SANTA CRUZ -- Although smoking was not allowed at the WAMMfest on Saturday due to a planning mix-up, the annual celebration of medical marijuana still filled San Lorenzo Park with hundreds of patients and supporters.

Without an exemption to the city's no-smoking rules in the park, WAMMfest organizers patrolled the park and handed out fliers stating that smoking was not allowed this year. In the past, organizers have set up tents in the park where medical marijuana patients could inhale their medicine.

"What we're trying to do is respect the laws and keep it safe and fun," WAMM board member Suzanne Pfeil said. "We don't want anyone to receive a citation."

Santa Cruz police said they would not increase the number of officers on duty Saturday afternoon for WAMMfest. However, they said those on duty would issue citations if the park's no-smoking rules were not followed.

"Organizers of the event were very respectful and responsive to any inquiries park staff had who were doing their regular patrols of the park," Santa Cruz police Lt. Rick Martinez said. "There was a small smoking tent but it wasn't located on park property. We estimated the crowds to be around 200-300 people. Overall I think it was a success for the organizers."

Police wrote two citations for smoking and one for alcohol at the end of the day.

Leaders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana said earlier in the week they were able to get approval to set up a smoking tent for patients with identification cards on county property near the county building nearby so that members could still smoke while in compliance with the city's ordinance.

"We spoke with city parks and they told us that adjacent to the county building it is county property," Pfeil said. "So we met with city parks and the Sheriff's Office to discuss how we could best comply with the county. We don't want anyone to get ticketed, we just want everyone to have fun."

WAMM sent a letter to the City Council asking for support of the group's festivities last month. But no one asked a specific council member to put the no-smoking exemption request on the agenda, a necessary step before council members could consider the request.

"We have received so much support from the community. This festival is a way to give back to them," Pfeil said. "We serve the sickest of the sick. Despite the economic times, we're still trying to serve everyone without them having to go to their bank account only to watch it disappear."

For WAMM member Stephen Richter, the festival is about visiting with close friends and remembering other members who have died.

"It's a beautiful thing to honor our friends and let people know what we're about," Richter said as he walked through rows of pictures lined up in a memorial garden for deceased WAMM members. "Everybody walks around and they don't realize that what we are doing is trying to help people and to help each other. It's a blessing to be a member. I've gotten to meet wonderful people at very trying times. We learn a lot from each other."

While some remembered old friends at the festival, others reaffirmed their relationship with a wedding at 4:20 p.m.

"We actually got married last year in Washington and thought we would renew our vows here, but they surprised us with an altar and chairs that were decorated with flowers," said Maya Black of Olympia, Wash. "My husband was familiar with the work WAMM does and told me I need to meet Valerie Corral. She's the type of person that is so selfless. When I met her I felt like I've known her forever."

The two agreed they would have WAMM founder Corral remarry them at the festival. Maya Black's husband, Kevin, said he has been involved with the medical marijuana movement for 10 years and has run security at the Seattle hemp festival for years.

"To have Valerie remarry us is an honor. I would do anything for WAMM. Most people realize that this festival is a good thing," Kevin Black said. "I've met far too many people who are medical marijuana patients that I consider family who have AIDS or multiple sclerosis and have gotten thrown in jail because they had marijuana. I can't sit idly and let that happen."

News Hawk- Weedpipe
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Alia Wilson
Contact: Home - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Copyright: 2008 - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Website:WAMMfest: Santa Cruz medical marijuana festival goes off without a hitch - Santa Cruz Sentinel