Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer,
City leaders plan to join medical marijuana users at a pot giveaway at City Hall next week. Their goal is to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome. The invitation comes one week after agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested the high-profile owners of a pot farm and confiscated 130 plants that had been grown to be used as medicine.
'It's just absolutely loathsome to me that federal money, energy and staff time would be used to harass people like this,' said vice mayor Emily Reilly, who with several colleagues on the City Council plans to help pass out medical marijuana to sick people from the garden-like courtyard at City Hall next Tuesday. City Attorney John Barisone said that although the City Council did pass a resolution denouncing the raid, there is no official city sponsorship of the event, but that council members and medical marijuana advocates are acting on their own accord in a public space. DEA spokesman Richard Meyer was surprised at the plan. 'Are you serious? That's illegal. It's like they're flouting federal law,' he said. 'I'm shocked that city leaders would promote the use of marijuana that way. What is that saying to our youth?' On Thursday, federal agents - acting without support from state and local law enforcement - raided a small pot farm located on a quiet coastal road about 55 miles south of San Francisco, arresting the owners - Valerie and Michael Corral. The couple, leading activists for medical marijuana, have not been indicted. Their attorney, Ben Rice, said he was informed by the DEA that the U.S. attorney has declined to prosecute the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said she could not comment on the case, and DEA spokesman Meyer said his agency isn't involved in decisions on whether to prosecute. State law in California, as well as Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, allows marijuana to be grown and distributed to people with a doctor's prescription. Federal law, on the other hand, prohibits marijuana use under any circumstances. California medical marijuana growers and distributors work closely with local law enforcement, and are quite open about their programs. In fact, the farm raided Thursday morning by DEA agents had been featured in national media, and the program is listed in the local telephone book. But in recent months, federal agents - working strictly without local support - have been busting pot clubs and farms in Northern California. 'The DEA has gone too far with these cruel and utterly pointless actions,' said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. 'The courage of the Santa Cruz City Council and the growing anger in Congress are signs of a genuine grassroots rebellion all across this country that will put an end to these attacks on the sick and vulnerable.' In 1992, 77 percent of Santa Cruz voters approved a measure ending the medical prohibition of marijuana. Four years later, state voters- including 74 percent of those in Santa Cruz - approved Proposition 215, allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes. And then again, in 2000, the city council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana to be grown and used without a prescription. Source: Associated Press Author: Martha Mendoza, AP National Writer Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Associated Press