Medical Marijuana Cooperative Files Motion To Request Return of Marijuana Plants Seized in Federal Raid
The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana on Tuesday filed suit in federal court to request the return of 167 medical marijuana plants seized in a raid by federal agents earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gaura, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25). The motion states that the medical marijuana seized by federal agents "is not contraband because its cultivation and use was authorized by state law" (Cooper, Sacramento Bee, 9/25). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS can use medical marijuana to treat pain, and the state Supreme Court last month ruled that residents who cultivate or use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation are protected from state prosecution under the law. On Sept. 5, federal agents raided Wo/Men's Alliance, a medical marijuana cooperative in Santa Cruz administered by Valerie and Mike Corral, two medical marijuana advocates who helped draft Proposition 215. The federal raid raised criticism from medical marijuana advocates and state officials, who had worked with the couple on proposals to identify medical marijuana users and to provide the treatment at no cost (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/18).
States' Rights Issue
The motion cites two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that upheld states' rights under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. In the decisions, the court ruled that Congress does not have the power to interfere with "noneconomic activities or those confined within a state's borders." The Wo/Men's Alliance provides medical marijuana at no cost to 250 individuals who qualify to receive the treatment (Sacramento Bee, 9/25). According to the motion, the cooperative does not transport medical marijuana across state lines, and "no money is exchanged" in the distribution of the treatment. As a result, the motion argues that state law should take precedence over federal law on the issue (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as illegal, contains no exception for individuals with illnesses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/14/01). However, the court did not address the issue of states' rights in the decision. Richard Meyer, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the federal government will "fight the motion 'tooth and nail'" (Sacramento Bee, 9/25). The federal government "will not be returning any marijuana to anybody," Meyer said, adding, "The job of the DEA is to seize drugs, and not to distribute them back into the community." A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court in San Jose (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25).