Federal Judge Orders Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club Shut Down -- City to Consider Providing Marijuana to Patients 10/16/98

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Oct. 13, 1998: In what was called a surprise ruling, Federal District Judge Charles Breyer ruled that Oakland's Cannabis Buyers' Club is not entitled to a jury trial on the issue of medical necessity, thus clearing the way for federal marshals to shut the club down as early as Friday evening, October 16. The club is charged with violating a previous injunction against distributing cannabis to its registered patients. Breyer ruled that patients would not face the requisite "imminent harm" necessary to the medical necessity defense.

"This decision will have a devastating impact on our patients," warned OCBC director Jeff Jones, "closing the Cooperative will force patients with AIDS, cancer and other debilitating diseases to turn to street dealers for the medicine they need."

Or perhaps not.

On Tuesday, October 20, the Oakland City Council will meet to determine whether or not to declare a state of medical emergency in reaction to the expected federal shutdown. They will also discuss possible courses of action, up to and including distributing marijuana themselves.

Council member Nate Miley spoke with The Week Online.

WOL: The council has been very supportive of the Oakland club. Can we assume that you are all comfortable with how it's been run?

Councilman Miley: "The club has been very well run and operated. It's run like a clinic. It's been investigated by our staff, law enforcement, insurance, our attorneys. They check the patients who come in there to make sure their certified, they turn away those who are not. We're very comfortable working with Jeff and the club and we're glad to stand by them in the face of this.

WOL: But this week the federal government, in the person of Judge Breyer, essentially overruled the express intent of both the city of Oakland and the people of California. What is your gut reaction to that?

Miley: Well, people are angry. People have talked to me, both members of the council and ordinary citizens who are dismayed. They just don't understand why the federal government would push so hard to shut down an operation that has been run so professionally. We see the need for the drug, we've got patients who testified, documentation that shows the legitimacy of cannabis as medicine. We've also got a proposition that our voters have voted on. That's democracy. We've got a local government that is trying to come up with guidelines to implement a law, and it's dismaying, it's unfathomable that this is the response of the federal government.

WOL: So assuming that the club is shut down, and the council cannot keep it open in the face of the federal response, what then?

Miley: Well, I think that if all else fails, then the city council will discuss the possibility of having the city distribute cannabis to the patients. We are committed to this in that these are our citizens, and they've demonstrated, clearly I believe, a need for this medicine.

WOL: Are there people in the city government who would be willing to risk arrest and federal charges to do that?

Miley: Yes. I think that there are people in the city government who are willing to risk arrest once we have tried every means, every legal means and the only other alternative is arrest and civil disobedience. If it takes us going that far then I believe that some of us will.

(Please call Congress and the White House and tell them to stop blocking the will of the voters and to cease their campaign against the medical marijuana cooperatives. See our alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/10-14.html for the details.)

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Issue #63, 10/16/98 Why DRCNet? | Federal Judge Orders Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club Shut Down -- City to Consider Providing Marijuana to Patients | Oregon Poll: Reform Positions Hold Lead | Pain Went Up Sharply Among Oregon's Dying in Late 1997 | Swiss Okay Controlled Heroin Distribution | Oklahoma Police Chief Threatens Harassment of Man Who Opposes the Drug War | Marijuana Ranks Fourth Largest Cash Crop in America Despite Prohibition | Social Concern a Sign of Teen Drug Use? Ask Orrin Hatch | Car Seizure Law Upheld in Oakland | "Driving While Black" Lawsuit Grows | Web News | Editorial: Putting People Before Ideology
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