Friday, September 13, 2002 9:46 a.m. EDT
SANTA CRUZ, Calif.
Santa Cruz city leaders plan to take part in a public pot giveaway next week to protest a recent federal raid of a medicinal marijuana cooperative that served mostly terminally ill members.
City Councilman Ed Porter said on Thursday he wants to show solidarity with residents in the beach community located some 70 miles south of San Francisco who are outraged at the federal raid last week that occurred without the support or knowledge of local officials.
Federal agents also arrested the cooperative's owners Michael and Valerie Corral, who were instrumental in drafting the trailblazing 1996 California law that allowed patients and their care-givers to grow marijuana for their own medicine.
"Terminally ill people are being denied the use of marijuana even though they have prescriptions because the Feds came in here and make a bust," Porter said. "I wouldn't be surprised if most of the city council participates because the whole community is up in arms about this."
The event, which is not sponsored by the city, is expected to take place outside City Hall on Tuesday. Those wishing to pick up marijuana will need to show a prescription for the drug which is legal in California for medical use, Porter said.
Richard Meyer, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said he was "appalled" by the plan but declined to detail whether federal agents would be at the event to make arrests.
"We are in shock, we are appalled and dismayed that elected officials would flaunt a federal law that way," Meyer said. "To us it is saying in Santa Cruz you are only entitled to obey the laws you agree with."
California is one of nine U.S. states where voters have passed laws allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from illnesses ranging from AIDS and cancer to glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
Federal law enforcement authorities, however, have taken a far more severe view of medical marijuana than their local counterparts in the nation's most populous state and have recently been cracking down on the patient clubs.
The U.S. medical marijuana movement, which gained strength in California during the height of the AIDS epidemic, also received a setback in 2001 when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the federal ban on marijuana.
But California's own state Supreme Court recently took an opposite tack,
ruling for the first time that ailing Californians who use or grow marijuana
with a physician's approval cannot be prosecuted in state courts -- currently
the venue for most marijuana cases.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited