Last Saturday was medical marijuana day in Santa Cruz, California. Hundreds of people marched to City Hall for a rally to support the local Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana and to insist that the federal government needs to butt out of California's medical marijuana law. It was the largest medical marijuana demonstration in Santa Cruz since September 2002, when supportive city council members and county supervisors authorized a medical marijuana-distributing demonstration on the steps of City Hall in support of WAMM after it was raided by the DEA.
But that order will likely be lifted in the wake of the Supreme Court's Raich decision. Valerie Corral told the San Jose Mercury-News Saturday she feared the Justice Department would now file charges against her and her husband. She also said WAMM is no longing growing its own marijuana for fear of being raided again. Instead, she said, WAMM will rely on donations of marijuana.
The crowd marched -- and wheelchair-bound patients rolled -- down Santa Cruz's main street carrying flags, banners, and at least a couple of dozen live marijuana plants, their leaves flapping in the breeze. In an indication of the rally's seriousness of purpose, one demonstrator held a sign saying "This is a Non-Smoking Event. Thank You for Not Lighting Up." According to local press accounts, no one did.
At the city hall rally, demonstrators held up posters with the pictures of 154 WAMM members who have died since the group was formed in 1993.
Local elected officials were out in support of medical marijuana again Saturday, with five of seven city council members and one county supervisor present. Supervisor Mardi Wormhout told the crowd not to give up on medical marijuana despite the recent Supreme Court ruling. The sight of terminally ill patients forced to take to the streets to fight for their right to their medicine was a cruel sight, she said. "It is an image that ought to haunt us all."
The crowd also heard from Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, which recently relocated to Santa Cruz from the East Coast. The ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance last week threatened to sue California over a move by health officials to suspend a pilot state ID card program. On Saturday, Boyd was keeping up the pressure. "We are fighting back," he said. "If Gov. Schwarzenegger does not reinstitute the medical marijuana card program, we will take him to court and force him to do it," he told a cheering crowd. (The state backed down early this week. See related story this issue.)