p>In an effort to expand the reach of Proposition 215, the California medical marijuana initiative passed in 1996, Santa Cruz City Council has passed an ordinance that provides further protections for both medical marijuana patients and their doctors. Patients who use marijuana are not currently targeted by local police; however, local officials wanted to make a statement against federal authorities, which have closed down medical marijuana buyer's clubs and arrested medical marijuana patients up and down the state. The Santa Cruz ordinance will shield patients with an ID card from prosecution and will allow not-for-profit cooperatives to sell marijuana to patients and caregivers.
"People are concerned that the federal government is consistently threatening to arrest people for providing patients with medical marijuana," Council member Mike Rotkin told The Week Online. "We're looking to provide people moral and legal support for the activities (the patients) are involved in."
Rotkin, who helped draft the ordinance, said Prop. 215 doesn't do enough to protect marijuana patients or their caregivers. "215 says people should have medical marijuana, but does not have the implementing legislation that says how it works," he said. "If Prop. 215 did its job, we wouldn't have to worry about the federal government coming in here, but in fact, the feds have been ignoring 215. We're looking to provide an extra layer of support for those who provide medical marijuana."
The Santa Cruz law is similar to an ordinance adopted in the city of Oakland that has been challenged by the federal government. In that city, the federal government closed down a cannabis buyers club that had been operating within Oakland's guidelines. Rotkin said he hopes that the Santa Cruz ordinance will protect licensed buyer's clubs in his city.
"I think (federal authorities) are going to have a harder time of it" in Santa Cruz, he said. "Of course, they have already demonstrated their insanity. I think it would be difficult here because the people getting medical marijuana all have medical diagnoses that say they need help. The case in Oakland was more sloppy, frankly."
Oakland's ordinance does not strictly require patients to provide evidence of a medical condition that would be alleviated by marijuana. "They required less documentation than we will require," Rotkin said.
For example, Rotkin said, the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), which the city has licensed to dole out marijuana to patients, has demonstrated it can operate in a responsible fashion by filing cases and cooperating with the local police and DA's office. WAMM also participated in the drafting of the local ordinance.
The city is currently speaking with seven other clubs who are interested in distributing medical marijuana and must make a judgment in giving out licenses to groups it deems responsible. The ordinance also requires all groups distributing marijuana be not-for-profit. Rotkin said in Oakland this was not necessarily the case.
"Ideally, if the federal government wasn't being so ridiculous, medical marijuana would be a relationship of a doctor to a patient, like morphine -- regulated, but still available," Rotkin said.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana users from out of town will soon be welcomed at the Compassion Flower Inn. Promising visitors "Bed, Breakfast and Bud," the hotel will feature a smoking patio and bathing suit-optional hot tub where those with doctor's notes can smoke marijuana without incurring the wrath of the concierge. The Compassion Flower Inn has set its grand opening for April 20.