MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Oakland Declares State Of Emergency
A day after the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative was shut down by a federal court ruling, the city council yesterday voted 5-4 to declare a "public health emergency." The council was concerned that terminally ill patients could be forced to buy pot "from street dealers" or "go without the pain- easing drug." The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the "council's action places Oakland at the forefront of the medical marijuana issue," as "the first city to use the emergency declaration, which is usually reserved for cases of disaster or extreme peril." Nate Miley, the council member who "led the call for the declaration," said of the vote, "What we do tonight will send a powerful message, both here and throughout the state and the world." The dissenting council members, however, said although they support the concept of medical marijuana, they do not think the club's closure merits emergency status, and worried the declaration could put the city at odds with the federal government. "To help a few I cannot expose the rest of the city to the impact of what we do tonight," said Ignacio De La Fuente.
The Chronicle reports that the city's action is "mostly symbolic," because it has no impact on the court order that allowed the club to be closed by federal drug enforcement officials. Club attorney Robert Raich, however, said the vote "underscores the seriousness of the situation" (Walker, 10/21). The AP/Sacramento Bee reports that one option the council has considered in the past involves "designating marijuana club officials as city agents" to circumvent federal prosecution. While that option was rejected in court, another would be "to designate city property for the harvesting of marijuana by patients with doctors' recommendations," according to Jeff Jones, director of the club (Lite, 10/21).