Medical Marijuana Cooperative Files Motion To Request Return of Marijuana Plants Seized in Federal Raid
The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana yesterday filed suit in federal court to request the return of 167 medical marijuana plants seized in a raid by federal agents earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gaura, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25). The motion states that the medical marijuana seized by federal agents "is not contraband because its cultivation and use was authorized by state law" (Cooper, Sacramento Bee, 9/25). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS can use medical marijuana to treat pain, and the state Supreme Court last month ruled that residents who cultivate or use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation are protected from state prosecution under the law. On Sept. 5, federal agents raided Wo/Men's Alliance, a medical marijuana cooperative in Santa Cruz administered by Valerie and Mike Corral, two medical marijuana advocates who helped draft Proposition 215 (California Healthline, 9/12). The federal raid raised criticism from medical marijuana advocates and state officials, who had worked with the couple on proposals to identify medical marijuana users and to provide the treatment at no cost (California Healthline, 9/17).
The motion cites two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that upheld states' rights under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. In the decisions, the court ruled that Congress does not have the power to interfere with "noneconomic activities or those confined within a state's borders." The Wo/Men's Alliance provides medical marijuana at no cost to 250 individuals who qualify to receive the treatment (Sacramento Bee, 9/25). According to the motion, the cooperative does not transport medical marijuana across state lines, and "no money is exchanged" in the distribution of the treatment. As a result, the motion argues that state law should take precedence over federal law on the issue (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as illegal, contains no exception for individuals with illnesses (California Healthline, 5/14/01). However, the court did not address the issue of states' rights in the decision. Richard Meyer, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the federal government will "fight the motion 'tooth and nail'" (Sacramento Bee, 9/25). The federal government "will not be returning any marijuana to anybody," Meyer said, adding, "The job of the DEA is to seize drugs, and not to distribute them back into the community." A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court in San Jose (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25).
Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces on the debate over medical marijuana. Summaries of the articles appear below:
- Christopher Krohn, New York Times: Krohn, the Democratic mayor of Santa Cruz, which held a demonstration last week in support of medical marijuana distribution, writes in a Times opinion piece that the federal government "is fighting a losing battle" against medical marijuana because ballot initiatives to legalize the treatment have received "overwhelming approval" from voters. Medical marijuana serves as a "cost-effective way to treat people with chronic pain" and represents an "act of common sense and compassion," Krohn writes, concluding that the federal government should work with states to regulate medical marijuana distribution (Krohn, New York Times, 9/21).
- Ethan Nadelmann, Orange County Register: The DEA raid in Santa Cruz marked a "travesty of justice" that did "absolutely nothing to protect or improve" the health and safety of Americans, Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, writes in a Register opinion piece. Although two-thirds of U.S. residents support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, lawmakers and drug enforcement authorities who oppose medical marijuana "don't care" about public opinion because of their "crusade" to punish illicit drug users (Nadelmann, Orange County Register, 9/24).
Sacramento Bee: The DEA raids on medical marijuana collectives represent "unethical abuses of law enforcement power," a Bee editorial states. The editorial points out that no jury in California would convict the Corrals because the state has authorized the distribution of medical marijuana and that efforts to prosecute medical marijuana advocates and distributors detract from efforts to prevent the sale and distribution of illicit drugs such as heroin and methamphetamines (Sacramento Bee, 9/21).
- Gerald Uelmen, Los Angeles Times: Uelmen, an attorney for the Wo/Men's Alliance, states in a Times opinion piece that although the DEA has said the endorsement of medical marijuana will "create confusion" among children, the "best message to send to young people is the simple truth" that marijuana can relieve pain for individuals with chronic illnesses. "Even kids can understand the difference between recreational abuse of a substance and therapeutic use under the care of a physician," Uelmen concludes (Uelmen, Los Angeles Times, 9/25).