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California City Sues Over U.S. Drug Policy

By Rene Sanchez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2003; Page A26

LOS ANGELES, April 23 -- In another act of defiance against national drug policy, the city and county of Santa Cruz, Calif., today filed a lawsuit against federal authorities for raiding a local farm that grows and distributes marijuana to people who are seriously ill.

Other cities across California and some parts of the West also are objecting to the federal government's crackdown on the use of medicinal marijuana, but Santa Cruz is the first municipality seeking to challenge those actions in court.

Last fall, most of Santa Cruz's elected leaders gathered on the steps of City Hall and, in an act of protest against federal drug laws, gave marijuana to people in pain from severe medical problems. City officials also vowed to continue supporting groups that grow and distribute marijuana for medicinal use.

"We cannot just stand by and watch the harassment of people who are sick and dying," said Judy Appel, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who include seven people who are either terminally ill or have chronic medical conditions that they say marijuana helps relieve.

Voters in California and seven other western states allow marijuana to be distributed to people who have a doctor's prescription for it. But the Supreme Court ruled last year that federal law supercedes state law on the matter and barred physicians from prescribing the drug to patients.

Federal action against distributors of medical marijuana is intensifying. Earlier this year, a man who had been deputized by the city of Oakland to grow the drug for sick people was convicted in federal court on felony narcotics charges.

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