Critics Question Federal Priorities after DEA Raid of Medical Marijuana Co-Op in Santa Cruz

Press Release September 5, 2002

Leading Drug Policy Reform Organization demands Ashcroft and Hutchinson Call Off War on Sick and Dying

DEA Raids Inspire Protests Around the Country

The Drug Enforcement Administration raided a medical marijuana health co-operative in Santa Cruz yesterday, arresting the two directors of the program, called the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). WAMM served over three hundred medical marijuana patients, and was considered by many to be a model program, receiving wide-range support from both the City Council and the voters in Santa Cruz. More than twenty armed DEA agents raided the co-operative.

“It is an atrocity that armed federal agents would raid a hospice,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance. WAMM staff reported that DEA agents handcuffed a paraplegic patient during the raids. Other patients at the co-operative suffer from cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and other serious and terminal illnesses.

As the anniversary of September 11 approaches, medical marijuana advocates argue that the raids were a poor use of federal resources. “This is an outrageous waste of government resources,” said Nadelmann. “Those decision-makers responsible for the raids are destroying the lives of the ill and dying.”

The DEA has cracked down on other medical marijuana co-operatives in California, including clubs in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. The raid in Santa Cruz occurred despite a local initiative that ended the medical prohibition of marijuana and a local ordinance that allowed medical marijuana to be grown and used without a prescription. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, a measure that allowed the medical use of marijuana in the state. “The people of California and the County of Santa Cruz have overwhelmingly supported the provision of medical marijuana for people who have serious illnesses,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt in the San Francisco Chronicle today. “To attack these people, who work collectively and have never taken money for their work, is outrageous.” Polls show that seventy percent of Americans support the medical use of marijuana, and nine states have passed laws allowing the use of medical marijuana.

Actions in response to the Santa Cruz raids have taken place at DEA offices throughout the country today, including those in San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Texas, New York City, and Washington, DC. “Hundreds of individuals came out today to call on the DEA to cease and desist their harassment of seriously ill patients and the people who care for them,” said Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access, the group that organized the protests.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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