Pubdate: Mon, 19 Apr 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Barbara Feder Ostrov


Group Shows Support For Medicinal Marijuana

There was quite a spread at Area 420's picnic at Stevens Creek Park on
Sunday: barbecued hamburgers, chicken, beer, chips, brownies.

And pot. Pot in joints. Pot in glass pipes. Pot in brownies. Pot in an
aromatic herb butter.

Pot if you had AIDS, or cancer, or chronic pain, and a doctor's note
prescribing medicinal marijuana for your suffering.

Jim Lohse, who organized the picnic in support of medicinal marijuana,
purposely called it a potluck and hinted in his event publicity that he
would be giving away weed to ``pre-approved'' patients. But the Santa Clara
County Sheriff's Department assured him that could get him arrested, so he
did not. Deputies did not come to the Cupertino park Sunday, even though
Lohse had invited them.

``I'm not trying to save the world, just relieve some pain,'' said Lohse,
who is 36 and promotes himself as the only medicinal marijuana distributor
in Santa Clara County who doesn't operate in secret. ``It just feels like
the right thing to do.''

Was this even legal? Depends on whom you ask. Californians voted to make
medicinal marijuana legal in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215, but that
stance directly contradicts federal drug laws. The conflict is still being
hashed out in federal court.

``The feds find the use of marijuana under any circumstances not acceptable,
illegal,'' said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Karen Sinunu,
who supports the legitimate use of medicinal marijuana. But from the
standpoint of local and state law, she said, she didn't see a problem with
the picnic as advertised, or with patients smoking medicinal pot at the

Lohse, who runs a medicinal marijuana advocacy Web site known as Area 420
(, distributes cannabis to 15 patients each month, without
charge. He doesn't ask much about their conditions, which include cancer and
glaucoma and migraines, although he requires a doctor's prescription, he
said. Lohse is one of his own best customers for the marijuana he grows in
an apartment in a South Bay city he won't identify. He says he smokes pot
three to four times a day to relieve severe back pain from two car

The 30 or so picnic-goers who braved Sunday's rain and a speech from a
Libertarian candidate for state senate refused to let their spirits or their
joints be dampened.

As they lighted up with abandon, they neatly meshed two subcultures: pothead
and chronic pain sufferer. Jean Hanamoto of Morgan Hill handed out fliers
for her computer-manipulated photographs of marijuana plants. Sandy Westfall
of Hollister, a veritable Martha Stewart of pot culture who sported pink
Reeboks and a wreath of marijuana leaves and tea roses on her head, brought
with her a tray of spiked brownies with an elaborate powdered-sugar stencil
of pot leaves.

The medical establishment considers using medicinal marijuana to treat
chronic pain to be less supported in scientific research than using it to
improve the appetites of AIDS patients or alleviate the nausea that can
accompany chemotherapy. But like Westfall, most marijuana users at the
picnic said they prefer it to drugs such as Vicodin, which they believe are
potentially more addictive.

Many carried identification cards from the Oakland Cannabis Buyers
Cooperative, one of the more established medicinal marijuana groups, as well
as letters from their doctors, which they hoped would protect them from
hassles with law enforcement.

``There are a lot of everyday people using medical marijuana,'' said
Westfall, an elementary school teacher's aide who steeps it in chamomile tea
to relieve pain from endometriosis, a pelvic disease. ``Maybe even people
you know.''
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