Pubdate: Sun, 11 Sep 2005
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Nancy Pasternack
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Serious And Not-So-Serious Issues Highlight Local Pot Club's Festival

SANTA CRUZ - He's smoked pot since he was 14.

Eighty-four-year-old George Van Vlaenderen's early experiences with 
marijuana were in the mid-1930s, before its use was prohibited by federal law.

Now, smoking the drug relieves eye pressure caused by his cataracts, the 
World War II veteran Navy pilot said.

He stood in the sunshine near a members-only smoking tent at the Wo/Men's 
Alliance for Medical Marijuana gathering Saturday and shared his thoughts.

Those who could legalize the drug, he said, have a vested interest in 
keeping marijuana illegal.

Allowing people to use products of the cannabis plant legally, he said, 
"would eliminate the need for a lot of prescription drugs."

"They'll do everything in their power to make sure it's not legal," Van 
Vlaenderen said, "because it would cost them millions of dollars .. they're 
scared like hell."

In spite of his jaunty beret and ready smile, the WAMM member's perspective 
represented more serious aspects of WAMMFest.

Beyond the cemetery of paper gravestones set up by the festival's 
organizers to represent deceased members, less grave aspects of the 
festival were in evidence.

"Get laid by a WAMM member: only $5" read a sign advertising Hawaiian-style 
leis of strung plastic cannabis leaves.

And a dreadlocked Homer Simpson toking from a bong graced the front of a 
tie-dyed "original art" shirt hawked by Jerry Converse. "Ahh, bong hits," 
the shirt reads.

Another shirt features Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbs) smoking a large 
marijuana cigarette.

"But on the back," Converse said, picking up the garment and showing it 
off, "he turns into spaceman Spliff on a giant Rastafarian joint planet."

WAMM co-founder Valerie Corral dismisses purely recreational users who try 
to associate themselves with her group.

More pressing issues are at hand, she said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court did away with protections for 
marijuana cooperatives. Drug Enforcement Agency raids are a reality once again.

But eventually, she said, medical necessity will overcome politics.

"Everybody faces death - we're all future skulls," she said. And keeping 
marijuana illegal "hasn't saved or extended a single life."

WAMM member Diana Poppay, 48, emerges from the smoking tent. The mother of 
two said she has suffered with multiple sclerosis since 1975, and that 
medical marijuana's effects have helped relieve pain, stop her muscle 
spasms and it allows her to eat and sleep in peace.

She said she's thankful for the pure, organic drugs she gets through 
Corral's cooperative. She doesn't trust other sources of marijuana.

"On the street," she said, "you don't know what they're doing with that stuff."

Corral said she welcomes government scrutiny.

"If (government officials) watch us closely enough, they'll fall in love 
with WAMM," she said. "We're going to charm the DEA."
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