Protest: Marchers Outside A DEA Office In Riverside Call On The Agency To
Honor State Law.

RIVERSIDE - Medical marijuana activists protested Tuesday outside a
Riverside office of the Drug Enforcement Administration because they said
the federal agency ignores state law.

The protesters said the federal officers arresting those who claim they're
using marijuana for medicinal purposes are ignoring the 1996 initiative
approved by California voters. The measure, Prop. 215, allows those with a
doctor's prescription to use marijuana.

"The DEA and the Bush administration have got to realize the states are
responsible for the health of their citizens and the federal government
needs to back off," said organizer Lanny Swerdlow. "If the states decide
medical marijuana is OK, then leave the states alone."

Jose Martinez, a spokesman for the DEA, said marijuana remains a controlled
substance, and until the medical community changes its view, federal
officers still have to follow the law in making drug arrests.

Holding posters with slogans such as "Doctors yes, DEA no" and "Legal
marijuana now," the dozen protesters walked along a sidewalk on Olivewood
Avenue outside the DEA office near Riverside Community College. Some
motorists honked in support and raised their thumbs, but others yelled out

The group used the case against Ed Rosenthal to illustrate its point. A
trial against Rosenthal started last month in U.S. District Court in San
Francisco on charges of marijuana cultivation and conspiracy.

The charges stem from a business he ran growing marijuana to be sold for
medicinal uses under the auspices of Oakland's medical marijuana ordinance,
one of many such municipal statutes in California. If convicted on all
three counts, Rosenthal, 58, could face at least 10 years in prison; the
conspiracy charge carries a possible life sentence.

The DEA said marijuana remains an illegal, addictive substance.

"The medical community has not changed its opinion," Martinez said. "It
remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance. And we have to, by law, enforce
the laws of this country."

Schedule 1 substances include heroin and marijuana, drugs considered to
have no medical value that are also highly addictive, Martinez said.

"Inhaling a drug, i.e., opium, or smoking marijuana doesn't allow for the
methods to be controlled in terms of amount or purity," Martinez said.
"It's an issue of science and its need by the legitimate medical community."

Pubdate: Wed, 19 Feb 2003
Source: Press-Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2003 The Press-Enterprise Company