|Valerie Corral, WAMM’s co-founder: “We are heartened by the federal government’s newly declared position suggesting deference to state medical marijuana laws”|
Seven years after Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a California medical marijuana farm, forcing patients out of bed at gunpoint, founders of the collective running the farm agreed to settle a lawsuit against the federal government.
The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) will continue helping terminally and critically ill patients under the settlement.
Valerie and Mike Corral, founders of WAMM, called the settlement a “draw.” “They didn’t win; we didn’t win,” Mike Corral told the San Jose Mercury News.
“We hope that over time the federal government will recognize its senseless position on medical marijuana and will formally codify protections for the sick, dying and marginalized patients who have the right to use whatever substances their physicians recommend to ease suffering,” said Valerie Corral in a statement read before U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel.
“We are nonetheless heartened by the federal government’s newly declared position suggesting deference to state medical marijuana laws and we are extraordinarily proud of our collective’s role in effecting this change in policy,” Corral said. “However, should our government break their word and again pursue this senseless assault on the sick and dying, we stand at the ready and we promise to hold them accountable in a court of law.”
Attorneys for WAMM stressed the fact that the settlement means the federal government, including the DEA, is committed to the new policy announced by Attorney General Eric Holder last spring. Holder, fulfilling a campaign promise made by then-Senator Barack Obama, said his office will not enforce federal marijuana laws against patients and providers who are obeying state laws.
As a result of the new policy, WAMM agreed to drop its longstanding lawsuit.
|Allen Hopper, ACLU: “A very welcome, if incomplete, measure of security”|
”Though the new federal policy is far from ironclad, it is a marked improvement, and, we hope, a sign of even better things to come,” said Allen Hopper, litigation director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project.
“The policy provides lawful medical marijuana patients and providers a very welcome, if incomplete, measure of security. And should the federal government once again move to improperly target patients or those who care for them, we will immediately be back in court,” promised Hopper.
“It is clear that the federal government had made a practice of intentionally sabotaging state-based medical marijuana reform efforts in the past, but we take them at their word that this is no longer the case,” said Hopper. “Today’s settlement is another step toward a sensible policy, where states may chart their own course on medical marijuana without federal interference.”
The suit has been widely regarded as one of the fiercest fronts in the power struggle between states’ laws allowing medical use of marijuana and federal laws forbidding possession and use under any circumstances.
WAMM’s long fight against the federal government helped to make it one of the most prominent medical marijuana collectives in the United States.
The case began with a 2002 DEA raid when 30 gun-wielding agents used chainsaws to destroy marijuana being grown by WAMM, which gave the medicine free of charge to sick people.
WAMM’s attorneys, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, private attorney Ben Rice and the law firm of Bingham McCutchen,
said the settlement is a huge victory for collectives like WAMM.
The victory is far from complete, however. According to Uelmen, the case doesn’t have “precedent value” for the rest of the state or country.
“What this case represents is a commitment that federal policy will be followed,” Uelman said.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Lauren Vasquez, director of the Silicon Valley Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, an organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and citizens promoting safe and legal access to marijuana for medical use and research. “We hope this sends a message to cities like San Jose that they can move forward in regulating medical cannabis distribution.”
About 35 WAMM members and attorneys were in the San Jose, California courtroom; the federal government’s attorney participated via telephone.
Valerie and Mike Corral’s full statement is available at WAMM’s website (PDF).