Since the passage of Proposition 215, The
Compassionate Use Act, California has been in a state of constructive chaos.
This is a great experiment in tolerance and democracy, and the laboratory
contains hundreds of activist-filled petri dishes, each organization growing
within its peculiar, restrictive environment.
The Many Shades
Few of California’s elected “leaders” are courageous enough to lead, and
state and federal opponents of medical marijuana, who ought to be implementing
the new law, are dragging their feet and worse. Most Californians are just
But hard-core activists haven’t come this far to watch the new Compassionate
Use Act languish: some are determined to triumph in memory of loved ones
lost to painful deaths; others say their medical conditions will kill them
anyway, so they are “just doing it.”
In one county a patient’s plants are returned by law enforcement, while
in another county a patient who grew a few plants has been dragged through
the court system since November. The latter case is being fought in Sonoma
County by patient Alan Martinez and his lawyer William Panzer. Panzer helped
write the Compassionate Use Act, and hopes the case will ensure that the
new law law will stop patients from being charged, instead of just giving
them a defence during trial.
Too many types of cannabis centres and cooperatives have opened to describe
here. Among them are clubs which rival fine coffee houses, spartan dispensaries
which prohibit ingestion of the herb on or around the premises, centres
that grow cannabis for members, centres that contract with growers, and
some that do not dispense but help patients and caregivers to grow their
own. Some organizations provide delivery only, and there are informal associations
that give away donated cannabis to only the most desperate patients. Personal
style, available resources, and the local political climate contribute
to differences in approach.
Waiting for Godot
While city permits have been issued to a small number of cannabis centres,
more cautious cities are postponing approval of the centres until California’s
Attorney General Dan Lungren provides clarification of the law. Unfortunately,
he is the same attorney general who ordered the armed raid on the San Francisco
Cannabis Buyers’ Club shortly before the election.
Since the law passed it has been Lungren’s duty to enforce it. But those
city councils waiting for his clarification and support may be performing
what Marin County writer Steve McNamara calls “the New Age version of Waiting
Then of course there’s the vapourize-the-envelope style that is San Francisco.
Despite what could be described as terrorist raids by state narcs before
the election, and again by the feds this spring, San Francisco is probably
the nearest thing in the US to Amsterdam. In fact, an Oregon man, arrested
for “manufacturing” marijuana for medicine, has been sentenced to San Francisco,
where he will complete his probation while growing and using his medicine
On the Medical
Also in San Francisco, US District Court Judge Fern Smith ruled in late
April that the US Justice Department must not continue to threaten doctors
who recommend cannabis to patients. Judge Smith clarified her ruling by
saying that although doctors must not actively assist in obtaining cannabis,
they may speak frankly with their patients. The feds are expected to appeal,
but Graham Boyd, a lead attorney for doctors and patients who filed the
suit, is confident that the government will not prevail.
“They want to muzzle doctors,” said Boyd, “and that runs directly into
the First Amendment [of the US Constitution].”
Also on the medical front, the California Medical Association passed a
resolution early this year which urges that “carefully designed, controlled
clinical trials of the effectiveness of inhaled marijuana for medical indications
be allowed immediately” and asks the American Medical Association to help
make such studies possible.
Dr Todd Mikuriya, known for editing Marijuana: Medical Papers, has served
as medical coordinator from the inception of the California Compassionate
Use Initiative, and continues now that the Compassionate Use Act is law.
Now Dr Mikuriya is fine-tuning a system for patient data collection, a
crucial step toward studying the nature and effects of medical marijuana.
The professional and comprehensive protocols which Dr Mikuriya has helped
some of the cannabis centres produce, along with his current work on a
system for data collection, points toward future standardization which
should increase the efficiency and effectiveness of those working to implement
the law and gather information.
While the movement becomes stronger and better organized, the federal government
continues to throw expensive and destructive tantrums. Apparently the feds
cannot challenge the new law on constitutional grounds, or they would have
done so immediately after the November 5 election. Since their hands have
been slapped in US district court for attempting to strip physicians of
their protection under the First Amendment (the right to free speech),
they are resorting to actions that are unlikely to further endear them
to voters, and will simply make them look downright silly.
In San Francisco, as the last of hundreds of happy revelers were hitting
their pillows after enjoying a gigantic April 20 “4/20 Hemp Extravaganja”,
the US Drug Enforcement Administration raided San Francisco’s “Flower Therapy”,
which provides medical marijuana to carefully screened patients under state,
county and city law. About three pounds of cannabis were taken, all in
the form of plants, and packaged marijuana was left behind. It almost seems
as if the feds are out to provide support for the black market.
If the feds’ strong-arm tactics are as galvanizing as the California Attorney
General’s pre-election raid on the SF Buyer’s Club, medical marijuana should
be decriminalized nationally soon.
Democracy in Action
Democracy is not neat and tidy, but damn, it’s exciting! California has
a case of democracy-in-action, and Washington is afraid that it might be
It looks like they have good reason to worry. Californians show no signs
of backing down, and the national spotlight is trained on the state. Since
the feds raided Flower Therapy, medical cannabis centres have continued
to sprout from Arcata to Santa Cruz, San Francisco’s Sheriff Hennessey
has acknowledged that gravely ill inmates with a doctor’s recommendation
will be allowed to smoke marijuana in jail, and growers have come out of
the woods to announce that they will grow for clubs at reduced prices.
This country’s founding moms and dads would be proud of these Californians
who are committing democracy. It isn’t orderly or predictable, but then
a democratic form of government isn’t supposed to be.
? By Rose Ann
For More Info
for Medical Rights, 626 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 4, Santa Monica, CA 90401-2538;
tel (310) 394-2952, fax (310) 451-7494.
Or contact Dale
Gieringer, State Coordinator NORML, 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco,
tel: (415) 563-5858.