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‘Typical’ Santa Cruz gathering was tightly controlled

‘Typical’ Santa Cruz gathering was tightly controlled


September 18, 2002
Sentinel staff writers

SANTA CRUZ - Tuesday’s medical-marijuana rally at City Hall drew a typical Santa Cruz crowd.
There was a three-person theater troupe re-enacting the recent federal raid of a local pot garden that triggered the rally. The crowd booed as an actor, dressed as a federal agent, busted a woman dressed as a doctor. She was pushing a wheelchair carrying a “patient” with aqua-colored hair.
One man played drums on the back of a trailer as he was driven around the block.
Joining them was an odd assortment of hippies, students, townspeople and the just the plain old curious.
“I’ve never been to one of these things,” said John Darpino of Santa Cruz. “If (medical marijuana) is right for you, go ahead, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.”
But while the atmosphere around the rally was loose, what they watched was a strictly controlled event.
The giveaway - cooperative members were the only recipients - was organized by the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, but had the support of the City Council. Six of seven members attended, as did a county supervisor.
City officials stressed before the event that it was not city-sanctioned and that officials would handle no marijuana, and that’s how the event unfolded.
The public stood in the hall’s courtyard, facing the front of the building. A horde of media people was corralled on the steps to the left of the entrance, with politicians facing them on the right. Alliance patients sat behind the columns of the porch in the middle.
About a dozen plain-clothed police detectives could be seen, some hanging around the edges of the crowd in black shades and shiny black dress shoes, watching the event as others mingled in the crowd.
About a dozen members of the cooperative chosen by drawing names out of a hat were on hand. They proceeded to the front, one by one, collected their weekly supply of marijuana and briefly shared their story. Then it was on to the next one.
Members do not pay for the marijuana.
Santa Cruz homeowner George Mead said he showed up to see the spectacle. He did not think the national attention the event was drawing would help Santa Cruz’s image or the local tourism industry, but said at least it was taking media attention away from the city’s problems with panhandlers on Pacific Avenue.
Woody Carroll of Santa Cruz said he showed up to support the patients. He said he came, in part, because he believes marijuana will one day be legal and his two young daughters will ask him about the days when it was outlawed, and he wants to be able to share that history with them.
Tony Madrigal said he would like to see the city use the negative national publicity the Drug Enforcement Administration has been receiving from their raid on the garden earlier this month as leverage to get the DEA to crack down on the problem of heroin dealers in the Beach Flats.
Alan Brady of Santa Cruz said he thinks the confrontation between medical users in California and the federal government could change national marijuana policy.
“This is the beginning of the end of the prohibition,” he said.

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