Mar. 29, 00
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Darrel W. Cole
Stories of suffering and incurable illnesses weren’t needed to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance legalizing medical marijuana use and distribution. The council has traditionally been a strong supporter of medicinal marijuana. But the council’s unanimous action Tuesday night was a huge relief for those who use the drug to treat various ailments. Only now, they said, do they feel free of possible arrest and jail time. "I just have one word," said lawyer Kate Wells, who raised her arms in salute. "Bravo, bravo!"
The ordinance, which still needs final approval in April, would allow marijuana to be grown and used under city protection. As written, the ordinance would not require users to secure a doctor’s prescription, though physicians would need to recommend it for people being treated for HIV/AIDS, cancer, anorexia and other diseases. The council received a standing ovation for its action from a crowd of about 150 ordinance supporters. The evening, however, was more about those people and their stories. Dave Palmer, a cancer patient, said he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS shortly after moving to Santa Cruz. He found himself "all alone in a place where I knew no one." He said he soon found the Santa Cruz Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which would later serve as the model for the ordinance crafted by councilmen Tim Fitzmaurice and Mike Rotkin.
The alliance is a 200-person collective whose members aid one another in marijuana cultivation. Patients have a certain amount of marijuana they can withdraw from their "account" each year. "This ordinance legalizes WAMM," said Palmer, holding back tears. "We worry about our members, we hold hands, we go to memorials. ... I hope America sees and appreciates the leadership you (the council) are showing tonight." A woman with HIV named Margaret said that if it wasn’t for marijuana, she wouldn’t be alive — that the pain would have killed her. "I thank you, I thank you," she said. Larry Moore, confined to a wheelchair, said he can no longer afford prescription drugs and is tired of the way they make him feel. Another man, whose wife has epilepsy, said they have purchased and used marijuana for years, but only in secret. He said the council action gives them a sense of relief.
"The commentary really put a human face on a public policy issue," Councilwoman Cynthia Mathews said. Mayor Keith Sugar said the people’s words were so eloquent he didn’t feel a need to defend the ordinance any further. Councilman Christopher Krohn said, "I’m speechless with what all of you have said tonight." If given final approval in April, which is expected, the ordinance would take effect 30 days later. The Santa Cruz ordinance is modeled along the lines of one in the city of Oakland, but has stricter guidelines as to who can accept and supply medicinal marijuana.
The ordinance doesn’t legalize the use of marijuana. To distribute and grow marijuana, an organization would first have to be recognized by the city of Santa Cruz. They cannot sell it for a profit but can recover production costs. Marijuana users wouldn’t need a prescription for the drug but must suffer from one of many ailments, which are delineated in the ordinance. The users would have to show proof they are being treated for those ailments and would then be issued an identification card. The council action puts Santa Cruz among a handful of cities attempting to implement Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative approved by state voters in 1996.
The initiative, however, put doctors prescribing the drug in trouble with the federal government. The council hopes the ordinance keeps doctors safe from criminal prosecution because they wouldn’t be actually prescribing the drug. Fitzmaurice and Rotkin consulted with the Santa Cruz Police Department and Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelman when drafting the ordinance. Police gave the new ordinance the OK and Uelman, an expert on Proposition 215, called it legally defensible. City Attorney John Barisone said the ordinance was created with WAMM in mind.

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