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Santa Cruz Officials Plan Pot Giveaway

September 12, 2002|From the Associated Press

SANTA CRUZ — City leaders plan to join medical marijuana users at a pot giveaway at City Hall next week. Their goal is to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome.

The invitation comes one week after agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested the high-profile owners of a pot farm and confiscated 130 plants that had been grown to be used as medicine.

"It's just absolutely loathsome to me that federal money, energy and staff time would be used to harass people like this," said Vice Mayor Emily Reilly, who with several colleagues on the City Council plans to help pass out medical marijuana to sick people from the garden-like courtyard at City Hall on Tuesday.

City Atty. John Barisone said that although the City Council passed a resolution denouncing the raid, there is no official city sponsorship of the event. He added that council members and medical marijuana advocates are acting on their own accord in a public space.

DEA spokesman Richard Meyer was surprised at the plan.

"Are you serious? That's illegal. It's like they're flouting federal law," he said. "I'm shocked that city leaders would promote the use of marijuana that way. What is that saying to our youth?"

Last Thursday, federal agents--acting without support from state and local law enforcement--raided a small pot farm on a quiet coastal road about 55 miles south of San Francisco, arresting the owners, Valerie and Michael Corral.

The couple, leading activists for medical marijuana, have not been indicted. Their attorney, Ben Rice, said he was informed by the DEA that the U.S. attorney has declined to prosecute the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said she could not comment on the case, and Meyer said his agency isn't involved in decisions on whether to prosecute.

State law in California, as well as Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, allows marijuana to be grown and distributed to people with a doctor's prescription. Federal law, on the other hand, prohibits marijuana use under any circumstances.

California medical marijuana growers and distributors work closely with local law enforcement, and are quite open about their programs. In fact, the farm raided last Thursday morning by DEA agents had been featured in the national media, and the program is listed in the local telephone book.

But in recent months, federal agents, working strictly without local support, have been busting pot clubs and farms in Northern California.

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