US: Federal court could allow city to create medical marijuana shop
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Friday 23 Jun 2006
Federal court could allow city to create medical marijuana shop
SANTA CRUZ — A federal judge will decide if medical marijuana patients
and a proposed city-owned dispensary should be protected from federal
American Civil Liberties Union attorneys and other lawyers presented
arguments to a San Jose federal court Friday in a case aimed at forcing
the U.S. government to recognize California's 10-year-old medical
marijuana law and to allow Santa Cruz to establish an Office of
Compassionate Use — the nation's first government-owned medical pot shop.
The lawsuit against U.S. 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.
No decision was made Friday by federal Judge Jeremy Fogel. His verdict
could come in 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."
City leaders 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
The city's effort to form a compassionate-use office tests the state's
right to enact the medical marijuana law that voters passed in 1996,
Proposition 215, which allows some patients to use marijuana. Santa Cruz
aims to provide the drug to qualified patients at a reasonable price,
proponents say, in a safe environment.
"If it were legal we might contract with Longs pharmacy," Councilman
Mike Rotkin said. "They provide morphine, why not marijuana? This is not
a recreational issue, and we wish the government would see that."
Marijuana co-op founders Mike and Val Corral were taken to federal
holding cells in San Jose after the raid in 2002 and released later that
They contend some patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or
treatment for HIV and AIDS, should be able to use marijuana to ease
pain, reduce nausea and stimulate appetite.
"If people are dying, they have enough to worry about," Mike Corral
said. "This case is really important for America in general. It has far
reaching and broad impacts for life in America."
The federal government has been steadfast in viewing marijuana as a
dangerous and illegal drug, and has challenged its use and distribution,
shutting down medical co-ops and confiscating marijuana.
In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana users
can be prosecuted by the federal government.