Local Medical Marijuana Campaign Targets Congress

November 20, 2003

Josh Richman, Staff Writer, Oakland Tribune

Medical marijuana activists are trying to hit four Congressmen where they live, contacting their constituents to blast their voting record with phone messages recorded by two Bay Area women. Registered voters in the districts of Wally Herger, R-Marysville; Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley; Joe Baca, D-Rialto; and David Wu, D-Oregon, began receiving phone calls Thursday morning that told them the lawmakers had voted against a bipartisan amendment to cut off funding for federal raids on California's and Oregon's medical marijuana providers and patients. The amendment was defeated July 23 on a 273-152 vote. The recorded messages are from Angel McClary Raich -- an Oakland patient now suing the federal government to halt the raids that she says are depriving her and others of medicine they need to survive -- and Marney Craig of Novato -- a juror who says she was 'duped' into convicting Oakland marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal this year by a federal justice system that didn't let all the facts be heard. Raich's message in part says, 'I'm a medical marijuana patient, and your Congressman ... is threatening my life. My weight has dropped to 98 pounds, and my doctor says that marijuana is keeping me alive. But even though it's legal in California, Congressman ... is supporting the federal government's war on patients like me.' And Craig's message, in part, says, 'I was one of the jurors in a medical marijuana trial and we were hoodwinked by the federal prosecutors... 'Your Congressman ... had a chance to end this federal deception but he voted to let it continue.' The campaign is being mounted by Berkeley-based Americans for Safe Access; director Steph Sherer said it will cost under $100,000 raised from among the group's membership to reach more than 600,000 voters. 'The issue is gaining momentum,' she said Thursday. 'This is about compassion for the sick and dying.' California and Oregon are among 10 states with laws permitting medical use of marijuana, but federal law still bans the drug for all purposes. These four Congressmen incurred activists' wrath because the federal government has raided or arrested medical marijuana providers or patients in their districts, yet they voted against the bipartisan amendment to halt the raids. Sherer said this is, 'the beginning of a series of educational campaigns our coalition will be launching,' and her organization is developing further ads 'we hope we won't have to use' against these Congressmen if they remain unresponsive to the cause. Gallegly and Herger both said the activists are using the plight of the sick to advance the cause of marijuana legalization; both also noted that almost two-thirds of the House voted against this amendment. Gallegly said he doesn't believe his constituents will disagree. 'So far today we've been 'deluged' with five calls,' he said. 'Three of the calls said, 'Congressman, stay your course,' and the other two were confused as to what the message was.' Cameron Johnson, Wu's press secretary, said Wu 'supports providing Americans with all the medication they need. However, the direct use of marijuana is medically unnecessary and prone to abuse.' Baca's office didn't return a call seeking comment.

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