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April 24, 1997

Federal Government Raids California Medical Marijuana Club
NORML Calls DEA Action "Federal Piracy"

        April 24, 1997, San Francisco, CA:  Federal agents confiscated 331 marijuana plants and associated growing equipment in a raid on the Flower Therapy medical marijuana buyers club this past Monday.  The early morning raid was the federal government's first crackdown on such a supplier since California voters resoundingly approved legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
        Club operator John Hudson said that no records or other property were taken in the raid, which occurred when no one was at the club.  According to published reports, dried marijuana that was marked for medicinal purposes only was not seized by federal agents, and the club has already re-opened for business.  No charges have been filed against the owners of the club.
        "Only ten days since having a federal judge's temporary restraining order block the government's 'war on doctors,' federal officials are now launching a war on patients who need medical marijuana," said Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights.  "Disrupting the supply of medical marijuana from one of the patient providers with tight, careful intake procedures shows that the DEA is not interested in preventing abuse of Proposition 215; the agency is interested in preventing any access to medical marijuana.
        "We have a business license [and] a million dollar insurance policy," Hudson said.  He maintained that the club operates with the full knowledge of local law enforcement and cooperates with health officials.  "[We are] trying to run a medical marijuana operation that was beyond reproach.  This [is] a very bad case for [the DEA.]"
        Since voters approved Proposition 215 last November, an estimated 15 clubs have emerged in California offering marijuana to patients who possess a doctor's recommendation.  In January, a Superior Court judge ruled that cannabis buyers' clubs were legal under state law as long as they operated as non-profit entities.  Flower Therapy co-owner Beth Moore said that the club has approximately 1,000 members.
        San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan criticized the raid at a press conference on Tuesday.  "It shouldn't have happened," he said.  "Federal law usually only kicks in at very large levels.  [The government's action] is really befuddling."  Hallinan is a proponent of Proposition 215 and has verbally defended the rights of cannabis buyers' clubs in the past.  He told reporters that he had no advance notice about Monday's raid and urged prosecutors not to file charges in the case.  He called the DEA action "cavalier" and said that federal agents were "wading into a very murky thicket" if they planned to enforce local marijuana laws through federal courts.
        California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer denounced the raid as "federal piracy."  Flower Therapy is an "honest, well-run medical marijuana club," Gieringer said.  "John Hudson made no secret of the fact that he was growing marijuana to help supply patients with good-quality medicine at affordable prices.  By shutting down Flower Therapy's cultivation operation, the federal government is forcing patients to be dependent on the black market's high prices and less scrupulous foreign smugglers.  The administration's policy is morally and constitutionally bankrupt, and is a direct affront to the people of California who voted for Prop. 215."
        District of Columbia attorney Rufus King, Esq. of the law firm Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe said that the government's latest action emphasizes the importance of a federal lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C. on March 6 challenging the federal government's refusal to allow physicians to prescribe marijuana in states that permit them to do so.  Plaintiffs in that case -- a group of physicians, health organizations, and patients -- seek a declaratory judgment that the federal policy prohibiting physicians from prescribing or recommending marijuana in accordance with state law violates the First, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments, and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
        For more information, please contact John Hudson of Flower Therapy @ (415) 255-6305.  For more information on California's medical marijuana laws, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights @ (310) 394-2952.

(Meanwhile) San Jose City Council Opts To Regulate Medical Marijuana Clubs

        April 24, 1997, San Jose, CA:  San Jose became the first city in the United States to regulate cannabis buyers' clubs when the City Council unanimously approved a medical marijuana zoning ordinance earlier this month.
        The ordinance allows "medical marijuana dispensaries" to open for business in the city's commercial districts as long as they are located 150 feet from residences.  The buffer zones between the clubs and schools, day care centers, and churches is 500 feet.  Marijuana cultivation is allowed under the ordinance as long as the operators obtain a special permit from the city.
The ordinance bans smoking inside the clubs and forbids people under 18 years of age from entering the premises.  Marijuana sales are legal only to registered patients and their designated caregivers.  The ordinance does not allow clubs to deliver medical marijuana to the residences of seriously ill patients.
        Peter Baez, co-founder of the Santa Clara County Medical Club, told reporters that he supports the ordinance despite it's prohibition on marijuana smoking and delivery.  Co-founder Jessie Garcia said he hopes the city will revisit those issues at a later date.
        Mayor Susan Hammer summarized the council's decision. "We certainly understand the mandate of the people of California," she said.  "We are going to regulate the land use for this activity just like we regulate the land use for other activities [like] bars, restaurants, and gas stations."
        NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre praised the city's position.  "Whereas the federal government's official response to the passage of Proposition 215 has been to launch a war against doctors and seriously ill patients, the San Jose City Council is opting to work with patients and caregivers to implement the will of the California voters."
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

American Incarceration Rates Still Highest In World... And Rising

        April 24, 1997, Washington, D.C.:  The number of Americans behind bars has more than doubled since 1985 and now stands at over 1.6 million, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
        "America is the world leader in incarceration -- both by number and percentage of population -- and these latest figures indicate that this trend is continuing unabated," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup.  "Much of this increase is a direct result of the 'War on Drugs.'"
Prisoners in the custody of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government account for two-thirds of the incarcerated population.  The other third are held in local jails.  California houses the highest number of inmates while Texas has the highest rate of prison incarceration among its state population.  The report concludes that, "One in every 163 U.S. residents [is] incarcerated."
        "Stiffening penalties against non-violent drug users has led to an explosion in American prison growth," summarized Stroup.  "Drug offenders now make up nearly two-thirds of all federal prisoners and more than one-quarter of all state and local inmates."
        For a copy of the DOJ report: Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1996, please contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service @ (800) 851-3420.  For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.