U.S. Court hands setback to WAMM's fight for legal medical pot

August 31, 2007

Kurtis Alexander, Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)

A federal court ruling Thursday dashed hopes of local medical marijuana advocates seeking to keep the government out of their pot gardens.

In the case of Santa Cruz County v. Alberto Gonzales, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel granted the attorney general's motion to prevent a Santa Cruz marijuana cooperative and its supporters from suing the office to stop federal marijuana raids.

"Naturally, we're disappointed. I had hoped for something better," said Davenport resident Mike Corral, who owned the land where federal agents seized medical pot plants in September 2002, thrusting him, his wife and their collective into the five-year legal battle that's put the them at the center of California's medical marijuana debate.

The suit, filed on behalf of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the city of Santa Cruz and the county in 2003, contends that federal agents went too far in seizing 165 marijuana plants from Corral's plot. The suit cites the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996, which makes marijuana legal for medical purposes within the state.

The Attorney General's Office, though, has maintained that marijuana, no matter how it is used, is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, prompting the office to seek dismissal of the Santa Cruz County suit.

While dismissing the suit, Fogel's written decision left two of the county's claims:

  • The argument that medical necessity trumps federal drug laws;
  • A claim based on the 10th Amendment that states have say over marijuana, not the federal government.

Those points can be pursued further.

"The good news is we're still alive and still in court," said attorney Gerald Uelmen, a member of the county's legal team and professor of law at Santa Clara University.

The county's legal team says it will appeal the dismissal of their suit on grounds of the 10th Amendment and build a stronger case that the federal government underhandedly intervened in what should be the purview of the state.

Uelmen said the legal team would show the U.S. Justice Department was meeting and conspiring to stop states from allowing medical marijuana laws to succeed.

The Attorney General's Office, when reached Friday, had no comment on Fogel's decision or future litigation.

Neither Corral nor his wife Valerie were charged after the 2002 raid on their property.

Mike Corral declined to comment on the status of WAMM's garden. He did say, however, that the collective continues to cultivate and provide marijuana to about 170 patients.

Contact Kurtis Alexander at kalexander@santacruzsentinel.com.



Be the first to Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.