Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2002
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Dan White, Sentinel Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical 


SANTA CRUZ -- The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to deputize the 
co-founders of a medical-marijuana club, symbolically making them officers 
of the city government.

That doesn't mean Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana's Mike and 
Valerie Corral are actual deputies, have any special powers or will "need 
to show any stinkin' badges," said City Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice. 
Instead, their status means the council officially sanctions WAMM's activities.

Council members said they hope the formal link between the city and the 
group will increase legal protections for the Corrals, who have not been 
charged with a crime in connection with a September raid by federal agents 
on their pot farm, but are wary of future prosecution.

The Corrals are still trying to get the seized marijuana plants and some 
equipment back from the federal government.

At the very least, the deputization shows solidarity with WAMM, council 
members said.

Armed federal agents arrested the Corrals on Sept. 5 and tore out 167 
plants at their Davenport-area marijuana garden. The Corrals, who were 
released hours after their arrest, said they were told they could be 
arrested again at any time.

WAMM's founders say most of the group's 200-plus members are seriously or 
terminally ill.

Council members received national media attention later in September for 
showing up to a rally on the steps of City Hall, where WAMM members came to 
get their weekly allotment of medical pot. For their stand, council members 
were alternately praised as heroes standing up against federal bullies, and 
ridiculed as flakes who were perpetuating the city's wacky, drugged-out image.

If the WAMM founders end up before the Supreme Court, "we're showing faith 
in what they are doing," Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice said. He said WAMM 
could turn to the court and say, "Look, this is the faith the community has 
in us."

Andrea Tischler of the local Compassion Flower Inn, a bed-and-breakfast 
devoted to medical marijuana, urged the city to take it a step further and 
"consider deputizing others to run clubs because over 2,000 patients are in 
need of their medicine" in Santa Cruz County. She said there's no way WAMM 
alone can serve the need.

Councilman Mike Rotkin said he's concerned that the national press is 
making the city's stand on medical marijuana into an 
everybody-must-get-stoned story.

He said city leaders did not take the deputization status lightly, and that 
it was extending this status because of WAMM's continued commitment to 
protecting terminally ill patients. He said that for anyone else to get 
this deputy status, they'd have to prove they had as much commitment and 
responsibility as WAMM.

Councilman Mark Primack supported the motion but said he wanted to do 
something that had more "teeth" to provide guaranteed legal protections for 
the Corrals. He said he was dismayed by a recent statement by the federal 
Drug Enforcement Administration that deputization would not change the 
Corrals' status in the eyes of the government.

"What is a tangible action to create real protection?" he said.

Rotkin replied that he thought DEA spokesman Richard Meyer was being "very 
disingenuous" in his statements to the Sentinel earlier this week, and that 
deputization could offer real protections.

"This could be a way to defend them because they are following the spirit 
of the local (medical marijuana) ordinance and should not be prosecuted," 
Rotkin said. "In the end, it's not up to the DEA but the courts to settle 

Meyer on Tuesday reiterated his statement that "federal law supersedes 
state or local law, so nobody in the U.S. has authorization to distribute 
illegal drugs at will. We are a country of laws. Deputization really does 
nothing as far as federal law is concerned."

The federal government considers medical marijuana contraband and has 
asserted that its authority overrides state and local laws that make 
provisions for medical marijuana -- touching off an emotional debate about 
alternative medicine, drug use and local authority.

The Corrals said Tuesday they hoped their new status would give them 
protection under the same federal law that lets police officers legally 
carry and sell drugs while engaging in narcotics stings. According to this 
reading of the law, the Corrals would be "enforcing" state and local laws 
allowing for medical marijuana use.

"It's opposite ends of the same continuum," Mike Corral said. "They're out 
to bust people and we're out to help."

Meyer said he couldn't imagine WAMM meeting the criteria to fall under the 
provisions of that federal law.

"That makes no sense," he said. "Local deputies handle drugs, process them 
and lock them up. They don't distribute them to people on the street. If 
they did that, they would be breaking the law."

Santa Cruz, however, is not the first city to try to use deputization of 
medical marijuana club members to increase their protection from federal 
prosecution. A similar approach was used in Oakland and San Francisco. The 
strategy has yet to be tested in federal court.

WAMM members say they are still getting marijuana for members. They 
declined to state the source.

WAMM board member Suzanne Pfeil said the government "tries to characterize 
a sick and tiny community as drug trafficking, and that it has to protect 
the (community) from us. We ask you to protect us from them."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom