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City leaders back medical pot giveaway

City leaders plan to join medical marijuana users at a pot giveaway at City Hall next week. Their goal is to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome.
City leaders back medical pot giveaway


September 12, 2002
SentInel staff and wire report

SANTA CRUZ - City leaders plan to join medical marijuana users at a pot giveaway at City Hall next week. Their goal is to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome.
The city is not sponsoring the event, but most City Council members say they are interested in attending. Participants stress the pot will be available only to patients registered to use marijuana.
The City Council took no formal action on the gathering during its Tuesday night meeting.
The invitation comes one week after agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration acting without support from state and local law enforcement raided a small pot farm located on a quiet coastal road near Davenport, arresting owners Valerie and Michael Corral. The DEA confiscated 130 plants that had been grown to be used as medicine.
DEA spokesman Richard Meyer said Wednesday he was surprised by the city’s plan.
“Are you serious? That’s illegal. It’s like they’re flaunting federal law,” he said. “I’m shocked that city leaders would promote the use of marijuana that way. What is that saying to our youth?”
Vice Mayor Emily Reilly plans to participate in an event where marijuana will be passed out to sick people from the courtyard at City Hall on Tuesday.
“It’s just absolutely loathsome to me that federal money, energy and staff time would be used to harass people like this,” Reilly said.
She said organizers of the event “said they won’t ask me to touch any of the medicine,” but that she’d be happy to help pass out the marijuana if they asked. “I’ll do whatever they ask to show my support.”
Councilman Scott Kennedy said he’d be there, too.
“The sense I have is people want to express a more solid level of solidarity with people harassed by the DEA,” he said. “Though I don’t use dope, I plan to join them... but my sense is that they are not doing this formally as a City Council, but as individuals.”
Councilman Mark Primack said he also would like to go.
“This is not a pot club where people run around, get stoned and listen to the Grateful Dead,” he said. “They are ill people, physically ill people who are suffering.”
City Attorney John Barisone said that although the City Council did pass a resolution denouncing the raid, there is no official city sponsorship of the event, but that council members and medical marijuana advocates are acting on their own accord in a public space.
He said the city courtyard “is an open forum where people could do anything they want if it’s in a peaceful, orderly fashion ... The council did not object to it. They would not have to authorize the space being used for a demonstration.”
Medical marijuana laws are still in the books in the state and are supported by a local ordinance. State law in California, as well as Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, allows marijuana to be grown and distributed to people with a doctor’s prescription. Federal law prohibits marijuana use under any circumstances.
Qualified patients can possess marijuana and have a defense to the crime of possession of marijuana, Barisone said.
For this reason, “I don’t know if police would even attend (the protest.) This is not something they normally concern themselves with.”
Sgt. Steve Clark said the police administration’s position “is that we will enforce the spirit of the medical marijuana laws. I feel as if it puts us in a difficult position (because of) the dichotomy between state and federal law, but then we don’t have the authority to enforce federal law, only federal agents do.”
He said he thinks a ceremony could place the police in a “tough situation” because there is a provision in the law “that does not allow marijuana to be given away ... I don’t think it is a fair situation to put us in. The matter needs to be hammered out in court.”
The Corrals, leading activists for medical marijuana, have not been indicted. Their attorney, Ben Rice, said he was informed by the DEA that the U.S. Attorney has declined to prosecute the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said she could not comment on the case, and DEA spokesman Meyer said his agency isn’t involved in decisions whether to prosecute.
Robert Kampia, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, said “The courage of the Santa Cruz City Council and the growing anger in Congress are signs of a genuine grassroots rebellion all across this country that will put an end to these attacks on the sick and vulnerable.”
In 1992, 77 percent of Santa Cruz voters approved a measure ending the medical prohibition of marijuana. Four years later, state voters including 74 percent of those in Santa Cruz approved Proposition 215, allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes. And then again, in 2000, the City Council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana to be grown and used without a prescription.
Sentinel staff writer Dan White contributed to this report.

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