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California City is a Pioneer in Medical Mj

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May 07,00
Philadelphia Inquirer
By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
Andrea Tischler is perched atop ground zero of
California's escalating medical-marijuana wars.
She and a partner recently opened the nation's first "bed, bud and breakfast," a cozy Victorian inn with a backyard oasis where medicinal-pot users can fire up right next to the clothing-optional hot tub.
"This inn will be a comfort zone for people with a medical need for marijuana," said Tischler, a former teacher. "While it may be the nation's first, many more will follow."
The Compassion Flower Inn opened on the heels of a new city ordinance that allows people with diseases such as AIDS, cancer and arthritis to legally grow and use pot.
Defying federal authorities, Santa Cruz is one of several California communities that has jump-started efforts to put the state's controversial medicinal-marijuana law into practice.
State voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to permit the sick to obtain marijuana under a doctor's care.
But federal prosecutors stepped in and closed down six cannabis-buyers' clubs in Northern California, saying marijuana use was still illegal under U.S. law. State legislators have steered clear, backing off of a proposal for a statewide cardholder
system that would allow registered medicinal-marijuana users, providers and growers to avoid arrest.
"This issue has been a political hot potato, and it's been hard for state officials to reach any consensus," said Anthony Condotti,
assistant city attorney in Santa Cruz. "So cities and counties at the grassroots level have taken the lead." Both the Santa Cruz law and the new bed and breakfast are being closely monitored, not only by cities statewide, but also by the Clinton administration.
"Our position continues to be that marijuana remains a prohibited controlled substance," said Gretchen Michael, a Department of Justice spokeswoman. "What we say to people in
Santa Cruz is that no matter what laws you pass, the federal government could still come knocking."
Santa Cruz City Council member Mike Rotkin said the city was not looking for a fight with the federal government.
"But the need for this law is so great, it's worth the risk,"Rotkin said. "How do you tell a cancer patient enduring painful chemotherapy they can have morphine but not marijuana? It's just so illogical."
"If enough communities follow suit with a patchwork of different medical-pot laws, state legislators will have to step in and bring some order to implementing Prop. 215," Rotkin said.
Proposition 215 did not set standards for the amount of marijuana medicinal users could have in their possession. In Mendocino County, authorities have devised their own numbers: Patients can apply to the county Health Department for an identification card that allows them to possess up to six marijuana plants and 2 pounds of marijuana.
"That may sound like a lot, but marijuana is a once-a-year crop," said Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman. "If you run out, you can't go to the grocery store to buy more."

Santa Cruz, Calif.
The Philadelphia Inquirer