Protestors decry medical marijuana raids

June 05, 2002

Jen Christensen, / Network

Ten protesters wanting national legalization for the medical use of marijuana, which counters some side effects of anti-AIDS drugs, were arrested on Thursday for chaining themselves to the Justice Department's front door.

"It was incredible," said Krissy Oechslin, who was at the department protesting. "People were chanting 'cease and desist' and 'stop arresting patients.' Police kept moving us back and then eventually they carried away or dragged the people who wouldn't move back into the paddy wagons. "

Many AIDS and cancer patients use medical marijuana to deal with nausea associated with some of the treatments they must take.

The protest was a part of a nationwide pre-emptive strike against a possible negative ruling on medical use of marijuana in the U.S. District Court in northern California. The court could decide as early as Friday that it's illegal under federal law to distribute medical marijuana.

Similar protests in other U.S. cities were also scheduled for Thursday.

"We've done a search of the legal records and so far, the feds haven't been arresting small-time distributors and patients," said Robert Kampia, the director of the Marijuana Policy Project who planned the protests. "But if they rule against us, this may give the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration) the go-ahead to raid more clinics."

Bruce Mirken, director of communications with Marijuana Policy Project, was one of the protesters arrested. He wasn't available for an interview from jail, but Kampia said Mirken was protesting on behalf of a friend who has AIDS.

"Marijuana has really helped her deal with the more painful symptoms of the anti-virals she must take to survive," said Kampia. "But she can't get it anymore. The clinic she used in West Hollywood was shut down in one of these raids."

Michael Cover, director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a health organization serving the gay and lesbian community in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, said it was important to keep the medical use of marijuana available as one option for AIDS patients.

"We support the valid use of physician-supervised medical marijuana, particularly with problems associated with nausea and now, to a lesser extent, with AIDS wasting syndrome; for some people that's what really works," Cover told the / Network.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in eight states. It is not legal in the District of Columbia, where Congress stopped a referendum voters had overwhelmingly supported for legalization.

Organizations involved in Thursday's protests said they will work on both the state and federal level to make medical marijuana available to more
people, and they will continue protesting.

"With protests like these, we are trying to highlight the injustice of the Justice Department," said Kampia. "The DEA is wasting taxpayers' money busting these clinics. The Justice Department should use our limited
taxpayer dollars to fight terrorism. Don't waste our money arresting cancer patients; this just doesn't make sense."

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