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WAMM Bam--Thanks, Uncle Sam!

Call the office of the Wo/Men's Alliance of Medical Marijuana, these days, and the following message, recorded by WAMM founder Valerie Corral, kicks in:

"Yes, we still survive the DEA's raid and American injustice. We were raided Sept. 5 at 6:50am. However, that's just a minor interference by the federal government into the lives of sick and dying people. No injustice will keep us from our work, no injustice will stop the truth."

During the Sept. 5 raid, 20 gun-toting DEA agents, led by Patrick Kelly, stormed the WAMM property, arresting a pajama-clad Corral and husband Michael before razing 130 marijuana plants to the ground with chain saws. DEA agents destroyed WAMM's 2002 crop, thus depriving the cooperative's 238 members of the medicine they use to treat AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and other fatal and highly painful disorders.

"This is an act of violence under guise of the law," said WAMM supporter Joe Wouk, as the DEA drove away in SUV vans and U-Haul trucks stuffed with massacred pot plants.

After the raid, WAMM members surveyed the carnage. Framed by a "Love Grows Here" sign, the once flourishing plot had been reduced to stumps and tangled wire on which the occasional tattered marijuana leaf fluttered, a sight that spurred some to action and others to tears.

"This was such a beautiful place. what can you say but 'fuck'?" said Sheri Paris, as she salvaged crushed leaves.

'I sincerely believe some of our members are going to be suicidal. They won't be able to get the medicine they need."

A sobbing Diana Dodson wanted to know why the DEA is terrorizing sick people. "We've lost 40 members this year, and that number will increase because of this raid," said Dodson, noting that ashes of three deceased WAMM members have been scattered in the now-ravaged plot.

Also grieving in the garden were Harry Boyle, 24, and his caregiver and fiancée, Courtney Connolly.

Connolly said Boyle's experience has changed her perspective on marijuana.

"'I used to be anti-drugs and I don't smoke at all, but I see how much it helps him and all the people here. They can eat, sleep function, and be in a good mood."

Boyle, who has a brain tumor, said smoking pot helps his headaches, chemotherapy and loss of appetite.

"Before I smoked pot I was unable to even keep down the anti-nausea pills," he says.

By Friday, condemnations for the DEA's action against WAMM were flying.

"Truly outrageous" is how Congressmember Sam Farr (D-Carmel) described it. "The alliance is known for helping sick people ease their pain. It does not sell marijuana to the public. It only grows marijuana for members, and they must have a doctor's prescription."

Farr is a co-sponsor of H.R. 2592, the States' Right to Medical Marijuana Act, which would give patients legal protection under federal law and permit states that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems the legal authority to do so.

Arrested twice for cultivation in 1992, Valerie and Michael Coral defended themselves with their right to grow marijuana for medicinal use, with Valerie using it to alleviate epileptic seizures since a 1974 car accident.

Corral was also instrumental in drafting California's Prop. 215, which allows patients and their caregivers to grow pot for medicinal purposes, but though seven other states have implemented similar laws, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says they all violate federal drug laws.

But county Supe Mardi Wormhoudt, who has placed a letter and resolution on the board's Sept. 10 agenda, condemning the DEA's actions, says indicting the Corrals or confiscating their property would be a miscarriage of justice.

"Valerie Corral is the DEA's worse enemy. She's been scrupulous about keeping records and never taking money for her work. She's brave, resolute and savvy. But she'd rather be effective than a martyr."

City Councilmember Mark Primack says the council is also making a Sept. 10 motion protesting the DEA's action.

"When the city asked Sheriff Mark Tracy and SCPD Chief Steve Belcher to do more much-needed heroin stings, it was told there are no DEA grants available, because funds had been siphoned into Homeland Security," Primack said. "Are the feds saying it's time to marginalize California and stop treating us like a role model?"

Medical Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken notes that 56 percent of all people using illegal drugs are using marijuana.

"Legalizing marijuana would create a chink in the DEA's armor, a lot of budgets would go south. That's why they don't care how many sick people are hurt by this."

And Valerie Corral charged that the feds' action was robbing WAMM of a fair trial.

"The DEA can indict us and forfeit our land--I call it steal it--for up to five years. If we had a jury trial, it would be all over for them. If they had cause to send 20 DEA agents, then they have cause to stand up in court. Give us a day to prove ourselves. We have voluminous science," said Corral, adding that so far Rep. Mike Honda's office would only say that the congressmember was "sympathetic."

"Keep your sympathy if you do not support H.R. 2592: the States' Right to Medical Marijuana Act." Corral said.

Hmm, well, Congressmember Anna Eshoo and Sen. Barbara Boxer--both reputed to also be sympathetic--were unavailable for comment at presstime.

WAMM will provide marijuana to the group's longtime patients in front of City Council chambers, 809 Center St., Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 3pm. Mayor Chris Krohn, Vice Mayor Emily Reilly, Councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice and county Supe Mardi Wormhoudt and other public officials will assist.

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From the September 11-18, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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