MEDICAL MARIJUANA: ‘Summit’ Held In Sacramento, Feds Decline To Participate
Advocates of medical marijuana met with state legislators, law enforcement officials and prosecutors at the state capitol yesterday in order to discuss approaches and tactics to implementing a statewide distribution system for the drug. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the participants "rapidly came to a glum conclusion -- without the cooperation of the federal government, therapeutic pot is stone cold dead in California." The "summit was called by state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara)," in the wake of recent federal and local court orders that closed the most prominent marijuana "buyers' club," the Cannabis Healing Center in San Francisco. Bill Zimmerman, president of Americans for Medical Rights said, "None of us want to continue spinning our wheels (on a situation) that leads to court cases, arrests and (club) closures. We need to solve the problem for the benefit of patients here and across the country" (Martin, 5/27).
What's The Solution?
After much testimony and wrangling between the various factions on the issue, most officials "agreed that the easiest answer was to make marijuana available in pharmacies." San Francisco Public Health Director Mitchell Katz said, "My (preference) would be to prescribe marijuana like I prescribe other drugs." San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan suggested creating regional distribution centers, administered by the county governments, the Los Angeles Times reports (Warren, 5/27). Almost all present agreed that the legally embattled buyers' clubs "were not an ideal outlet for the drug" (Marimon, Reuters/Nando Times, 5/27). State Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco) said, "If (the problems associated with marijuana clubs) are characteristic of this movement, I want no part of it. I prefer clinics, hospitals or drugstores as a means of distribution" (Chronicle, 5/27).
No Feds, No Go
The distribution of the drug in pharmacies, however, "would require the federal government to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug," something supporters have been seeking for years (Los Angeles Times, 5/27). As of now, marijuana's Schedule I status makes it "illegal in all circumstances, unlike Schedule II drugs, such as morphine and amphetamines, which can be prescribed by a physician." Advocates called for a change in the drug code, or a devolution of power to the states on the issue. The Chronicle notes that the California Medical Association has recently thrown its support behind reclassifying of the drug (5/27).
Plea For Help
Vasconcellos disclosed at the hearing that he and 21 other state legislators had sent a "strongly worded" letter to President Clinton asking for "an immediate halt to federal efforts to shut down medical marijuana clubs ... and instead, work with the state to develop an officially sanctioned distribution system." The letter read: "Mr. President, we can't ignore this issue. It won't go away, so long as human beings believe they have the right to attend to their own illnesses. ... It's ironic you question our people's judgement about Proposition 215 while not questioning the wisdom of returning you to office" (Matthews, Sacramento Bee, 5/27). The Los Angeles Times notes that U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi was invited to attend the summit "but said he believed it would be inappropriate to attend given ongoing litigation over the matter" (5/27). Vasconcellos called the decision "disappointing, pompous and arrogant." Sacramento County Sheriff Glen Craig conceded, "Sooner or later we are going to have to confront the federal issue and get it resolved" (Bee, 5/27).
Peron Calls It Quits
The San Francisco Examiner reports that Dennis Peron, founder of the Cannabis Cultivators Club and author of Proposition 215, finally admitted defeat after the Cannabis Healing Center, the club's newest incarnation, was forced to close Monday morning. He said, "I'm giving up. ... The government has all the sheriffs and the judges. All we've got is the people's will. It was a long run. It's the end of an era." Peron plans to ask Superior Court Judge William Cahill, who ordered the club closed, if he may continue to use the building as a headquarters for his fledgling gubernatorial campaign (Costantinou, 5/26). Click here for past California Healthline coverage of this issue.