Medical-pot backers protest to feds

June 06, 2002

Brian Seals, Santa Cruz Sentinel ,

Medical marijuana proponents on Thursday protested increased action against pot clubs by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration during the past year.

As part of a nationwide protest, about 35 medical-marijuana users from Santa Cruz were among a group asking the agency to end enforcement against medical-marijuana clubs. Some 47 "cease and desist" requests were slid under the doors of DEA offices in San Jose, said Valerie Corral, executive director of WAMM, an area medical marijuana cooperative.

"Thats quite a few people willing to say their names out loud," Corral said by phone from a Dominican Hospital room, where a fellow medical user is on life support.

The protests were launched in 50 cities, according to the group Americans for Safe Access. A protest in San Francisco resulted in the arrests of six people for obstructing the entrance to a federal office.

Medical-marijuana patients say the increased federal enforcement is a strain on the morale for people living with painful and sometimes life-threatening illnesses.

"It feels like harassment pure and simple," said Suzanne Pfeil, a member of WAMM who suffers from post-polio syndrome. "They are harassing sick people."

Supporters say the federal government is not heeding the will of the people in states where medical-marijuana measures have passed at the ballot box. California approved medical use in 1996 under Proposition 215.

"Whatever happened to the democratic process?" Corral said.

While for the most part, local and state authorities have not cracked down on medical users, the DEA began raiding marijuana clubs and cooperatives last year. San Francisco DEA spokesman Richard Meyer said the agency is only doing what its is required to do under federal law.

"We are committed to doing our job, and our job is to enforce federal laws," Meyer said.

And what about the will of voters in states that have approved it?

"Thats for the politicians to resolve," Meyer said.

Last May the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that medical necessity is not a defense for possessing pot. Since then, there have been DEA raids on medical pot clubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, El Dorado County and, last month, in Santa Rosa.

Copyright © Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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