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Leaders to stand by pot giveaway

Leaders to stand by pot giveaway


September 17, 2002

SANTA CRUZ - At least five City Council members and a county supervisor say they will take part in a medical-marijuana giveaway today at City Hall.
The pot distribution, which is drawing national media attention, follows a Sept. 5 raid by federal drug agents of a medical-marijuana cooperative’s pot garden in Davenport.
Whether federal agents will show up at the 3 p.m. giveaway, in what is essentially a challenge to their authority, remains to be seen.
Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer would not comment on whether agents would appear. However, he said he was shocked the city would even involve itself in the debate, because marijuana use is against federal law.
“If I were a teenager in Santa Cruz, I would be confused,” he said.
City leaders say confrontation isn’t their intent.
“We certainly don’t want a confrontation with them,” said Mayor Christopher Krohn, who plans to attend.
City Council members Emily Reilly, Scott Kennedy, Tim Fitzmaurice and Mark Primack also plan to be there, as does county Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt. All have decried the DEA raid in Davenport, and say they sympathize with the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana’s 238 members and other medical-marijuana users.
The council last week passed a resolution that, in part, called on the DEA to “cease activities of this kind that defy the expressed will of the majority of the voters of the city of Santa Cruz.” The county Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution in support of WAMM.
City Attorney John Barisone stressed, however, that while the event will be at City Hall, it is not a city-sponsored event. The alliance is meeting in the City Hall courtyard a public meeting space where any group acting peacefully can assemble. Also, only Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana officials are expected to actually handle the marijuana.
The Sept. 5 raid agents seized about 130 plants has reignited the national debate about medical marijuana. While California and seven other states allow the sick to legally possess, grow or smoke marijuana for medical purposes, the federal government maintains marijuana has no medical benefits and is an illegal drug.
So while cooperative director Valerie Corral and her husband, Mike, were allowed to operate the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana by local authorities, federal agents arrested them. They were released later that day, and to date no charges have been filed.
News of the pot giveaway at City Hall has sparked numerous stories in the national media, both on the appropriateness of the event and about medical marijuana in general. On Monday, a large CNN truck was parked outside City Hall, and an attorney for the cooperative appeared in a live spot. Stories on the event have appeared in USA Today and The New York Times.
While the alliance’s plight has been met sympathetically in many corners of Santa Cruz, others say council members are going too far in a show of support.
City Council candidate Phil Baer said the presence of council members at the giveaway will send a wrong message about drug use.
“I feel our City Council ought to stay out of it,” Baer said. “I think for every person with a legitimate medical reason, there are thousands of young people wasting their potential abusing the drug.”
Krohn said city leaders are not overlooking drug problems in the city, and that medical marijuana is a different issue. He said the city has sought the DEA’s help in attacking the sales of drugs like heroin. He pointed to a cooperative, months- long investigation with the city, county and DEA that focused on drug sales in the Beach Flats neighborhood, along the San Lorenzo River levee and in the Pogonip, a city park.
Authorities announced in February 2001 that the effort had netted 93 dealers and 415 arrests.
“(Attending the giveaway) is a message that we worry about the pain and discomfort of those sick people,” Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice said.
Santa Cruz police Sgt. Steve Clark said the event puts the department in an uncomfortable situation, since California voters approved medical-marijuana use under Proposition 215, passed in 1996.
“It would take somebody exploiting the law for us to (make any arrests),” said Clark, who like most law enforcement officials hopes federal legislators or the courts will soon sort out the legal mess.
Contact Brian Seals at bseals (at)

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