Medical Marijuana Advocates Protest DEA Raids in California
Medical marijuana advocates held rallies throughout California yesterday to protest recent raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration on medical marijuana cooperatives in the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The demonstrations, which were organized by the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, were held in San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Santa Ana. Several protests also were held in cities outside of California; another demonstration is scheduled today outside of City Hall in Santa Cruz. Advocates were protesting DEA raids that occurred earlier this month in Sebastopol and Santa Cruz. The Sept. 5 Santa Cruz raid, which targeted the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a cooperative run by Valerie and Mike Corral -- two medical marijuana advocates who helped draft Proposition 215, the 1996 state voter referendum that approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes -- "particularly angered" medical marijuana advocates and state officials, who had worked with the couple on ways to identify medical marijuana users and provide the drug for free (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17). Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) called the Santa Cruz raid a "waste of law enforcement resources, a cruel step against a group that represents slight danger to the public and a slap at the state's voters," USA Today reports. He also sent a letter to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General John Ashcroft stating that the California raids -- of which there have been eight total -- were "punitive expeditions" because they were carried out "without apparent regard for the likelihood of successful prosecution." No charges have been filed against the Corrals and several other medical marijuana producers who had their farms raided.
Hutchinson defended the raids, saying the DEA has a "responsibility" to enforce federal law despite the approval of Prop. 215. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that medical necessity could not be used as a defense for violation of federal drug laws, which prohibit the use or possession of marijuana. DEA spokesperson Chris Battle said the agency has been particularly vigilant in California because Prop. 215 is "loosely worded and open to abuse"; it does not specify how much marijuana patients can grow and possess at any given time. Gerald Uelmen, a Santa Clara University law professor who represents WAMM, said that if federal law enforcement officials pursue the case against the group, it could provide medical marijuana advocates with the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the raids. Although the Supreme Court ruling says that medical necessity is not a valid defense against federal charges of marijuana possession, the justices did not rule on states' rights to legalize medical marijuana under the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers not granted to the federal government, such as the regulation of medical practices, to the states, Uelmen said (Ritter, USA Today, 9/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.