City of Santa Cruz may open medical marijuana dispensary

June 25, 2006

, Associated Press

A federal judge could allow the city to create a medical marijuana dispensary.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys argued in U.S. District Court that medical marijuana patients and a proposed city-owned pot dispensary should be protected from federal prosecution.

Efforts to open such a dispensary in north San Luis Obispo County have been unsuccessful thus far, but Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers did open one in April in Morro Bay.

The suit is designed to force federal government recognition of California’s 10-year-old medical marijuana law and to allow Santa Cruz to establish an Office of Compassionate Use.

It will be the nation’s first government-owned medical pot shop.

The suit against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Drug Enforcement Administration began after a federal raid of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in 2002. The case since has grown to include the city and county of Santa Cruz.

Justice Department attorney Mark Quinlevin asked the court to dismiss the case, which would leave the state’s medical marijuana law intact but leave users and providers vulnerable to arrest by federal agents.

A decision by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose could take several months to a year.

"The federal government seeks to limit access to medical marijuana," said Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "The government needs to accept that, at least for some people, this is the only medicine keeping them alive."

Santa Cruz officials voted in October to create a new department to distribute marijuana to seriously ill patients, but only if the federal government guaranteed the operation would be allowed to run without federal interference.

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