Pubdate: Wed, 01 Dec 2004
Source: Register-Pajaronian (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Register-Pajaronian
Author: Amanda Schoenberg
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Locals React to Pot Hearing Held by the Supreme Court

Eladio Acosta, a 20-year Watsonville resident from the Philippines, is one 
local medical marijuana user nervously awaiting results of a Supreme Court 
hearing that began Monday on federal prosecution of pot users protected by 
state statutes.

Acosta, a former chef, began a debilitating round of chemotherapy last 
month after doctors discovered cancer for the third time in March. He uses 
marijuana five times per day to stimulate his appetite, control dizzy 
spells and let him sleep.

Acosta, 55, is a member of the Santa Cruz cooperative Wo/men's Alliance for 
Medical Marijuana, which provides medical marijuana to sick patients free 
of charge.

Santa Cruz County has come out in support of medical marijuana users. Most 
recently, a unanimous decision in October by the Board of Supervisors 
allowed medical pot users to possess up to three pounds of dried cannabis 
buds per year and grow a 100-square foot canopy of mature female plants, 
which typically yields about three pounds of dried buds per year.

The county ruling came after state voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, 
allowing patients and caregivers to cultivate or possess pot with physician 

In January, state law SB420 allowed counties to set higher amounts than the 
state limit of eight ounces of dried marijuana and no more than six mature 
or 12 immature plants per patient.

Local law enforcement is in "kind of a wait and see mode right now" until 
the court rules on the case, said Chief Deputy Steve Robbins of the Santa 
Cruz County Sheriff's Office, who will assume the top position when Sheriff 
Mark Tracy steps down on Thursday.

Pending a ruling on the federal case, Robbins said he would look to the 
state Attorney General for guidance, but until then would proceed under 
state and county guidelines.

"Locally, the state law is the state law," he said.

Santa Cruz attorney Ben Rice, who represents WAMM, attended the hearings 
Monday in Washington.

Although he was encouraged by "tough questions" asked by justices John Paul 
Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, he said it would take 
an "unusual coalition of justices to win this."

Although the federal case will not reverse local law, many sick patients 
would be forced to grow their own marijuana, Rice said. While he is 
encouraged by local law enforcement's support, he said the federal 
government supersedes local rules.

"There's nothing to stop the feds," he added. "They can just bust anybody 
they want."

A ruling in the case is not likely until WAMM starts its next garden, Rice 
said, when members may have to evaluate whether they are willing to go to 
jail for their beliefs, he said.

Daniel Abrahamson, an Oakland-based attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, 
which filed an amicus brief in the pending case, estimated that of 100,000 
California medical marijuana users, there have only been a handful of 
attacks by federal agents.

Acosta said he feared any possible crackdown, adding that he cannot afford 
to purchase marijuana.

WAMM helped a lot for me," Acosta said. "I don't want to buy outside, I 
don't want to be in trouble ... pray for me, pray for my treatment."

Acosta joined WAMM in filing a successful injunction against the federal 
government last April after federal agents raided the cooperative's 
Davenport garden in 2002, and WAMM co-founders Mike and Valerie Corral were 
imprisoned briefly.

Following the 2002 raids, Santa Cruz city and county officials actively 
supported a WAMM marijuana handout to patients at a City Hall media event.

County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt said she was hopeful that Supreme Court 
state's rights advocates would rule against federal pot enforcement. She 
conceded that a negative ruling would make county efforts to protect 
medical marijuana users from federal interference "very difficult."
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