More MS news articles for July 2000

Judge Clears Way for Pot Club

Group Cleared to Distribute Medical Marijuana

By Michelle Locke
The Associated Press

O A K L A N D, Calif., July 18 - As activists praise a federal judge's decision clearing the way for an Oakland club to distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes, Wayne Johnson hopes it will help him avoid the risk of buying it on the street.

"I really appreciate it," said Johnson, who suffers from chronic back pain.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Monday modified a 1998 order forbidding marijuana sales at the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, saying the government hasn't proven why seriously ill patients should be denied the drug.

"It's a historic day," said Jeff Jones, executive director of the co-op.

John Entwhistle, spokesman for the group that wrote Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot measure authorizing medical marijuana, called the decision a beginning. "We think at least the feds are starting to recognize the strength and reality of the medical necessity of using marijuana as medicine, at least for certain conditions."

Justice Department spokeswoman Gretchen Michael said officials are reviewing the decision.

Other States Have Similar Measures

It is the latest development in a years-old conflict between federal drug regulations and Proposition 215, which has been tangled up in court since California voters approved it.

Jane Weirick, of San Francisco, displays her medical marijuana card at a media conference, July 14, in San Francisco. The cards allow the bearer use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. (AP Photo)

The state initiative allows seriously ill patients to grow and use marijuana for pain relief, with a doctor's recommendation, without being prosecuted under state law. But federal law says marijuana has no medical purpose and cannot be administered safely under medical supervision.

Similar measures have passed in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

In allowing the Oakland club to operate, Breyer modified an injunction he issued in 1998 that shut down that club and five others. He noted that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered him to consider an exemption for patients who face imminent harm and have no effective legal alternative to marijuana. The Oakland club was the only one that had appealed.

Johnson, 48, was at the club's storefront headquarters Monday afternoon to buy rolling papers. He has been using marijuana to alleviate pain from a back injury following a car accident.

When the club closed, he tried to get friends to buy it for him. When they balked, he went out himself, but never got used to buying on the street.

"This helps a lot of people," he said.