other drugs, or increasing an appetite depressed by pharmaceuticals

But federal drug-policy officials say no statement needs to be made. The federal Office of Drug Control Policy considers pot the same as other illicit drugs, a stance only reinforced by this summer’s Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling does not overturn laws in California and 10 other states that allow medical use of marijuana, but those who use marijuana as a medical treatment risk legal action by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or other federal agencies .

"Marijuana is a serious drug of abuse," said spokesman Tom Riley from Washington, D.C. "It is a more dangerous drug than many people realize."

Riley said medical marijuana advocates are seeking to make medical policy out of popular opinion, rather than science and government approval that rules the use of other pharmaceutical drugs.

Moreover, he said, while some people are using pot to relieve genuine suffering, medical pot policies are being abused by people seeking wholesale legalization.

While WAMM members plan parade logistics, attorneys working with the group are plotting courtroom strategy.

The Supreme Court ruling gutted some of the group’s legal basis for continuing its work unfettered, but WAMM has more legal ammo, said Santa Cruz attorney Ben Rice.

The ruling overturned a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision in 2003 that allowed medical marijuana use as long as no money changed hands and the marijuana crossed no state lines. That case brought a states’ rights versus federal rights aspect to the issue.

The Raich case, brought by two Northern California women, Angel Raich and Diane Monson, challenged the constitutionality of the federal government’s ban on personal use and cultivation of marijuana for medicine under California law.

Similarly, WAMM’s case centered on the interstate commerce clause of the constitution.

While the appeals court ruling was in place, WAMM secured an injunction protecting its marijuana gardens from future raids by federal agencies, as occurred in September 2002.

But the 6-3 Supreme Court decision in the Raich case settled that aspect.

However, WAMM plans to argue in U.S. District Court another component of its case: Its rights are being violated under "due process" provisions of the U.S. Constitution, Rice said.

The approach will center on the concept of "substantive" due process in the U.S. Constitution, he said. That pertains to rights that aren’t set forth explicitly in the Constitution, such as alleviating pain.

Using marijuana to save one’s life or help one live it more fully would fall under that concept, WAMM lawyers would argue.

"We think we have a winning argument that an attempt to stop access to marijuana is an infringement on a constitutional substantive due process right to ameliorate pain," Rice said.

WAMM’s legal team includes Rice, a defense lawyer, Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen and lawyers from the San Francisco firm of Bingham McCutchen.

The attorneys have been ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to file a brief in U.S. District Court in San Jose by Aug. 2. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has a Sept. 2 deadline to respond, Rice said.

As for this Saturday’s parade, WAMM still enjoys protections of an injunction granted in April 2004, though that will expire as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.

WAMM, joined by the county and city of Santa Cruz, sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003, seeking relief on behalf of terminally ill patients who are members of the cooperative.

While it won the injunction in 2004, the case has been on hold while the Raich case was decided.

<hr class=postrule>
<center><small>Contact Brian Seals at bseals@santacruzsentinel.com.</small></center>

Advocate group began with wreck, court case


SANTA CRUZ — These days the Santa Cruz-based the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana is an icon of an organization in the world of medical pot.

That wasn’t always the case.

The group’s origins are linked to a couple of occurrences.

Back in 1973 co-founder Valerie Corral was in a car accident that left her epileptic and prone to seizures. Years of traditional therapy only put her in a stupor.

One day husband Mike, a WAMM co-founder, read an article in a medical journal about marijuana’s potential for relieving the type of seizures affecting Valerie.

Within a few years, she had eschewed traditional pharmaceuticals in favor of marijuana as treatment.

That set into motion the creation of WAMM, which predates California’s 1996 passage of Proposition 215, the ballot measure that allows medical marijuana use.

In the early 1990s, the Corrals were busted by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and state agents on marijuana charges. Charges against Valerie Corral were later dropped on a medical-necessity defense.

The seed was sown, so to speak, for a locally based movement.

Like-minded people banded together to form the cooperative that allows sick folks to share marijuana with each other.

Now, rather than persecution and prosecution by local authorities, the group goes about its core mission and, at times quite publicly, advocates for medical pot policies.

WAMM worked with the county on its medical marijuana identification card program as well as on guidelines on how much pot a qualified patient may possess and grow, for example.

Such community acceptance has not spread to the federal level, however.

In September 2002, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the cooperative’s Davenport garden, uprooting 167 plants and hauling the Corrals to jail.

They have yet to be charged in connection with the raid, which brought condemnation from city and county officials as well as U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Weeks later, a horde of national media descended on Santa Cruz to watch WAMM host a medical pot giveaway to about a dozen cooperative members on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall.

The Santa Cruz City Council went so far as to deputize the Corrals that year.

WAMM is now a party to two lawsuits. One aims to recover the pot that agents confiscated in 2002, a partly symbolic quest, as the stuff has likely lost potency by now.

Another suit seeks to bar future enforcement actions by the federal government, a lawsuit to which the city and county of Santa Cruz have signed on as plaintiffs.

<hr class=postrule>
<center><small>Contact Brian Seals at bseals@santacruzsentinel.com. </small></center>

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: Green is the scene: Serious and not-so-serious issues highlight local pot club's festival - September 11, 2005

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: Santa Cruz proposes medical marijuana department - October 25, 2005
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Round Two Begins in Legal Fight

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Sep 01, 2006 11:29 am

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote:Round Two Begins in Legal Fight to Force Feds to Honor States’ Medical Marijuana Laws (1/31/2006)

CONTACT: media@aclu.org
The American Civil Liberties Union

ACLU and Others Ask Federal Court to Approve City of Santa Cruz Plan to Provide Medical Marijuana Directly to Patients

SAN JOSE, CA – The city of Santa Cruz, California and a collective of Santa Cruz medical marijuana patients today asked a federal court to approve the city’s plan to provide medical marijuana directly to patients. The American Civil Liberties Union, Bingham McCutchen LLP, the Drug Policy Alliance and others filed legal documents setting out new claims based on an ordinance recently enacted by the Santa Cruz City Council that establishes the provision of medical marijuana as an official city government function. The legal papers were filed in County of Santa Cruz v. Gonzales.

The U.S. Constitution permits states to determine for themselves what is legal and what is illegal under state law, according to today’s filing. In the case of medical marijuana, the plaintiffs argue that the federal government has intentionally sabotaged this process, selectively utilizing arrests, prosecutions and other means in an effort to thwart state medical marijuana laws.

“The White House wants California to march in lockstep with its misguided prohibition of medical marijuana, but the Constitution says otherwise,” said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. “The federal government cannot force California or the city of Santa Cruz to make medical marijuana use a crime, nor can the federal government use the threat of criminal prosecution to intentionally sabotage state and local laws that it does not like.”

In addition, the group points out that federal government interference with the ability of seriously ill, in many cases terminal, patients to use medical marijuana deprives them of basic due process rights in the Constitution - denying patients access to the only medicine that addresses otherwise fatal symptoms of their conditions.

County of Santa Cruz v. Gonzales originated in 2003 when Bingham McCutchen LLP and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), along with private attorneys Gerald F. Uelmen and Benjamin Rice, sued the federal government for raiding a Santa Cruz-area medical marijuana cooperative, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). The case was delayed pending the outcome of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Raich v. Gonzales, in which the Court held that the federal government maintains power to enforce federal marijuana laws even in states that have made medical marijuana legal under state law.

However, the Raich decision left intact the ability of individual states to enact and implement their own medical marijuana laws. Responding to local patients, Santa Cruz enacted a first-of-its-kind ordinance to provide medical marijuana as a city function.

“We are asking the court to recognize the individual constitutional rights of patients, along with the city’s right to implement California’s medical marijuana laws,” said Frank Kennamer, an attorney with Bingham McCutchen who represents WAMM and individual patients in the lawsuit. “The Santa Cruz ordinance represents the city’s sincere attempt to provide patients with a safe and legal source of medical marijuana without exposing them to the danger of federal criminal prosecution. These patients have a constitutional right to their medicine.”

California passed Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act, ten years ago, making medical marijuana legal under state law. Eleven other states have since enacted similar measures. Today’s legal papers state that, “the federal government’s campaign against California’s medical marijuana laws has continued unabated” and that the federal government “continues to purposefully interfere with California and other states’ medical marijuana laws, intending to coerce states to recriminalize medical marijuana.”

The legal papers cite as evidence of the federal government’s “campaign” against state medical marijuana laws federal interference in state legislative decisions to legalize medical marijuana, federal law enforcement decisions to focus on medical marijuana users to the exclusion of similarly situated non-medical marijuana users and federal threats to doctors who recommend medical marijuana to patients.

“The Santa Cruz case not only raises fundamental constitutional claims never before decided by the judiciary in the context of medical marijuana, but also offers some of the most compelling facts ever presented by patients to the courts,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for DPA. “At the heart of the Santa Cruz case are patients using marijuana to stay alive and to live out their last days with dignity, control and comfort. Their stories and their plight underscore the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by their constitution - freedoms that federal officials are trying to squash.”

County of Santa Cruz v. Gonzales is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division. In addition to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the lawsuit names as defendants U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents involved in the raid of WAMM, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director John Walters.

The group’s amended complaint is available online at:
www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/23 ... 60130.html

A profile of WAMM cofounder Valerie Corral is at:
www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/19 ... 50922.html

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: New filings in Santa Cruz v. Gonzales case, filing motions against San Diego County for not acknowledging Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act), and WAMM garage sale!
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