Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jul 2005
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2005 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Ken McLaughlin
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Several Officials Show Support

Even in Santa Cruz, it's not every day that you see a couple of dozen 
marijuana plants flapping in the breeze as they're carried down the 
town's main street.

But that was the scene Saturday as Santa Cruz activists held a 
protest march and rally that drew about 700 people who believe the 
U.S. government has no right to tell sick and dying people they can't 
use medicinal marijuana.

Members and supporters of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical 
Marijuana, better known as WAMM, held their largest demonstration 
since the city council watched alliance members pass out medicinal 
pot on the steps of City Hall in September 2002. Protesters, many in 
wheelchairs, hoisted live marijuana plants and held up the pictures 
of 154 WAMM members who have died since the group was formed in 1993.

The protesters were joined at City Call by five of seven city council 
members and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt, who urged 
the crowd not to give up the cause despite the major blow recently 
dealt by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wormhoudt said she couldn't think of a crueler sight than seeing 
terminally ill people in wheelchairs taking to the streets to demand 
their right to take medicine. "It is an image that ought to haunt all 
of us," she said.

The mood at the march was a combination of somber and festive. One 
protester held up a sign: "This is a Non-Smoking Event. Thank You for 
Not Lighting Up."

Apparently, no one did.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled 6-3 that federal drug laws 
continue to trump the efforts of California and other states to 
permit the use of pot for medicinal reasons. The court's decision 
means federal law enforcement officials retain the power to prosecute 
medicinal marijuana patients like Angel McClary Raich, the Oakland 
woman at the center of the Supreme Court fight.

But medicinal marijuana advocates are trying to make sure that states 
don't back away from their own laws permitting medicinal marijuana.

"We are fighting back," said Graham Boyd, director of the American 
Civil Liberties Union's national Drug Law Reform Project, which moved 
to Santa Cruz last summer.

Earlier this month, California health officials suspended a pilot 
program that gave medicinal marijuana users state-issued 
identification cards so that they can avoid arrest. State Health 
Director Sandra Shewry asked the state attorney general's office to 
review the Supreme Court ruling to determine whether the ID program 
would put patients and state employees at risk of federal prosecution.

Boyd said the ACLU would battle the trend, which has also surfaced in 
Alaska and Hawaii, other states that have legalized medicinal pot.

"If Governor Schwarzenegger does not reinstitute the medical 
marijuana card program, we will take him to court and force him to do 
it," Boyd told the cheering crowd at City Hall.

WAMM is also pursuing another legal argument: that the right to 
alleviate pain is constitutionally guaranteed. Prominent attorney 
Gerald Uelmen, who teaches law at Santa Clara University, has joined 
WAMM's legal battle.

The September 2002 protest was triggered by a raid on WAMM's 
marijuana garden north of Davenport. About 30 Drug Enforcement 
Administration agents carrying M-16s cut down 167 plants, arresting 
the group's co-founders, Valerie and Michael Corral. But the U.S. 
Attorney's Office has never filed charges against them.

In April 2004, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose forbade 
any further federal raids on WAMM. It was that court protection that 
made it legal for the group's members to carry the marijuana plants 
through downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday, Valerie Corral said.

But the protection is expected to expire soon as a result of the 
Supreme Court's ruling in the Oakland case.

Because of fears that federal drug agents will once again raid their 
medicinal marijuana garden, WAMM will stop planting and will rely 
instead on marijuana donations, Corral said Saturday. She also said 
she and her husband feared federal prosecutors might finally decide 
to press charges in the 2002 case.
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