With a sign out front that says there is still a "lot" to live for, the Los
Angeles Cannabis Resource Center is busy selling Christmas trees to raise
money for its building trust and legal defense funds.

Meanwhile, the City of West Hollywood declared itself a "sanctuary for
medical marijuana use, cultivation and distribution, supporting the Los
Angeles Cannabis Resource Center" at the Dec. 3 City Council meeting.

The LACRC is selling Christmas trees and holiday wreaths instead of
distributing medical marijuana because of the Oct. 25 Drug Enforcement
Agency raid on the center, when its marijuana plants and medical records
were seized and the LACRC bank accounts were frozen.

Scott Imler, cannabis center president, says that they have had to take a
"hurry-up-and-wait" approach after the raid and the Christmas tree sales
gave them something to do.

According to Imler, the center is working to raise the $10,000 a month it
costs for the mortgage and basic utilities of the LACRC building.

Rev. John Edwin Griffith of the Crescent Heights United Methodist Church
was found shopping for a Christmas tree for the church's sanctuary.
Griffith says he was buying a tree at the lot because he supported the
LACRC and that he was encouraging his congregation to buy their trees from
the center.

"I don't understand why George Bush, a United Methodist, doesn't see this
in a different light," Griffith says.

Lot manager Morgan Lee says many of the customers have voiced support for
the LACRC and question the recent conflict between state law -- the 1996
Compassionate Use Act California, or Proposition 215, which legalized
medical marijuana -- and the federal law that prohibits it.

In May, the Supreme Court upheld a 1970 law that declared dispensing
marijuana a federal crime and that marijuana did not have medicinal value
worthy of exception.

"[I spend] nights awake walking the floor there worried and sometimes just
sobbing because I want to be open," Imler says. "Our members are very, very
sick and a lot of them come here at the very twilight of their lives....
They suffer at twilight that they are federal criminals, that their own
country turned against them.

"We're here and we're not giving up and we'll do whatever we have to do to
survive until we get this worked out once and for all," Imler says.

The West Hollywood sanctuary declaration is largely symbolic, with copies
of the resolution being sent to the U.S. attorney general, the state
attorney general, the Los Angeles County district attorney and other public
officials.

Still, Councilman Jeffrey Prang says that while medical marijuana users are
vulnerable to the DEA, the "using [and] distributing of medicinal marijuana
is not the subject of arrest by the City of West Hollywood or the agencies
that work for us. We will continue to express the will of the people as
expressed in Proposition 215."

City Councilman John Duran, who is the LACRC's legal counsel, says the
center has a three-pronged legal strategy: avoiding criminal indictments,
going into federal court for clarification of the medical necessity
exception under federal law and lobbying to change the federal law.

Duran says the first step is avoiding criminal prosecutions in the next few
months and that this week the center will be making a presentation to the
U.S. Attorney's Office on why federal indictments should not be filed.

According to Duran, the Supreme Court decision stated that a club cannot
assert medical necessity for medical marijuana but didn't decide whether
individual patients may be able to assert medical necessity.

Since each member of the center was a qualified patient, Duran says, "I
think we still have an opportunity to explore ways to get Scott and his
group covered legally," noting that the project may take years.

"We always knew this day would probably come, where we had to deal with the
federal government," he adds. "Someday, legally we will be back in the
business of medicinal marijuana to qualified patients, but only with
federal approval."


Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Wed, 12 Dec 2001
Source: Los Angeles Independent (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Independent Newspaper Group
Contact: editor@laindependent.com
Website: http://www.laindependent.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1602
Author: Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/ashcroft.htm (Ashcroft, John)