Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jan 2008
Source: Daily Californian, The (UC Berkeley, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Californian
Author: Jane Shin
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Berkeley City Council members unanimously approved a resolution last 
night to declare Berkeley a sanctuary for medicinal marijuana in the 
event of federal interference with dispensaries.

The resolution, which was received with overwhelming support and 
applause from the audience, opposes attempts by the Drug Enforcement 
Administration to conduct raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in 
Berkeley, and urges city, county and state departments to not 
cooperate in the event that a raid occurs.

By claiming itself as a sanctuary, Berkeley have committed to 
ensuring that residents are provided access to medicinal marijuana if 
dispensaries in the city are shut down.

"It's frightening when I go to a dispensary," said Berkeley resident 
Patricia Crossman, who said she has been using medical marijuana for 
more than ten years.  "There's that fear we're going to be raided. 
.. We musn't penalize everyone because of this."

Proposition 215, which passed in 1996, legalizes marijuana usage for 
medicinal purposes in California.

The proposition had overwhelming local support, with 85 percent of 
Berkeley voters approving the measure, Councilmember Darryl Moore said.

Federal law, however, states that any use, cultivation or 
distribution of marijuana is a federal violation.

In the case of a raid, the Berkeley Police Department will not 
cooperate with the DEA, a pre-existing policy.  However, if there is 
an emergency in which lives are in danger, the police department 
would provide safety enforcement, said Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

An increase in the use of medicinal marijuana as a recreational drug 
and for sale has been noticed, which can welcome violence and crime 
into neighborhoods, said DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry.

But advocates of medicinal marijuana say it is a treatment that 
patients rely on.

"This is really about the health and safety (of patients)," said 
Angel Raich, an Oakland resident and medicinal marijuana proponent. 
"This is about saving lives."

Some advocates also argued that a surge of federal interferences 
nationwide made it important for the resolution to be passed and 
declared immediately.

In July 2007, the assets of a Berkeley cannabis club were frozen 
following a series of federal raids on Los Angeles County medical 
marijuana dispensaries.

"It's more extremely necessary now because of the surge to interfere 
with state law," said Becky DeKeuster, community liaison for Berkeley 
Patients Group, a local dispensary.

Supporters said they were happy about the enthusiastic support by the 
City Council and said they wanted the resolution to be a model to other cities.

"At least in Berkeley, patients can be safe," Raich said. "If any 
dispensaries close, we won't have to go to the local corner drug 
dealer to get medicine." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake