Pubdate: Wed, 30 Aug 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Kerri Regan, Record Searchlight


Supreme Court Grants White House Request

It just got tougher for medical marijuana patients to buy their drug.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday granted an emergency request from the 
Clinton administration to stop an Oakland cannabis club from distributing 
medicinal marijuana.

While the north state doesn't have a cannabis club, many patients patronize 
clubs in Oakland or Humboldt County when they can't grow their own or when 
their supply runs short, said Redding attorney Eric Berg, who has defended 
medical marijuana patients prosecuted for using the drug.

"It may make it much more difficult for them to get marijuana that the law 
legally allows them to get," Berg said. "It will drive the price up that 
much higher, and it will make it that much more difficult for people to 
deal with their medical needs."

No one from the Humboldt Cannabis Center in Arcata was available for 
comment Tuesday.

The court's 7-1 vote was the latest development in a conflict between 
federal narcotics laws and Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, that 
California voters approved in 1996.

The state initiative allows seriously ill patients to grow and use 
marijuana for pain relief with a doctor's recommendation. But federal law 
says marijuana has no medical purposes and cannot be administered safely 
under medical supervision.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Oakland Cannabis 
Buyers' Cooperative could provide marijuana to patients suffering from 
serious medical conditions who did not benefit from other treatments.

But Justice Department lawyers said that decision was dangerous because it 
created "incentives for drug manufacturers and distributors to invoke the 
asserted needs of others as a justification for their drug trafficking."

Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope said Tuesday that he was not familiar with 
the details of the decision, but "I understand it's favorable as far as law 
enforcement is concerned," he said.

Cannabis clubs do not always operate legally, Pope said.

"There has to be some kind of balance or some kind of control in this whole 
issue," the sheriff said.

Buyers' clubs meet a critical need for patients, Berg said.

Though marijuana at clubs is more expensive than it is on the street, the 
quality is good, Berg said. Clubs also offer a variety of strains that 
affect ailments differently, he said.

"Some of the pot will really help people go to sleep. Some of the pot will 
really help people stimulate their appetites. Some of it will help people 
deal with intense pain. Some people really don't want to feel high," Berg said.

Clubs sell clones, seeds and extracts that serve a variety of needs, said 
medical marijuana patient Richard Levin of the Shasta Patients Alliance. In 
addition to smoking marijuana, patients turn it into salves or linaments, 
cook with it, soak it in liquor or put it in vaporizers, he said.

"If a patient with ongoing needs doesn't do that (go to a club), they're 
not going to be able to keep obtaining pot every year, especially if the 
police don't leave them alone," Levin said.

Cannabis clubs charge $250 to $400 an ounce, Levin said, while it can be 
bought on the street for about a third of the price.

"By not allowing clubs to distribute, the government is actually 
encouraging the black market trade," Levin said.

Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott said he hoped the ruling 
would be a step toward clearing up a vague law.

"It's my sincere hope that the ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court will 
spur our legislators and our governor and our attorney general to take 
action to bring clarity to the medical marijuana law in California so that 
patients, doctors and law enforcement officials all know exactly what the 
law is."
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