Pubdate: Wed,  6 Oct 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Ken McLaughlin, Mercury News
Cited: Compassion Flower Inn
Cited: Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Deciding that state law doesn't properly shield medical marijuana
users, Santa Cruz County supervisors Tuesday unanimously passed an
ordinance that allows each medicinal user to possess up to three
pounds of pot.

The weight limitation applies only to the most potent part of the
plant: dried cannabis buds. Stems and seeds don't count.

If sold by the ounce -- the traditional method -- the marijuana would
have a street value of up to $24,000. Under the new law, qualified
patients will be allowed to exceed the yearly 48-ounce limit, if a
doctor approves.

A crowd of about 30 county residents -- most fighting AIDS, cancer and
other diseases -- cheered the decision, hugging one another as tears
streamed down their faces.

"We have 4,000 seriously ill patients in the county who also have had
to live with the added fear that they could be arrested," said Andrea
Tischler, co-owner of Santa Cruz's Compassion Flower Inn, which allows
guests to smoke medicinal pot.

Only a handful of California counties -- including Humboldt and Sonoma
- -- have taken similar actions despite a state law carried by Sen. John
Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, that took effect Jan. 1. Trying to expand
Proposition 215 -- the 1996 pro-medical-pot ballot measure
overwhelmingly passed by Californians -- Vasconcellos' legislation set
the "default threshold" at eight ounces but gave counties discretion
to exceed that amount.

Mark Tracy, Santa Cruz County sheriff, this year decided to let
physicians, not law enforcement officers, set the local threshold. The
county's new law is modeled after guidelines developed in Sonoma
County, said Dr. George Wolfe, a former county health officer.

Wolfe said three pounds of processed pot works out to 3.7 marijuana
cigarettes a day.

In September 2002, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided
a medicinal pot farm near Davenport. Valerie and Michael Corral,
co-founders of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, WAMM, became
local heroes to many.

Outrage from local residents and politicians resulted in a handout of
medicinal marijuana on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall, as six of
seven city council members watched and a DEA helicopter circled above.
Now, Santa Cruz County is home to the only legal marijuana garden in
the country after a federal judge allowed WAMM to replant its pot
garden, pending a decision from a higher court.

Last year, county supervisors decided to issue identification cards to
residents who had a doctor's prescription to use marijuana. Valerie
Corral said only a few hundred people have gotten the IDs, but she
hopes the new law will encourage more to apply.

Enrico Mellone, who uses marijuana to treat cancer and Crohn's
disease, said he was caught by a Santa Cruz police officer who later
profusely apologized for bothering him. He was later stopped by a
California Highway Patrol officer in Aptos. "After he saw the card,
he told me to have a nice day," Mellone said.

Excited about the new law, which takes effect 31 days after final
passage, Mellone said, "I've had to go to Oakland to buy marijuana
for $450 an ounce -- and it wasn't even any good."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake