Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jun 2000
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Orange County Register
Contact:  P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711
Fax: (714) 565-3657
Author ALAN BOCK-Senior Editorial Writer
Note: Faces of freedom profiles individuals who have, in ways great and 
small, championed the cause of human liberty.Today meet Marvin Chavez, the 
Santa Ana resident who founded a medical-marijuana club
after Proposition 215 was approved by the state's voters in 1996, but was 
arrested and convicted for marijuana sales.


Marvin Chavez has stood up for what he thought was right, declined to
make deals when he thought he had done nothing wrong, and paid a high
price. But he's back from prison and, as he told me the other day, "I
feel like I've barely broken my stride. They certainly didn't bother
my spirit. We will make it possible for sick and disabled people to
learn about and have safe and legal access to cannabis."

Chavez formed the Orange County Cannabis Club, later renamed the
Orange County Patient Doctor Nurse Support Group, shortly after
California voters approved Proposition 215, which made it legal to use
marijuana medicinally with a doctor's recommendation, back in November
1996. He had campaigned for Prop. 215, become friendly with Anna
Boyce, the Mission Viejo nurse who was a campaign spokesperson, and
hoped to do it right. He tried several times to talk with then-sheriff
Brad Gates about implementing Prop. 215, smoothly and legally, but was

So he started a patient group, developed bylaws, rules, forms and
membership cards, started seminars with doctors and health workers,
and began making medical cannabis available to patients. Each bag had
the group's address and was marked "Not for Sale."

The day after an appearance before the Garden Grove City Council an
undercover cop with a phony but genuine-looking doctor's letter
pleaded with Chavez to give him some marijuana now, before the normal
process of verifying the recommendation was complete. Letting his
compassion overcome his caution, Marvin did so and was immediately
arrested. Some time later two other undercover cops pulled a similar
scam on him and he was arrested again.

Marvin was offered several deals that would involve no prison time,
but turned them down. But at the end of his trial Judge Thomas J.
Borris instructed the jury that it was not to take Prop. 215 or
medical use of marijuana into account. After conviction, Judge Borris
sentenced him to six years in state prison. In April, after 15 months
inside, he was released on bond while his appeal is pending.

Marvin Chavez is a patient himself. He has a rare genetic degenerative
spinal disorder called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which makes the spine
slowly disintegrate, triggered by an injury. He was misdiagnosed for
years and given dozens of prescription painkillers. The medications
had severe side effects and caused deep depression. "For two years I
was almost literally a hermit," he told me. "I sat in my bedroom in
pain and felt sorry for myself."

He heard about marijuana at an ALS support group meeting and tried it.
It relieved most of his pain and he came out of his shell.

Born in New Mexico in 1955 and raised mostly in East L.A., Marvin
joined the Marine Corps reserve at 17, worked construction jobs, had
his own company, worked as a movie extra, and in 1990 went to prison
for cocaine possession. That was where the accident occurred that
triggered his disease.

He's holding regular meetings of the Patient Doctor Nurse group (the
next one is Wednesday at 6 p.m., Social Science Plaza B at UC
Irvine),but no distribution. He's preparing packets of information for
Sheriff Mike Carona, the supervisors, local officials and doctors.

"Standing up for your rights is hard sometimes, but it builds inner
strength and serenity," he says.
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