Pubdate: Thu, 22 Apr 2004
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2004 The New York Times Company
Author: The Associated Press
Cited: Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Bookmark: (WAMM)
Bookmark: (Santa Cruz v. Ashcroft)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SAN FRANCISCO, April 21 (AP) -- A judge ordered the federal government
on Wednesday not to raid or prosecute a California group that grows
and distributes marijuana for its sick members.

The decision, by Judge Jeremy Fogel of Federal District Court in San Jose,
was the first interpretation of an appeals court's ruling in December that
federal prosecutions of medical marijuana users were unconstitutional if
the marijuana was not sold, transported across state lines or used for
nonmedicinal purposes.

Nine states, including California, allow medical marijuana use, but
the Justice Department contends that federal drug laws take precedence.

Judge Fogel ruled that the government could not raid or prosecute the
250 members of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which sued
the government after the Drug Enforcement Administration raided its
growing operation in Santa Cruz County in 2002 and seized 167
marijuana plants.

The group's director, Valerie Corral, said the group had been
receiving and growing marijuana in secret since the raid for fear of
being prosecuted. But with Judge Fogel's decision, the group plans to
plant hundreds of plants on Ms. Corral's one-acre property in the
Santa Cruz hills.

'You better believe it we're going to plant," said Ms. Corral, who
uses marijuana to alleviate epileptic seizures.

A Justice Department spokesman, Charles Miller, said the government
was reviewing the decision.

The marijuana group asked Judge Fogel to issue the injunction after
the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the
government in December not to prosecute a sick Oakland woman who
smoked marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

The court, ruling 2 to 1, wrote that it was unconstitutional to use
1970 federal law to prosecute sick people with medical recommendations
in states with medical marijuana laws..

"The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of
marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician
is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking," Judge Harry
Pregerson wrote for the court.

The court added, "This limited use is clearly distinct from the
broader illicit drug market, as well as any broader commercial market
for medical marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in
this case is not intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce."

That decision was a blow to the Justice Department, which argued that
state medical marijuana laws were trumped by the Controlled Substances
Act, which outlawed marijuana, heroin and other drugs nationwide. The
department appealed that Ninth Circuit decision on Tuesday to the
Supreme Court.

The Controlled Substances Act, as applied to the Santa Cruz
cooperative, Judge Fogel wrote, "is an unconstitutional exercise" of
federal intervention.

Judge Fogel's decision furthers the conflict between federal law and
California's 1996 medical marijuana law, which allows people to grow,
smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's

Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and
Washington State have laws similar to California's statute, which has
been the focus of federal drug interdiction efforts. Agents have
raided and shut down several clubs that grow medical marijuana.

The Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over all those states except
Colorado and Maine. 
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