Let patients grow their own pakalolo

April 22, 2004

EDITORIAL, Honolulu Star Bulletin

ANOTHER court victory by patients seeking relief from pain by smoking marijuana has brought them closer to gaining legal access to the cannabis. While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the government's appeal of a ruling that forbids federal prosecution of patients using marijuana, a judge in California has temporarily blocked the government from raiding gardens where medicinal marijuana is grown. The ruling eventually should be made permanent and extend to Hawaii.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose follows a ruling by the 9th U.S.

Circuit Court of Appeals that federal agencies cannot prosecute medical marijuana users in states where it is legal. The appellate court's ruling is applicable in seven Western states, including California and Hawaii, that have legalized medical marijuana and are within the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction. The Justice Department appealed the 9th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court earlier this month.

Federal narcotics agents raided a marijuana farm operated by the 250-member Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz in September 2002, seizing 167 plants and arresting founders Valerie and Michael Corral. The collective sued the government, but Fogel refused in August to block further raids while the Wo/Men's Alliance case is pending.

Fogel agreed to impose such an order based on the 9th Circuit's December ruling forbidding federal prosecution of two Oakland users of medical marijuana as long as they grow their own or get it for free from other growers. The Supreme Court earlier last year upheld a 9th Circuit ruling that the federal government could not revoke prescription rights of physicians recommending marijuana for their patients.

Like the 1996 California law, a Hawaii statute allows patients with doctors' recommendations to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for their medical needs. However, many patients on Oahu don't know how to obtain seeds or how to cultivate it, or they don't have land on which to grow it, according to Thomas Mountain, who runs a cooperative of medical marijuana patients.

Fogel's decision is temporary and applies only to members of the Santa Cruz collective. However, if the Supreme Court upholds the appellate court ruling, the government would be remiss in trying to keep medical marijuana users from growing it in a garden operated by a collective of medical marijuana users.

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