U.S. District Court Allows Santa Cruz Collective To Grow Medical Marijuana
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose on Wednesday ruled that Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, which the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided two years ago, can grow and distribute marijuana for medical use while its civil lawsuit against the federal government is pending, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gaura, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/22). Fogel granted the collective a preliminary injunction and denied a U.S. Department of Justice request for dismissal of WAMM's lawsuit, which aims to end federal interference in its operations (Bailey, Los Angeles Times, 4/22). During the DEA raid in September 2002, agents seized 167 plants that patients were growing and arrested the collective's founders, Valerie and Michael Corral (California Healthline, 9/3/03). However, the Corrals were never charged with a crime (Mintz, San Jose Mercury News, 4/22). At the time, the collective of approximately 250 members had been "operating openly for several years with the explicit support of Santa Cruz city and county officials, including local law enforcement," according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/22).
In September 2003, Fogel denied the collective's petition to bar U.S. drug agents from raiding it again, ruling that federal drug laws prevail over Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative allowing state physicians to recommend marijuana to some people for medical use (California Healthline, 9/3/03). The collective decided to approach the court again earlier this year, citing a precedent set in a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case decided in December 2003, in which the circumstances of the cultivation and use of marijuana and the federal government's response are "virtually identical," although the "scale is broader" in the collective's case, the Times reports. In both cases, the marijuana was grown in California, used for medical purposes and donated to patients (Los Angeles Times, 4/22).
Fogel's latest ruling is the first interpretation of the appeals court's decision (Kravets, Contra Costa Times, 4/22). His decision also marks the first ruling allowing an organization to grow medical marijuana without federal interference (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/22). However, the ruling "does little to shield other medical marijuana dispensaries," according to the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times, 4/22). Gerald Uelman, attorney for WAMM and a law professor at Santa Clara University, said the ruling "says there is no difference between a single patient growing their own medicine and a collective group assisting each other to achieve exactly the same purpose" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/22). The collective intends to immediately plant hundreds of marijuana plants on its one-acre property (Contra Costa Times, 4/22). Officials from the Justice Department and DEA declined to comment on the decision (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/22).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.