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Pot club may get official status

Pot club may get official status


December 10, 2002
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ -- In the latest local gesture of defiance to the federal
government, three City Council members have requested the city
deputize the founders of a local medical marijuana club.
Mayor Emily Reilly, and councilmen Mike Rotkin and Tim Fitzmaurice
want the council to make the club’s co-founders, Michael and Valerie
Corral, “duly authorized officers” of the city of Santa Cruz entitled
by the city to hand out medical pot to the collective’s 200-plus
The “deputization” plan is intended to beef up the Wo/Men’s Alliance
for Medical Marijuana’s legal defense against federal prosecution. The
resolution, first proposed by the co-founders of WAMM, is on the
agenda of today’s 3 p.m. City Council meeting.
In the past, the council, which already has strong ties to WAMM, has
done everything short of deputizing the club. Council members have
passed resolutions on the group’s behalf, and even showed up to a
medical marijuana give- away on the steps of City Hall in September
attended by 1,000 people.
The September rally was in response to a federal raid earlier that
month on the group’s Davenport-area pot garden. Armed federal
agents uprooted 167 marijuana plants.
The Corrals were arrested during the raid, and efforts to get the
seized plants back have been unsuccessful. WAMM, however, is still
thriving, according to the Corrals, who said they are preparing to file
an injunction to prevent future raids.
The majority of WAMM members are seriously or terminally ill, the
Corrals said.
The Corrals’ attorney, Ben Rice, said “deputy” status would put
WAMM under the provisions of a federal law stating a person can’t be
sued for having a controlled substance if he or she is carrying it while
“enforcing” local drug laws.
That federal law is the reason local police officers can legally carry
drugs while engaging in a narcotics sting. According to this reading of
the law, the Corrals would be “enforcing” state and local laws that
allow for medical marijuana use.
But a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration
said Monday that deputizing the group won’t change WAMM’s status
in the eyes of the U.S. government.
“They can do whatever they want, but deputizing them doesn’t make
any difference as far as we’re concerned, not unless Congress
changes the classification for marijuana and controlled substances,”
said Richard Meyer of the DEA’s San Francisco office.
He added that clubs should not delude themselves into thinking such
acts can prevent federal raids on medical marijuana gardens.
“Anybody that is growing marijuana, distributing marijuana, shouldn’t
be surprised if we paid them a visit.” He also said the DEA is
“concerned about the citizens of Santa Cruz. We want to let them
know we will do all we can to protect them from drug trafficking.”
Rice said the federal provision usually relates to police, but Santa
Cruz would be the third city in the state after San Francisco and
Oakland to try to use that provision for medical marijuana users.
But he said the deputization status has never been “put to the test”
in federal courts.
Rice said he didn’t expect deputization to stop federal raids on
medical pot clubs. But he said such a city-sanctioned status could at
least give people like Mike and Valerie Corral a defense to be used in
“If Mike and Val were arrested for doing what I think is fabulous work
for the community, we could say, ‘Look, the city of Santa Cruz
deputized these guys and therefore they have immunity. It would be
up to a federal judge to decide’ ’’
After the DEA raid, the WAMM case was referred to the U.S.
Department of Justice. Spokesman Charles Miller chuckled when he
heard about the deputization plan.
“I have no idea how that would impact anything,” he said. “I couldn’t
even comment.”
The city of Santa Cruz, along with the state of California, has
“compassionate” medical marijuana legislation that makes card-holding
users exempt from prosecution. But users of medical pot enjoy no
such protections from the federal government a factor that
contributed to the outcry over the raid on WAMM, who accused the
DEA of treading roughly on local and state jurisdiction.
Mike and Valerie Corral said in a letter last month to then-mayor
Christopher Krohn that being deputized would “allow our function as
medical marijuana providers as duly authorized officers of the city of
Santa Cruz.”
“It’s really hard to tell what the federal government will do, and it’s
hard to know if anything will stop from these ill-intended actions but I
do believe this will allow us more protection as far as (legal) defense,”
Valerie Corral said. “But I’m very hopeful.”
Police Chief Steve Belcher would not comment on the deputization
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.
Also on tonight’s agenda:

The council, during its 7 p.m. session, will discuss whether street
musicians should be exempt from a set of downtown behavior rules.
The rules, approved in July, already increase space limitations on
panhandlers. A majority of the council’s Downtown Commission
suggested the exemption.
Supporters say musicians cause very few problems and deserve a
shot at self-determination.
City Manager Dick Wilson and two commissioners have expressed
concern that an exemption, combined with a reliance on voluntary
guidelines, would give merchants and police much less say when
responding to conflicts.
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)

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A Letter to City Council From Kate Wells

Dear Mayor Reilly and Councilmembers,

From the beginning, you have opted to ignore the needs of the vast majority of legitimate medical marijuana patients while bending over backwards to accomodate the needs of a few, to wit: the elite few who have been selected to participate in the WAMM program. Literally on a daily basis I receive inquiries about how one with a legitimate recommendation for medical marijuana can obtain their medicine without wheeling their wheelchairs down the levy to deal with the often unsavory characters who deal in the black market of marijuana. I am forced to respond that there is no where for them to go in Santa Cruz.

I was initially pleased that you passed an ordinance that was purportedly designed to facilitate patients in obtaining their medicine in a safe and comfortable environment. Quickly I discovered that the ordinance was engineered behind closed doors to facilitate Valerie and Mike Corral and their patients to the exclusion of the thousands of other legitimate patients. When I attempted to fill that need by opening a non-exclusionary, non-profit organization, Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals (SCCP), I met with nothing short of a concerted effort on the part of the city to make such an endeavor impossible. Even though we bent over backwards to cooperate and comply with the dictates of the ordinance, making our books and our operation completely open to interested city officials, we were threatened by the city with a lawsuit and slandered as profiteering, while WAMM continued to operate unimpeded despite the fact that they were not in compliance with the ordinance. Such favoritism has no place in city government and is harmful to the movement. (I invite anyone who believes that SCCP was motivated by financial gain to speak with Andrea Tischler who has first-hand knowledge of its operations and who will verify that medicine was provided at cost to those patients who could afford it and free to those who could not. The difference between SCCP and WAMM was that WAMM calls their payment a "donation" and we called it what it was. You should also be aware that many of the WAMM members became patients of SCCP and regularly obtained their medicine from us.)

In a last ditch effort to fill the drastic needs of the thousands of patients left in need by the unceremonious closing of SCCP, I invited another non-profit organization, the Church of the Northern Lights, which had been successfully providing medicine to patients in Calaveras County, to open a church in Santa Cruz. The ordained minister and the elders in the church, who were initially eager to come to the city, examined the Santa Cruz ordinance and declared it to be unworkable and unnecessarily burdensome.

I have been involved with the medical marijuana movement from the beginning, helping to draft the first advisory initiative passed overwhelmingly by the people of Santa Cruz back in the 80's. As a civil rights attorney, I have represented 100's of people all over the state to fight the federal government's irrational attacks on our state law. The City Council has not once asked for any input from me or from the many others who have been similarly involved including Theodora Kerry, Anita Henry and Andrea Tischler to name just a few. Why not?

I think WAMM is a wonderful organization and I do not, in any way, demean their efforts to help the sick and dying in Santa Cruz. Rather, I am begging you to consider the needs of the thousands of other patients in Santa Cruz who have been left out in the cold by your exclusionary policies. What are you prepared to do for them?


Kate Wells


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