Pubdate: Fri, 26 Nov 2004
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Brian Seals, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Cited: Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


Ruling Could Legalize Local Marijuana Farm

SANTA CRUZ - The eyes of the area's medical marijuana community will
be on the nation's capital this week.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to weigh the extent of
the federal government's authority in enforcing marijuana laws in
states that have approved it for medical use.

Whatever the court decides in Raich v. Ashcroft would have a major
impact on the Santa Cruz-based cooperative Wo/men's Alliance for
Medical Marijuana.

The 250-member group won an injunction last April, based on the Raich
case, prohibiting raids on its garden, making it a legal pot farm for
the time being.

That injunction hinges on the high court's ruling.

"If Raich loses, we lose as well," said Santa Cruz attorney Ben Rice,
who represents WAMM and who will be at the hearing.

In December 2003, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the
Raich case that the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which outlaws
marijuana, may not apply to sick people who have a doctor's
recommendation to use the drug.

A three-judge panel ruled that prosecuting medical marijuana users
under that act is unconstitutional if the marijuana is being used for
medical purposes and is not sold or transported across state lines.

WAMM used that same argument, based on the court's decision in the
Raich case, in winning an injunction this past April against the
federal government that prohibited future raids of its Davenport
garden. The group grows pot as a collective and does not buy or sell

If the Supreme Court rules for the government, that injunction would
likely go up in smoke.

"If Raich is successful, that injunction would likely become permanent
and will end the feds coming in and messing with WAMM," Rice said. "If
Raich loses, and WAMM loses as a result, it doesn't overturn
California's medical marijuana law. It just gives the feds extra power
so they can come in and bust cooperatives."

A ruling in favor of the federal government would affect how WAMM
operates as well as the legal status of its co-founders, Mike and
Valerie Corral.

"It would mean WAMM would have to redefine itself," Valerie Corral
said. "We're not certain what that is for now. We'll continue doing
what we have to do."

The Raich case highlights the tension between the dozen states that
have approved pot for medical use and the federal government, which
classifies it as an illegal drug like heroin.

Patients say they smoke it to relieve such symptoms as pain and
nausea. Santa Cruz resident Hal Margolin uses it for pain caused from

Pharmaceutical drugs had negative side effects, he said, and marijuana
helps him cope with the pain.

"It's my government, it's your government," Margolin said. "I feel I
have a medical right to use the medicine of my choice to carry on
doing what I need to achieve in life."

The federal government has viewed the issue much differently, of

In the Raich case, local police had asked for assistance from the Drug
Enforcement Administration. While state law governed the local police,
DEA agents were obliged to seize the pot, said DEA spokesman Richard

Even the DEA looks forward to the Supreme Court's decision.

"We need more clarification on this," Meyer said.

WAMM's garden was raided in September 2002 when federal agents
uprooted 167 of its plants. Mike and Valerie Corral were briefly
jailed, but no charges have been filed. Valerie fears a negative
ruling in the Raich case would lead to prosecution of her and Mike for
those seized plants.

The Davenport raid drew outrage from area elected officials and led to
a medical marijuana giveaway to about a dozen of the cooperative's
patients on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall a few weeks after the

Valerie Corral said she is hopeful for a favorable outcome for the

"These patients are suffering and it is difficult to turn your back on
that," she said. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake