Pubdate: Thu, 27 Nov 2008
Source: City on a Hill Press (UC Santa Cruz, CA, Edu)
Copyright: 2008 City on a Hill Press
Author: April Short
Cited: Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana


Buddhist prayer flags lined the walls and a German shepherd slept at
the foot of a mint-green couch as Valerie Leveroni Corral considered
life and loss from her office chair.

She spoke about the impending loss of a home and garden that has
provided medicine to the sick for over 15 years as she discussed the
impact her work as co-founder of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical
Marijuana (WAMM) has had on her life.

"The best thing about WAMM is this community of heroes. We are
courageous and generous and wacky," Corral said. "We're everything. We
see each other's frailties and each other's strengths. And during the
hardships, and the hardest thing of all - death and illness - we still
manage to find the way to survive."

WAMM, a local nonprofit organization that has provided free medical
marijuana to the terminally ill since 1993, faces possible extinction.
Corral, and separated husband and WAMM co-founder Michael Corral, face
the loss of the land on which WAMM's marijuana plants grow.

Due to a combination of legal blows, the Corrals are fighting to keep
WAMM afloat. A lawsuit following federal Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) raids on WAMM's garden, complications with
inheritance of the property upon the death of their land partner, and
the inability to qualify for a loan may seal the fate of WAMM.

"We are constantly chasing money instead of chasing the integrity of
our efforts. It turns into this kind of financial dance," Corral said.

She said that because of generous checks that arrived by mail from
WAMM supporters, the organization will be able to survive December.

Corral continues to hope for a miracle.

"I'm still hoping that there might be an investor or a philanthropist
who might see a possibility - something that we could build on."

Ben Rice has been WAMM's lawyer for 15 years and a friend of the
Corrals for more than 20.

Rice says that what crippled WAMM financially was the raid on its
plants and property in 2002 by the federal government.

"Because the government did that to WAMM, they have never been able to
regain their financial footing," Rice said. "It's always hard for a
nonprofit collection that's based on the goodness and passion of
people like Val and Mike to sustain itself, but WAMM had been able to
do it for a number of years. It was [the DEA] taking that much of
their medicine - roughly a year to two-year supply - which forced WAMM
to turn to other methods of getting their medicine to people. It
really set them back and also caused a lot of health issues for people."

In response to the DEA raid, WAMM filed a lawsuit against the federal
government. Six years later, the lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana to seriously ill
patients, was passed in California in 1996 by a 56-percent yes vote.

Emily Reilly, a former mayor of Santa Cruz and member of the Santa
Cruz City Council, expressed her sadness.

"The loss of the WAMM land is really a sad day for this community,"
Reilly said. "It's sad for WAMM but especially for this community, and
this country really. The fact that we're just not able to have some
logic and compassion over this issue is really shameful. Medical
marijuana has never been about the illegal use of recreational drugs -
it's about having compassion for sick and dying people. That's all
Mike and Val have ever been focused on and it's a loss for us all."

Corral acknowledged the support Santa Cruz has provided WAMM over the

"We live in the most amazing community," she said. "We have really
been alive and survived this long because of Santa Cruz and the people
that live here. Because of our City Council, our Board of Supervisors
and also because of community members, our attorneys . the support has
been just overwhelming and amazing."

Corral and WAMM recently became involved with a nonprofit program
called Raha Kudo, the Design for Dying Program.

"It is designed to take care of people when they are dying and to keep
people at home - whatever they choose, however they choose it," Corral

Regardless of the situation regarding WAMM's garden, Corral said Raha
Kudo (Persian for "the pathway to heaven") would continue.

Corral recently wrote an article about a Raha Kudo patient and friend
named Laura Huxley in which she described Raha Kudo.

"[The article is] a snapshot into the way a person designs their own
death," Corral said. "I talk with a lot of people about dancing with
death - about kind of entering into a courtship with death, so that
people are not so afraid of this 'grim reaper' thing."

"Death is so natural," she continued. "It's what happens to everybody.
We're talking about it differently. What's important about [Raha Kudo]
is that we can engage with one another, be there at people's deaths.
And I'm often at people's bedsides."

Corral said her work with WAMM has provided her a perspective on

"A great thing about WAMM is living with a constant reminder of the
uncertainty of life, because it's so uncertain," Corral said. "I've
learned so much to trust that in the unfolding of our lives, the most
remarkable things can happen if we don't stay fixed on some single
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin