SANTA CRUZ -- The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to deputize the
co-founders of a medical-marijuana club, symbolically making them officers
of the city government.

That doesn't mean Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana's Mike and
Valerie Corral are actual deputies, have any special powers or will "need
to show any stinkin' badges," said City Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice.
Instead, their status means the council officially sanctions WAMM's activities.

Council members said they hope the formal link between the city and the
group will increase legal protections for the Corrals, who have not been
charged with a crime in connection with a September raid by federal agents
on their pot farm, but are wary of future prosecution.

The Corrals are still trying to get the seized marijuana plants and some
equipment back from the federal government.

At the very least, the deputization shows solidarity with WAMM, council
members said.

Armed federal agents arrested the Corrals on Sept. 5 and tore out 167
plants at their Davenport-area marijuana garden. The Corrals, who were
released hours after their arrest, said they were told they could be
arrested again at any time.

WAMM's founders say most of the group's 200-plus members are seriously or
terminally ill.

Council members received national media attention later in September for
showing up to a rally on the steps of City Hall, where WAMM members came to
get their weekly allotment of medical pot. For their stand, council members
were alternately praised as heroes standing up against federal bullies, and
ridiculed as flakes who were perpetuating the city's wacky, drugged-out image.

If the WAMM founders end up before the Supreme Court, "we're showing faith
in what they are doing," Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice said. He said WAMM
could turn to the court and say, "Look, this is the faith the community has
in us."

Andrea Tischler of the local Compassion Flower Inn, a bed-and-breakfast
devoted to medical marijuana, urged the city to take it a step further and
"consider deputizing others to run clubs because over 2,000 patients are in
need of their medicine" in Santa Cruz County. She said there's no way WAMM
alone can serve the need.

Councilman Mike Rotkin said he's concerned that the national press is
making the city's stand on medical marijuana into an
everybody-must-get-stoned story.

He said city leaders did not take the deputization status lightly, and that
it was extending this status because of WAMM's continued commitment to
protecting terminally ill patients. He said that for anyone else to get
this deputy status, they'd have to prove they had as much commitment and
responsibility as WAMM.

Councilman Mark Primack supported the motion but said he wanted to do
something that had more "teeth" to provide guaranteed legal protections for
the Corrals. He said he was dismayed by a recent statement by the federal
Drug Enforcement Administration that deputization would not change the
Corrals' status in the eyes of the government.

"What is a tangible action to create real protection?" he said.

Rotkin replied that he thought DEA spokesman Richard Meyer was being "very
disingenuous" in his statements to the Sentinel earlier this week, and that
deputization could offer real protections.

"This could be a way to defend them because they are following the spirit
of the local (medical marijuana) ordinance and should not be prosecuted,"
Rotkin said. "In the end, it's not up to the DEA but the courts to settle

Meyer on Tuesday reiterated his statement that "federal law supersedes
state or local law, so nobody in the U.S. has authorization to distribute
illegal drugs at will. We are a country of laws. Deputization really does
nothing as far as federal law is concerned."

The federal government considers medical marijuana contraband and has
asserted that its authority overrides state and local laws that make
provisions for medical marijuana -- touching off an emotional debate about
alternative medicine, drug use and local authority.

The Corrals said Tuesday they hoped their new status would give them
protection under the same federal law that lets police officers legally
carry and sell drugs while engaging in narcotics stings. According to this
reading of the law, the Corrals would be "enforcing" state and local laws
allowing for medical marijuana use.

"It's opposite ends of the same continuum," Mike Corral said. "They're out
to bust people and we're out to help."

Meyer said he couldn't imagine WAMM meeting the criteria to fall under the
provisions of that federal law.

"That makes no sense," he said. "Local deputies handle drugs, process them
and lock them up. They don't distribute them to people on the street. If
they did that, they would be breaking the law."

Santa Cruz, however, is not the first city to try to use deputization of
medical marijuana club members to increase their protection from federal
prosecution. A similar approach was used in Oakland and San Francisco. The
strategy has yet to be tested in federal court.

WAMM members say they are still getting marijuana for members. They
declined to state the source.

WAMM board member Suzanne Pfeil said the government "tries to characterize
a sick and tiny community as drug trafficking, and that it has to protect
the (community) from us. We ask you to protect us from them."

Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2002
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Santa Cruz Sentinel