Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jul 2005
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Nancy Pasternack
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


S.C. Mayor Declares July 16 Medical Marijuana Day

SANTA CRUZ -- It was short on floats and balloons. But Saturday's 
downtown procession of medical marijuana users and their supporters 
was long on clarity.

Several hundred members and friends of the Wo/Men's Alliance for 
Medical Marijuana rode in wheelchairs or walked slowly up Pacific 
Avenue, most of them holding signs with headshot photos of deceased 
loved ones who had counted on relief from medical marijuana during 
their final months or years.

Some held or wore cannabis plants.

In the wake of a June 6 Supreme Court ruling that has called into 
question the authority of individual states to employ their own 
medical marijuana laws, advocates for the beleaguered Santa Cruz 
cooperative have redoubled efforts to differentiate themselves from 
recreational drug users, and to promote legal access to what they 
feel is a medically useful, and in some cases, necessary drug.

Rick Steeb of San Jose joined the throngs Saturday in their march 
toward Santa Cruz City Hall. Steeb said he has been using medical 
marijuana for the last four years. The drug, he said, does much to 
mitigate pressure and pain in his eyes, and to alleviate his insomnia.

"I'm concerned about the providers," he said of Valerie and Michael 
Corral -- founders of WAMM -- and other cooperative marijuana growers.

"They have so many terminally ill patients who absolutely depend on 
the relief these drugs provide," Steeb said.t 	 If the Supreme Court 
ruling were to result in federal crackdowns on growers, "I would have 
to seek the drug out on the street," he said.

Stephanie Sakasai's sign bore a black-and-white shot of her best 
friend Chelene Cook, who died in 1996 of brain cancer. Cook had been 
supplied with drugs from WAMM in the months before her death, and, 
according to Sakasai, had benefited a great deal from them.

"I know it was because of it that she lived as long as she did," said Sakasai.

Participants in the noon hour's quiet, somber parade settled in the 
courtyard of City Hall to hear from elected officials, and local and 
regional medical marijuana advocates.

Cheers rang out in the City Hall courtyard when City Councilmember 
Cynthia Matthews read aloud from a proclamation signed by Santa Cruz 
Mayor Mike Rotkin, who was not present Saturday. The statement 
declared July 16th "Medical Marijuana Day."

Allen Hopper, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties 
Union's drug law reform division, compared acts of civil disobedience 
on behalf of medical marijuana with acts that led to the 1954 U.S. 
Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.

The ACLU drug law reform division headquarters is in Santa Cruz.

"People have stood up and said, 'we're not going to take this 
anymore,'" Hopper said of Saturday's parade and rally.

The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which rendered 
segregated schools unconstitutional, wouldn't have stood a chance 
politically, he said, except for the social movement behind it.

Several blocks away from the rhetoric, Santa Cruz Police Lt. Mark 
Sanders spoke by telephone about medical versus recreational use of 
marijuana as a practical, law enforcement matter.

"We have guidelines, but they get evaluated on a case-by-case basis," 
he said. The difference between what is currently considered legal 
and illegal possession, he said, "is frequently very blurry and very 
difficult to judge."
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