Advocate group began with wreck, court case

July 14, 2005

Brian Seals , Santa Cruz Sentinel

These days the Santa Cruz-based the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana is an icon of an organization in the world of medical pot.

That wasn’t always the case.

The group’s origins are linked to a couple of occurrences.

Back in 1973 co-founder Valerie Corral was in a car accident that left her epileptic and prone to seizures. Years of traditional therapy only put her in a stupor.

One day husband Mike, a WAMM co-founder, read an article in a medical journal about marijuana’s potential for relieving the type of seizures affecting Valerie.

Within a few years, she had eschewed traditional pharmaceuticals in favor of marijuana as treatment.

That set into motion the creation of WAMM, which predates California’s 1996 passage of Proposition 215, the ballot measure that allows medical marijuana use.

In the early 1990s, the Corrals were busted by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and state agents on marijuana charges. Charges against Valerie Corral were later dropped on a medical-necessity defense.

The seed was sown, so to speak, for a locally based movement.

Like-minded people banded together to form the cooperative that allows sick folks to share marijuana with each other.

Now, rather than persecution and prosecution by local authorities, the group goes about its core mission and, at times quite publicly, advocates for medical pot policies.

WAMM worked with the county on its medical marijuana identification card program as well as on guidelines on how much pot a qualified patient may possess and grow, for example.

Such community acceptance has not spread to the federal level, however.

In September 2002, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the cooperative’s Davenport garden, uprooting 167 plants and hauling the Corrals to jail.

They have yet to be charged in connection with the raid, which brought condemnation from city and county officials as well as U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Weeks later, a horde of national media descended on Santa Cruz to watch WAMM host a medical pot giveaway to about a dozen cooperative members on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall.

The Santa Cruz City Council went so far as to deputize the Corrals that year.

WAMM is now a party to two lawsuits. One aims to recover the pot that agents confiscated in 2002, a partly symbolic quest, as the stuff has likely lost potency by now.

Another suit seeks to bar future enforcement actions by the federal government, a lawsuit to which the city and county of Santa Cruz have signed on as plaintiffs.

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