The number of seriously ill Americans arrested and/or harassed for possession of marijuana continues to grow.


In Santa Cruz, despite the passage of Measure A in 1993, police seized the marijuana plants of 33 year-old quadriplegic Scott Hager. Measure A recognizes marijuana's medical value and prohibits local authorities from prosecuting those with a medical need for the plant.

Local police seized four plants from Hager in September. No charges were brought but Hager, fed-up with policeman acting as doctors, has decided to go on the offensive. He has filed suit in local court challenging the constitutionality of the State's medical prohibition.

Two other Californians have faced harassment by local police. Sister Somayah Kambui of Los Angeles was the victim of a mistaken police raid in June. The soft-spoken woman suffers from sickle cell anemia and argues marijuana helps ease the pain of that disease.

Police mistakenly raider her home when they actually possessed a warrant for a downstairs apartment.

They seized one six inch seedling. Initially charged with a felony, charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor and then dropped.

Barbara Sweeney has twice watched the police raid her home and remove her medicine. The 40 year-old AIDS patient lives in Marin County where the Board of Supervisors has endorsed medical access to marijuana. In July 1994, the police seized 12 plants from Sweeney. No charges were brought because them was no warrant.


In Charles County, Maryland, 43 year-old Jerome Mensch was not so fortunate. Like Sweeney, Mensch suffers from AIDS. In November 1994, local police searched his dairy farm with a warrant and found enough marijuana for about ten cigarettes. Mensch, who cooperated completely with the police, then led the officials to four plants that were growing on the property. Trial is expected in 1995.

What to do?

If you are arrested for marijuana possession and you have a medical need for the drug there is the possibility that you can claim the defense of medical necessity. This defense is not easy. It is highly specific to the individual charged. There are two basic points: 1) you must have a medical condition responsive to marijuana-based therapies and 2) the condition must be beyond the reach of conventional, legally available medications. In other words, it isn't enough to simply choose to use marijuana. You must demonstrate that marijuana has significant advantages over conventional medications.

The Alliance recommends that those with a medical need for marijuana take the necessary steps to create a strong record of medical use. Inform your doctor and ask that he or she make a note in your medical records. Prepare a statement of how marijuana is helpful, when you began using it, why it is better than other medications, etc. Have that statement notarized and keep a copy with your important documents. You may want to ask your doctor to put a copy of this statement in your file.

These steps will begin to create a record of your need for medical access to marijuana. You may also want to keep a log documenting how your condition changes when you are unable to obtain supplies of marijuana.

Until compassion and common sense prevail it will be necessary for those with a medical need for marijuana to take steps such as those outlined above. It may be a little extra work but it could save you a jail term in the future.

ACT News - Spring 1995