Pubdate: Wed, 23 Apr 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Section: State And Regional
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The city and county of Santa Cruz has sued Attorney 
General John Ashcroft and the Drug Enforcement Administration, demanding 
that federal agents stay away from a farm that grows marijuana for sick and 
dying people.

"This is an opportunity for us to stand behind the people in our community 
who are the most needy," said Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly. "This is what 
we do well in Santa Cruz."

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose, comes in 
response to a DEA raid last September at a small pot farm located on a 
quiet coastal road about 15 miles north of town. Agents uprooted about 165 
plants and arrested the owners, Valerie and Michael Corral.

The raid outraged local officials and many community members in this 
coastal town where police and sheriffs work closely with medical marijuana 
users and growers, and the Compassion Flower Inn - a bed and breakfast inn 
for medical marijuana users - operates openly just a few blocks from downtown.

After the raid, the Santa Cruz City Council sponsored a medical marijuana 
giveaway from the steps of City Hall. They also deputized the Corrals, who 
are the founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, allowing 
them to cultivate, distribute and possess medical marijuana under a city 

"We can only offer peaceful resistance against DEA attacks. Our hope is 
that the courts will act as guardians of the law and protect us against 
such injustice," said Valerie Corral.

The lawsuit claims that seven patient plaintiffs have had their medicine 
substantially decreased since the raid, and that WAMM has been unable to 
provide its patients with necessary medicine. This has caused an 
"insurmountable" level of pain and suffering and hastened the deaths of the 
most vulnerable WAMM members, lawyers said.

DEA spokesman Richard Meyer in San Francisco said he could not comment on 
pending litigation, but that his agency's mission is very clear: "To 
enforce the Controlled Substances Act."

Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. State law in California - 
as well as Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and 
Washington - allows marijuana to be grown and distributed to people with a 
doctor's prescription.

Meyer said that raiding medical marijuana clubs and farms is the DEA's duty.

"Our goal is to seize illegal drugs and arrest the perpetrators and bring 
them to justice," he said.

But Judy Appel, a Drug Policy Alliance attorney who helped write the 
lawsuit, said the federal laws are misguided.

"We cannot just stand by and watch the harassment of people who are sick 
and dying," she said. "We hope the court will see the injustice and 
inhumanity of the federal government's actions, and restore these patients' 
rights to treat their severe pain with the medicine that works best for them."

Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, one of several 
attorneys representing the medical marijuana users, has said this case 
could be an important step toward ending the legal contradiction between 
state and federal laws.

"Becoming a plaintiff in a lawsuit is not a goal that most people would 
have who are preparing to meet their death," said Uelmen, "but these 
patients want to leave a legacy, and that legacy is that when we prepare to 
meet our deaths, the uninvited guests will not include agents of the DEA."

Last May, the Supreme Court ruled that people charged with violating 
federal drug laws cannot use medical necessity as their defense. But Uelmen 
said the justices left open whether states could legalize medical marijuana 
under the 10th Amendment, which grants states powers not exercised by the 
federal government, or under the 14th Amendment's right to due process.

In 1992, 77 percent of Santa Cruz voters approved a measure ending the 
prohibition of medical marijuana. Four years later, state voters approved 
Proposition 215, which allows marijuana for medicinal purposes. And in 
2000, the city council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana to 
be grown and used without a prescription.
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