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'Who is WAMM? Mother Jones Article from Jan 02'

'The desperately ill members of a Santa Cruz marijuana club aren\'t growing pot to get high or make money. They just want to find some relief.'
'\r\n\r\nDorothy Gibbs is lying in bed in her trailer

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Inside a compassionate pot plantation


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — On an expansive plot of land in the rolling hills overlooking the Pacific, Valerie Corral grows marijuana for indigent patients with ills ranging from AIDS to cancer. Not only do authorities know - she has their stamp of approval.

“IT’S MUCH like stealing a boat to save a drowning man,” Valerie Corral told me in her soft-spoken manner. “If you’ve committed a crime to prevent a greater harm, then you’re protected under the necessity defense that dates back to the Magna Carta.”

Corral was talking about how she started growing marijuana to control her own epilepsy, and, put like that, it’s hard to see how anyone can argue with her. If she hadn’t grown the pot, she would have continued having life-threatening grand mal seizures.

The potential harm mitigates the crime.

Even in 1992, more than five years before the passage of California’s Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medical use, the public apparently agreed. Corral was arrested for growing marijuana to control her epilepsy, but the charges were dropped before ever coming to a trial.

“The District Attorney said he couldn’t find a jury that would convict me,” Corral recalls.

But she lost her crop, a year of work. And the story didn’t end there.

“I thought [their dropping the charges] meant I could grow legally,” she says. “I was wrong.” The sheriff waited several months - just enough time for a new crop to grow - before again raiding her garden.

Again, the charges were dropped. But again too, she lost the crop.

The picture is very different now. Corral grows
marijuana not just for herself but for nearly 250 seriously ill, indigent patients. And not only has the new sheriff of Santa Cruz declined to prosecute her, the “plantation” has a seal of approval from local government.

In 1996, the mayor of Santa Cruz declared November 15 to be National Medical Marijuana Day and honored Corral in a city proclamation. And the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission named her a Woman of the Year.

And in 1998, even as cannabis clubs closed around her, Corral appears to have escaped much of the wrath of state and federal officals.

While the U.S. Justice Department and state Attorney General Dan Lungren limited Prop. 215’s effects by persuading judges to shut down most of the clubs where patients bought their pot, Corral “is OK,” says Dr. Bill Zimmerman, head of the group Americans for Medical Rights, which is coordinating efforts to legalize medical marijuana use. “Because no sales are involved, she’s not affected,” he says. “Patients have a right to have marijuana and Corral provides a service.”


Corral’s transformation from cannabis criminal to hemp heroine began after the second arrest, when she formed the non-profit Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). With its stated purpose of providing pot to indigent patients and educational research, the group was granted non-profit status by both state and local government.

As we walked around the acres surrounding her wooden frame house in the hills, Corral explained that most of the plants - complex hybrids created to treat different ailments - have already been harvested in advance of the region’s first frost.

The leaves have been dried, weighed and stored. Each patient gets one-eighth an ounce a week, and Corral has to ensure that there’s enough to last 125 indigent people through the winter.

But in a greenhouse made from wires and white plastic sheets, two hearty hybrids remain unharvested: a green strain that Corral says is best suited for increasing AIDS patients’ appetites and a purplish strain for epilepsy.


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