Santa Cruz, Calif., City Officials, Medical Marijuana Advocates Distribute Marijuana in Public Demonstration Outside City Hall
City officials from Santa Cruz, Calif., joined medical marijuana advocates Tuesday outside City Hall to distribute marijuana to patients who are authorized to receive the drug for medicinal purposes, the Los Angeles Times reports (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 9/18). Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, allows patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS to use medical marijuana to treat pain. The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in July that state residents who cultivate or use marijuana for medical purposes with a physician's recommendation are protected from state prosecution under Proposition 215 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/22). Santa Cruz Mayor Christopher Krohn, members of the Santa Cruz City Council and workers from the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana joined together Tuesday to "symbolically" distribute medical marijuana to approximately a dozen patients who are already allowed to receive the drug. The Times reports that the demonstration represented "a display of defiance triggered by a recent federal bust" of the Wo/Men's Alliance. Federal law prohibits the cultivation and use of marijuana for any purpose, and Richard Meyer, a spokesperson for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said he was "dismayed" by the city's demonstration. "[F]ederal law supersedes state law, and under federal law, marijuana is illegal. Drugs are not something to joke about, especially the city-sanctioned distribution of marijuana," Meyer said (Los Angeles Times, 9/18). But proponents of medical marijuana at the Santa Cruz rally said that their goal is not the legalization of marijuana, but the permission to distribute "a medicinal herb." City officials stated Tuesday that they will continue to "deliver marijuana to the sick and dying" in spite of federal efforts to prohibit medical marijuana distribution (Booth, Washington Post, 9/18). "We are not California wackos. We are trailblazers. We are normal. This is not an attempt to embarrass the DEA but rather a compassionate gathering in support of sick people who need their medicine," Krohn said (LeDuff/Liptak, New York Times, 9/18). Medical marijuana advocates on Monday held rallies throughout California to protest recent DEA raids on medical marijuana cooperatives in the state (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17).
NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday reported on the distribution of medical marijuana in Santa Cruz (Gonzales, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/17). The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online. NPR's "Morning Edition" today also reported on the debate in Santa Cruz (Gonzales, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/18). The full segment will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET.
Medical Marijuana on Ballot in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., officials said yesterday that a petition calling for a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes had garnered enough signatures to be placed on the Nov. 5 ballot, but they added that a pending court case could keep the measure off the ballot, the Washington Times reports. A ballot initiative on medical marijuana was placed on the city's ballot in 1998, but an amendment to the 1999 federal appropriations bill for Washington, D.C., barred the city from tabulating the results of the referendum. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project filed suit against the District and federal governments on the grounds that the amendment was unconstitutional, and in March the U.S. District Court for D.C. agreed with the organization. The U.S. Department of Justice has appealed that ruling, and the District elections board said that it must await the outcome of the appeal before the current referendum can be placed on the ballot. Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the District elections board, said that if the Justice Department wins its appeal, the initiative will not be allowed on the ballot. A ruling on the case is expected by Sept. 25, and the elections board has until early October to begin printing the ballots (Taylor, Washington Times, 9/18).
Washington Marijuana Growers Concerned Over U.S. Attorney Letter
Medical marijuana advocates are concerned that Washington's federal prosecutor has altered his stance on the drug from a "policy of tolerance to a willingness to fight" allowances for the drug after four Bremerton, Wash., medical marijuana growers last month received a letter from U.S. Attorney John McKay "promising federal prosecution" no matter how much marijuana they are growing, the Seattle Times reports. Residents of the state in 1998 "overwhelmingly" passed an initiative that allows the possession and use of marijuana by people with cancer, HIV, glaucoma and other terminal or debilitating illnesses. Supporters of the state initiative allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes believe the letter to the four Bremerton men could "set the stage" for raids similar to the recent "pot-club busts" in California. "I'm afraid they'll do anything they can to interrupt this movement," Dr. Rob Killian, a Seattle family practitioner who was the "architect" of the state's medical marijuana law, said, adding, "That would mean even going after physicians who have the temerity to discuss this with patients, and people who assist patients finding this drug." The Bremerton men, two of whom have AIDS and one of whom, Monte Levine, has a fatal liver disease, are continuing to grow marijuana despite the possibility of federal action against them. Levine said, "We're Americans standing up for our rights, and if they want to imprison sick people, so be it" (Ith/Ostrom, Seattle Times, 9/16).