Visiting Drug Czar Faces Angry Medical Marijuana Patients and Lawmakers in Sacramento

Press Release February 9, 2004
Media Contact

Simeon Gant at (916) 202-9517 or Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026

Press Conference Wednesday, February 11, 12:00 PM PST

Sacramento– State legislators, including Senator John Vasconcellos of San Jose and Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles will join severely ill medical marijuana patients at a press conference on Wednesday, February 11, at 12 PM PST in Room 317 of the State Capitol. In response to national drug czar John Walters’ visit to Sacramento, the press event will send a powerful message that patients, elected officials and California citizens are outraged at the federal government’s growing war on the sick. At 1PM The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Walters will address an invite-only audience in order to bolster support for the White House’s drug enforcement priorities. Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who has previously written the drug czar’s office requesting an end to raids in California, will attend the press conference or send a statement supporting patients and physicians. In addition to the earlier press conference, patients will picket Walters’ forum at 1800 I St., 1 PM.

WHAT: Press conference to challenge John Walters’ (Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy) medical marijuana raids/policy

WHEN: Wednesday, February 11 at 12 p.m. PST

WHERE: Room 317, State Capitol


Bill Lockyer– State Attorney General (tentatively confirmed)

John Vasconcellos– Senator, San Jose, District 13

Jackie Goldberg–Assemblymember, Los Angeles, District 45

Glenn Backes– Director, Health Policy, Drug Policy Alliance

Steph Sher–Patient, Director, Americans for Safe Access

Bonnie Metcalf– Patient, Director, Yuba County Compassionate Care

Angel McCary-Raich–Patient, Plaintiff in Raich v. Ashcroft

Since 1996, when state voters passed Proposition 215 by 56%, acceptance of marijuana as medicine has only grown stronger. A Field Poll conducted in California last month found that a full 74% of voters supported patient access to marijuana if recommended by a physician. Majority support was solid across all political divides, including self-described conservative Republicans.

All leading candidates for governor in the recent recall, including current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said during their campaigns that they support a patient’s right to access medical marijuana. Before leaving office, Governor Gray Davis signed SB 420 by Senator Vasconcellos into law, which protects patients from arrests for marijuana possession if they carry county authorized cards that identify them as patients.

However, the response from the federal government since 1996 has been numerous raids and arrests of patients and growers, aggressive prosecution resulting in prison terms of up to ten years (as in the case of patient Bryan Epis), and threats to revoke licenses for physicians who discuss medical marijuana with patients. Recent Supreme Court and Appellate Court rulings have tended to support the physician’s and patient’s right to disregard federal drug laws when it comes to medical marijuana use.

“From our legislature to our governor to our local cops, and with the support of voters, Californians have said that patients should have access to medicines to relieve their suffering,” said Glenn Backes, Health Policy director for Drug Policy Alliance. “John Walters and John Ashcroft and the bully boys in Washington, D.C. need to lay off the sick and dying in California. There has to be a better use for our tax dollars than fighting invalids, cancer patients and people dying of AIDS.”

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

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