700 Protesters in Santa Cruz Rally for Marijuana

700 Protesters in Santa Cruz Rally for Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on July 17, 2005 at 08:54:19 PT
By Ken McLaughlin, Mercury News
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Santa Cruz, Calif. -- Even in Santa Cruz, it's not every day that you see a couple of dozen marijuana plants flapping in the breeze as they're carried down the town's main street.But that was the scene Saturday as Santa Cruz activists held a protest march and rally that drew about 700 people who believe the U.S. government has no right to tell sick and dying people they can't use medicinal marijuana.
Members and supporters of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, better known as WAMM, held their largest demonstration since the city council watched alliance members pass out medicinal pot on the steps of City Hall in September 2002. Protesters, many in wheelchairs, hoisted live marijuana plants and held up the pictures of 154 WAMM members who have died since the group was formed in 1993.The protesters were joined at City Call by five of seven city council members and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt, who urged the crowd not to give up the cause despite the major blow recently dealt by the U.S. Supreme Court.Wormhoudt said she couldn't think of a crueler sight than seeing terminally ill people in wheelchairs taking to the streets to demand their right to take medicine. ``It is an image that ought to haunt all of us,'' she said.The mood at the march was a combination of somber and festive. One protester held up a sign: ``This is a Non-Smoking Event. Thank You for Not Lighting Up.''Apparently, no one did.The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled 6-3 that federal drug laws continue to trump the efforts of California and other states to permit the use of pot for medicinal reasons. The court's decision means federal law enforcement officials retain the power to prosecute medicinal marijuana patients like Angel McClary Raich, the Oakland woman at the center of the Supreme Court fight.But medicinal marijuana advocates are trying to make sure that states don't back away from their own laws permitting medicinal marijuana.``We are fighting back,'' said Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national Drug Law Reform Project, which moved to Santa Cruz last summer.Earlier this month, California health officials suspended a pilot program that gave medicinal marijuana users state-issued identification cards so that they can avoid arrest. State Health Director Sandra Shewry asked the state attorney general's office to review the Supreme Court ruling to determine whether the ID program would put patients and state employees at risk of federal prosecution.Boyd said the ACLU would battle the trend, which has also surfaced in Alaska and Hawaii, other states that have legalized medicinal pot.``If Governor Schwarzenegger does not reinstitute the medical marijuana card program, we will take him to court and force him to do it,'' Boyd told the cheering crowd at City Hall.WAMM is also pursuing another legal argument: that the right to alleviate pain is constitutionally guaranteed. Prominent attorney Gerald Uelmen, who teaches law at Santa Clara University, has joined WAMM's legal battle.The September 2002 protest was triggered by a raid on WAMM's marijuana garden north of Davenport. About 30 Drug Enforcement Administration agents carrying M-16s cut down 167 plants, arresting the group's co-founders, Valerie and Michael Corral. But the U.S. Attorney's Office has never filed charges against them.In April 2004, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose forbade any further federal raids on WAMM. It was that court protection that made it legal for the group's members to carry the marijuana plants through downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday, Valerie Corral said.But the protection is expected to expire soon as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Oakland case.Because of fears that federal drug agents will once again raid their medicinal marijuana garden, WAMM will stop planting and will rely instead on marijuana donations, Corral said Saturday. She also said she and her husband feared federal prosecutors might finally decide to press charges in the 2002 case.Note: Several officials show support.Complete Title: 700 Protesters in Santa Cruz Rally for Medicinal MarijuanaSource: San Jose Mercury News (CA)Author: Ken McLaughlin, Mercury NewsPublished: Sunday, July 17, 2005Copyright: 2005 San Jose Mercury NewsContact: letters sjmercury.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:WAMM & News from WAMM Protest Medical Pot Parade To Put Festive Face on Battle Pot Parade Set for July 16 Ruling Worries Santa Cruz Group
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