Providing medical pot worth the risk, pair say

April 21, 2006

Elizabeth Hume, Sacramento Bee

Two women who run a Sacramento medical marijuana dispensary said Friday they are willing to go to prison if it means helping patients who seek cannabis as an alternative medication.

"We took that risk a long time ago," said Desiree Mott, 23, outside 2020 16th St. Mott and her business partner, Janelle Daffron, 27, appeared at a news conference to publicize their views.

A small sign on the door identifies the store as Awakenings: Books, Stones and More. In back is the dispensary, called Capital Alternatives, which Mott said has been open for six years.

"We're here to help people. Our rights were taken away," Daffron said.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents entered the downtown store Wednesday with guns drawn. Agents also served warrants at Daffron's North Highlands home and at Mott's Citrus Heights home.

Authorities seized 22 pounds of marijuana, $48,700 in cash, a computer, scales and patient records from the store, said Gordon Taylor, assistant special agent in charge of the Sacramento DEA office. An additional $4,000 was seized from Daffron's home, he said.

The raid highlighted the continuing debate over medical marijuana. Eleven states have legalized its use. California voters approved the use of medical marijuana under Proposition 215 in 1996.

"It's the cities and counties that are on the line," said Ruthann Ziegler, a senior attorney for the law firm Meyers Nave, which represents 28 cities in California. "There's a difference in interpretation of whether cities may allow the use or must allow the use of medical marijuana."

Communities have struggled with how to respond to the law. Several cities in Placer County - including Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Lincoln - have banned the shops.

Other cities, such as San Francisco and Oakland, have allowed marijuana shops to operate, with restrictions.

Other cities have followed another path. Sacramento does not prohibit medical marijuana stores, but under the city's zoning code, medical marijuana dispensaries are not considered an "authorized use of property," city officials said.

The federal government has prohibited marijuana sales for medical purposes and takes an active stance against them. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory Thursday stating there is no scientific evidence proving marijuana's medical benefits.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that state laws do not trump federal authority to prosecute marijuana users.

Daffron and Mott's store reopened Thursday. They said they have no plans to shut down.

"As of right now, our doors are open," Mott said.

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