Santa Cruz leaders help in marijuana giveaway at City Hall

By Martha Mendoza
Wednesday September 18, 2002


SANTA CRUZ — Calling Santa Cruz a sanctuary from federal authorities, medical marijuana advocates — joined by city leaders — passed out pot to about a dozen sick people at City Hall. 

“Santa Cruz is a special place, and today we’re letting the world know how compassionate we can be,” Mayor Christopher Krohn said. “We’re taking a stand.” 

More than 1,000 community members jammed into the garden-like courtyard for a supportive demonstration during the giveaway. Some held signs reading, “DEA Go Away” and “U.S. Out Of Santa Cruz.” 

Several people in the crowd lit marijuana cigarettes, but it was mostly an alcohol and drug-free gathering, which was what organizers requested. 

Marijuana is illegal as a medicine or as a recreational drug under federal law. But state law, and county and city ordinances, say it’s legal if recommended by a doctor. 

Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer said he was appalled by Tuesday’s event, and feared the community is sending a dangerous message to its children. 

“Marijuana is an illegal drug in this country,” he said. 

But Mike Corral, who helped distribute the marijuana, said the only message sent was that “marijuana is medicine.” 

In Santa Cruz and many California communities, local law enforcement works closely with growers and distributors who help sick people obtain marijuana. 

Krohn and his colleagues didn’t handle the marijuana Tuesday, but stood in solidarity with the clinic workers and users. 

Police Chief Steve Belcher said his officers didn’t plan to arrest registered, legitimate members picking up their medicine. However, he said, “This is not going to be a smoke-out at City Hall.” 

People who showed up to smoke marijuana without a doctor’s recommendation could face arrest, he said. 

The City Hall pot distribution comes less than two weeks after DEA agents arrested the owners of a local pot farm and confiscated 130 plants that had been grown for use as medicine. 

There was no official city sponsorship of the event. Council members and medical marijuana advocates simply acted on their own in a public space, said City Attorney John Barisone. 

Hal Margolin, who said he suffers chronic back pain, said he was relieved to receive his weekly marijuana dose. 

“We don’t buy it, we don’t sell it, we don’t ship it in interstate commerce and we don’t give it to children,” he said. 

Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington also allow marijuana to be grown and distributed to people with a doctor’s prescription. 

Community members in this liberal central California community repeatedly have supported medical marijuana. 

In 1992, 77 percent of Santa Cruz voters approved a measure ending the prohibition of medical marijuana. Four years later, state voters approved Proposition 215, allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes. And in 2000, the city council approved an ordinance allowing medical marijuana to be grown and used without a prescription.