Pubdate: Fri, 14 Jul 2000
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Address: P.O. Box 9136, Corpus Christi, TX 78469-9136
Author: Claire Cooper and Denny Walsh, Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
Note: Contact Claire Cooper and Denny Walsh of the Sacramento Bee in 
California at


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he'll
issue a new ruling Monday on medical marijuana, indicating he probably
will clear the way for an Oakland cooperative to provide legal pot to
patients who must use it because of "medical necessity."

Oakland is ready to dispense pot Tuesday, said City Attorney Jayne
Williams. The city deputized workers at the Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Cooperative two years ago. It has verified medical records of people
authorized to use marijuana and has issued them special
photo-identification cards.

The ruling also could bolster the legal position of some pot providers
or users throughout northwestern California. While they still could be
prosecuted under federal drug laws, they could defend themselves by
showing "medical necessity" - that is, that the drug provided relief
to a person with no legal alternative for relieving symptoms of a
serious medical condition such as AIDS or cancer.

The terms of Breyer's proposed order were not spelled out.

But in a hearing Friday, he said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
had directed him to reconsider his 1998 injunction against the
2,500-member Oakland cooperative. Issued under the federal
controlled-substances act, the injunction stopped all marijuana
distribution at the Oakland facility.

"I see no reason why I would not modify the injunction," Breyer

In a 1999 opinion, the appellate court told Breyer to weigh whether
the public interest would be served by making marijuana available to
seriously ill people whose only choices are to suffer or break the

Mark Quinlivan, a lawyer from the U.S. Department of Justice in
Washington, urged Breyer to interpret the directive narrowly.

But Breyer said the circuit would simply send the case back once

"I don't think that's fair to anybody," he said.

Quinlivan said the federal government has not decided whether to take
the circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The deadline is in about two weeks.

San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan was prepared to join
Williams against Quinlivan, but Breyer said he didn't need to hear
from the defense.

Afterward, Hallinan said the legal principles that Breyer sets forth
Monday will be applicable throughout the coastal judicial district
extending from Monterey to the Oregon border.

Gerald Uelmen, a lawyer for the Oakland cooperative, said Breyer's
expected ruling also should encourage use of the medical necessity
defense in other cases throughout California.

Enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act has been uneven
since the state passed a medical marijuana initiative in 1996.

In federal court in Sacramento, sentencing is set for July 28 for
Margaret and William Riddick of Newcastle, who pleaded guilty to
growing pot - for a San Francisco cooperative, they said. Their
lawyers advised them a medical necessity defense would not be allowed.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled to resume Aug. 16 in another
Sacramento federal court case, that of Bryan James Epis of Los Altos,
who also maintains his pot was grown for a cooperative.

The defendant in another Sacramento case, B.E. Smith of Trinity
County, has an appeal pending in the 9th Circuit. Smith was diagnosed
as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had a doctor's
prescription for marijuana.

A jury convicted him in 1999 after U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr.
barred a medical necessity defense.
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