SACRAMENTO-More than 1,000 protesters are expected to gather in Sacramento on Monday to express outrage over the recent DEA raids of medical marijuana clinics in California. Speakers at the Sacramento protest will include San Francisco District Attorney Terance Hallinan, drug policy reform advocate Kevin Zeese, U.S. Congressman Howard Beeman, and Valerie Corral, a founder of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), the most recently raided clinic. Events are planned in Washington, DC to coincide with those in Sacramento.
Protests, street performances, civil disobedience and direct actions are planned in Sacramento and Washington, DC for Monday, September 23 to protest the recent actions of federal law enforcement. Activists in Sacramento will begin gathering at the south steps of the State Capitol at 11:00 AM for the day's events. The day's actions are scheduled to begin at noon.
Stephanie Sherer, Executive Director for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, identified four major goals for the protests and vigils:
- To insist that the State of California join in fighting off the intrusions of the Federal Government through adoption of a joint resolution and the filing for injunctive relief.
- To alert the public of the plight of the sick and the war on our State Law through the media
- To seek pardons of all federal prisoners who are held for medical cannabis offenses
- To strengthen community coalitions and build a foundation for future actions
National advocates of a more compassionate and sensible drug policy are strongly critical of the Washington decision-makers who ordered the raids. Reformers call for an immediate cessation to the raids, which they say are cruel, politically motivated and unnecessary, and for Congressional hearings on the matter.
"The DEA raid of the Santa Cruz hospice proved beyond a doubt that Attorney General John Ashcroft, DEA Chief Asa Hutchinson and Drug Czar John Walters are zealots without a trace of compassion for those harmed by their brutal policies," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped organize support of Proposition 215. "The time has come for the US Congress to hold hearings where patients and doctors can challenge their persecutors under oath and before the eyes of the country."
On September 5, in the most recent raid, heavily armed federal agents raided WAMM in Santa Cruz, CA, prompting a national outcry. The mayor, members of the city council and other elected officials in Santa Cruz took bold action on Tuesday - publicly defying the DEA by distributing the "illegal" medicine to sick and dying members of their community.
Gov. Gray Davis has expressed his "compassion for people who are sick and are properly using marijuana under our law," adding that "the people passed this law," referring to Proposition 215 in 1996, which allows the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical purposes under California law.
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, going a step farther, condemned what he calls, "a disheartening addition to a growing list of provocative and intrusive incidents of harassment by the DEA in California." Despite the opposition of state officials, DEA spokespeople continue to support the WAMM raid, one of 6 such raids on dispensaries in the past year.
Candlelight vigils are planned on Sunday, September 22nd throughout the country in a show of solidarity with the thousands of medical marijuana patients who have been denied access to their medicine as well as the hundreds of care-givers/cultivators and others who face federal prosecution. The vigils will be followed by a day of direct action and civil disobedience on Monday, September 23rd.