California Medicinal Marijuana Supporters Launch Hunger Strike Outside Former Buyers’ Club in West Hollywood
California medical marijuana activists yesterday began an "open-ended hunger strike and encampment" at the West Hollywood Los Angeles Cannabis Resources Center, which supplied marijuana to people with chronic health problems including HIV until it was shut down in October by federal agents, the Los Angeles Times reports. The activists, some of whom are AIDS patients, are protesting federal authorities who last week filed "forfeiture action" against the center (Reich, Los Angeles Times, 6/6). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2001 in a 8-0 decision that marijuana -- even for medicinal purposes -- was illegal, effectively "invalidat[ing]" California's Proposition 215, a voter initiative that approved the sale of small amounts of the drug for medicinal purposes. The Drug Enforcement Administration in the October raid "uproot[ed]" 400 marijuana plants, removed growing equipment and seized computer files that contained the names and medical records of the center's 960 clients (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/30/01). A federal jury will decide if the government can seize the $780,000 property. Those participating in the fast said that the forfeiture was "intended by the government to harass marijuana supporters without risking a definitive setback in court." A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County U.S. Attorney's Office said he was "not prepared to discuss the ... strategy" behind the government's decision (Los Angeles Times, 6/6).
'Cease and Desist'
The recent closures of medical marijuana cooperatives in California are forcing "sick people ... to turn to street sources [for the drug], or simply suffer," Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, writes in an Arizona Republic opinion piece. Patients with AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses are delivering "cease and desist" orders to DEA offices across the country today, asking the agency to stop blocking access to "needed medication." Weil says, "As a physician, I am frustrated that I cannot prescribe marijuana for patients who might benefit from it. At the very least I would like to be able to refer them to a safe, reliable, quality-controlled source." Weil concludes, "So it comes to this: Desperately ill people, their friends, families and loved ones, standing outside DEA offices, pleading with their government not to deprive them of medicine that relieves their suffering. It should never have been necessary, and one can only hope that the administration and Congress will listen" (Weil, Arizona Republic, 6/6).