In First-of-Its-Kind Lawsuit, Santa Cruz City and County Sue Ashcroft, DEA for Brutal Medical Marijuana RaidTerminally Ill Patients Join Local Governments to Call for Right to Control Circumstances of Pain Relief, Death
Press Conference With Santa Cruz Mayor, Medical Marijuana Patients and Attorneys for the Lawsuit, Wednesday April 23rd, 10:00 AM Pacific Time
In a raid that received national attention last September, armed agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration stormed a medical marijuana collective in Santa Cruz County, terrorizing residents and patients. The collective, the Wo/Menís Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), was shut down, and several members were detained. WAMM provides medicine to patients who suffer from terminal illnesses and chronic pain under Californiaís Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) ‚Äď a state medical marijuana law which passed in 1996.
A week after the raid, which followed a series of raids of local medical marijuana facilities throughout California, the mayor of Santa Cruz at the time, Christopher Krohn, joined several City Council members and two former mayors in front of City Hall for a medical marijuana giveaway in protest. Now, the City and County of Santa Cruz are filing a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft, Acting Administrator of the DEA, John Brown, and Drug Czar John Walters, challenging the federal governmentís right to raid WAMMís medical marijuana garden. Other plaintiffs include patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and other illnesses who use medical marijuana for relief of such symptoms as nausea and vomiting, wasting syndrome, neuropathy and severe and chronic pain. (Bios of plaintiffs are available.)
This case is the first of its kind. Never before has a public entity sued the federal government on behalf of patients who need medical marijuana. The case also focuses, on behalf of terminally and chronically ill patients, on the constitutional right to control the circumstances of their own pain relief and ultimately their deaths -- a right recognized by the Supreme Court but never fully defined. Finally, WAMM itself is unique. Unlike other medical marijuana cooperatives, WAMM also serves as a hospice, and does not charge money for its medical marijuana.
WHAT: Press Conference Announcing the Filing of Unprecedented Medical Marijuana Lawsuit
WHEN: Wednesday, April 23rd, 10:00 AM Pacific Time
WHERE: Santa Cruz County Courthouse, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA
WHO: Mayor Emily Reilly, Santa Cruz, CA
Representative from Santa Cruz County
Valerie Corral, founder of the Wo/Menís Alliance for Medical Marijuana, lawsuit plaintiff who uses medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms associated with epilepsy
Gerald Uelmen, attorney for the Plaintiffs, Santa Clara University School of Law
Michael Cheslosky, Patient Plaintiff (to be confirmed)
Judy Appel, Deputy Director of Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
County of Santa Cruz et. al. v. Ashcroft et. al. will be filed in federal district court in San Jose on Wednesday. It asks the federal court to prohibit the DEA and Federal government from further raids on WAMM. The law firm of Bingham McCutchen, LLP is lead counsel in the case, joined by the Drug Policy Alliance, Prof. Gerald Uelmen, City Attorney John Barisone and Benjamin Rice.
The patient-plaintiffs in the lawsuit represent more than 200 patients that WAMM serves. They suffer from HIV/AIDS, colon cancer, throat cancer, prostate cancer, post-polio syndrome, epilepsy, and chronic pain. These patients use medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms associated with their illnesses. These symptoms include: nausea and vomiting, wasting syndrome, neuropathy, severe and chronic pain, depression and anxiety.
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Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote new drug policies based on common sense, science, public health and human rights. The Alliance, headquartered in New York City, maintains offices in California, Washington, DC, New Mexico, and New Jersey. Ethan Nadelmann is the executive director.
County of Santa Cruz et. al. v. Ashcroft et. al.
Contact: Tony Newman
Eladio Acosta suffers from throat cancer. Medical marijuana is the only medication that stimulates his suppressed appetite and alleviates his chronic and severe pain ‚Äď all symptoms of his cancer and side effects of his conventional treatment. Eladio is a 54 year old native of the Phillipines, who never smoked marijuana before using it for medical purposes.
Michael Cheslosky was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1983, and since then has suffered from debilitating side-effects as well as several other chronic medical conditions, including Kaposiís Sarcoma and Hepatitis C. Michael experiences recurrent pneumonia, chronic pain and wasting syndrome as a result of his illness. Michael started using medical marijuana to help treat his nausea, and chronic pain and has found it to be more effective than any of the other treatments he has tried. Additionally, Michael speaks throughout Santa Cruz about his experience with HIV/AIDS, and has found that his use of medical marijuana has had a positive impact on his ability to serve the community.
Valerie Corral was in an automobile accident at the age of 20 suffering a severe closed head trauma and subsequent grand mal seizures. Doctors prescribed a myriad of anticonvulsants and pain medications which were unsuccessful in preventing seizures and were only minimally successful in reducing her pain. The medications also sedated Valerie to a near vegetative state. Valerieís use of medical marijuana has controlled her seizures and restored normalcy to her life; she can now do virtually everything that she did before her accident. Valerie started WAMM with her husband, Michael, in the mid 1990ís to help other low-income patients be able to access medical marijuana in a safe and supportive environment.
Dorothy Gibbs is the oldest member of WAMM, at age 93. Dorothy suffers from Post-Polio Syndrome, which has caused permanent damage in her legs, spine, and back. She has been in nearly constant pain for decades and homebound for several years. Her physician has prescribed various medications for her over the years, but they either did not work or caused harmful and debilitating side effects. When Dorothy began using medical marijuana at the age of 86, she almost immediately experienced its positive effects on her pain and nausea. Dorothy believes that she should have the right to use anything that may help to relieve her pain, and that her last years, months and days should not be spent suffering.
Jennifer Lee Hentz is 37 years old and was diagnosed with Stage IV colon and lymph node cancer one and a half years ago. She suffers intense pain from the cancer, and every round of chemotherapy brings on waves of nausea that leave her doubling over with pain. Jennifer uses medical marijuana to relieve these symptoms as well as to keep down the other traditional medicines that she must take.
Harold Margolin developed a massive edema after a double cervical fusion operation, and was later diagnosed with chronic peripheral neuropathy. Harold experienced a loss of muscle control after using the conventional medication Neurontin to control his pain. When he does not use Medical Marijuana, Harold suffers from debilitating pain that prevents him from being active. With Medical Marijuana, Harold is able to live a very active life, walking, exercising and volunteering for the community.