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Why I'm Fighting Federal Drug Laws From City Hall

How did I, a mayor of a small town in California, wind up in a tug of war with the Drug Enforcement Agency?

NY Times

September 21, 2002

Why I'm Fighting Federal Drug Laws From City Hall



By CHRISTOPHER KROHN

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.

How did I, a mayor of a small town in California, wind up in a tug of war
with the Drug Enforcement Agency?

This week, I stood in front of Santa Cruz's city hall as a local group that
provides medical marijuana went about its weekly task of distributing the
drug to the sick and dying.

My story begins on the morning of Sept. 5 when approximately 30 men, dressed
in military fatigues and carrying automatic weapons, descended on a small
cooperative farm run by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in
northern Santa Cruz County, about 65 miles south of San Francisco. They were
pulling up organically grown marijuana plants.

When the Santa Cruz County sheriff's office learned what was going on, it was
at a loss to explain who the intruders were or what type of response was in
order. I didn't hear about the raid until 10 a.m., when I was called by
members of the collective. I then telephoned the Santa Cruz police chief and
other local officials. The chief hadn't heard anything either.

Later it became clear that the D.E.A. was making a raid. Agents collected
more than 130 plants and arrested the founders of the medical marijuana
collective, Valerie and Mike Corral. The Corrals were taken to a federal
detention center in San Jose, but no charges were filed and they were
subsequently released.

The D.E.A. was right to release them. But the Corrals shouldn't have been
there in the first place. They had not been breaking the law. They were
growing marijuana specifically for people who had been legally prescribed the
substance to help them with chronic pain brought on by cancer, diabetes and
other illnesses.

These weren't new laws, either. Residents in Santa Cruz County had voted in
1992 to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In 1996, Californians approved
Proposition 215, a statewide measure to allow the use of marijuana for
medicinal purposes. Two years ago our city council passed an ordinance to
make it easier to grow and distribute medical marijuana under the new law.

Before the morning raid, Santa Cruz had a good relationship with drug
enforcement officials. Santa Cruz, like many communities, has a problem with
illegal drugs, most notably heroin and methamphetamine. In the last 15
months, the D.E.A. has conducted two operations here; working with the
sheriff's office and the Santa Cruz Police Department, the agency has caught
hundreds of drug dealers and users. According to our police chief, "the
D.E.A. did an excellent job" in these operations.

That was not the case on Sept. 5. The D.E.A. came to town unannounced and
under cover of darkness.

I'm worried that the agency is going to be coming to other towns, too. Since
1996, eight other states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona,
Hawaii, Colorado and Maine — have passed laws allowing for the use of medical
marijuana. At the same time, the Department of Justice has made it clear that
it opposes the use of marijuana under any circumstances.

Clearly, state law and federal law are on a collision course. I would not be
surprised if there are more raids.

And if there are more raids, more mayors and elected officials will find
themselves doing what we did here this week: standing with people like the
Corrals as they deliver medical marijuana to patients who are using the drug
on the advice of a physician.

The government is fighting a losing battle. In the states where medical
marijuana has been on the ballot, it has received overwhelming approval from
voters. Canada and Great Britain recently approved the medical use of
marijuana and plan to have the government grow and distribute it.

As medical costs skyrocket, medical marijuana is a cost-effective way to
treat people with chronic pain. Most of all, making medical marijuana
available is an act of common sense and compassion. The Corrals' collective
lost 40 members this year; many of them left this world with Ms. Corral
holding their hand.

I'm hopeful that this week's events will prompt the federal government to
begin working with state and local governments to determine how far it can go
in regulating activity that has been approved by the states and that has
negligible effects on interstate commerce. There's legislation in Congress,
supported by a bipartisan coalition, that would allow all states to approve
medical marijuana, thus eliminating any conflict with federal law. To me,
that makes sense. But until it passes, I'm standing with the Corrals.

Christopher Krohn, a Democrat, is mayor of Santa Cruz, Calif.

Copyright 2002
The New York Times Company
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Comments

3 cheers for Krohn

Way to go!
 

wow

Quoted in the NYT! That's high profile, alright. I'm impressed that he's willing to stick his political neck out on this issue. Members of the California Narcotics Officers Association, and all the flavors of drug warrior everywhere, must be having a fit. Props to Krohn for a change!

Though it still begs the question "Why were Cannabis Pharmaceuticals and MedEx driven out of town?" So far it smells like a case of the city using their own bureacracy to nickle-and-dime these two former organizations, reportedly serving many more patients than WAMM did, into fiscal and administrative surrender.

And Norse has a real point - why DOESN'T the city council now declare a citywide medical emergency and "fast track" at least one new medical marijuana dispensery program into operation? Either a new one, or reviving one of the old ones if they're still around. The DEA didn't eliminate the patients, just the medicine.

Things that make you go "hmmmm."

-Van
 

Why Won't Krohn Oppose the City's Own Bad Laws?

As I've suggested in other posts, Krohn is ignoring the needs of patients in Santa Cruz, has been for the last two years, and is refusing to even attempt to authorize a medical marijuana emergency, try to get growing space (so the feds would have to confront local authorities), change the City law, or direct police to protect local medical marijuana growers. Call him at 420-5023 and ask him why no such item appears on the Tuesday agenda.
 

city council agenda

Well, if it's not on the agenda then someone needs to raise the subject during the public comment period, j'yes?

Any volunteers?
 

More needed than a comment at Oral Communications

Naturally folks can raise the issue at Oral Communications (during the shrunken 2 minutes that Krohn has traditionally allowed) and should. I hope somebody does, since I may not be there and they usually what I reject out of hand.

Important thing to remember is that it's the community that you're addressing. The Council will only listen if you get the community to roar.

What Krohn may listen to are dozens of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and personal demands. If he listens to anything (his term is almost up).

Fundamentally folks may need to do more direct actions--like other Medical Marijuana distributions publicly until City Council gets around to addressing the issues it fucked up 2 years ago.

I don't see that the one-time PR affair of Tuesday last is going to pressure City Council into doing anything but congratulate itself.
 

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