Federal Raids on California Cannabis Collectives
In 1996, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the legalization of medical marijuana in California did not protect users or distributors from federal prosecution. Since then, medical marijuana dispensaries, cardholders, and cultivators have consistently dealt with raids and federal crimes charges.
Throughout the years, communities and supporters of medical marijuana in California have stood their ground on numerous occasions. One of the most prominent events was the defiant approach of Santa Cruz, CA. On September 17, 2002, Santa Cruz mayor Christopher Krohn took a stand along with several City Council members and former mayors to show support for a medical marijuana giveaway. This event was in protest of a federal raid by the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) on a local cannabis collective.
For residents who support medical marijuana, this was a violation of their rights and inhibits the collective’s ability to provide needed medicine for cardholders. Due to this event being a challenge to the federally run D.E.A., the mayor was not sure if he would actually be arrested himself, even though he wasn’t handling the drug.
While there are multiple states that have legalized medical marijuana and multiple raids that have happened because of it, this particular raid inspired an emotional reaction. The collective that was targeted was the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) farm owned by Michael and Valerie Corral, two residents who fought for the 1996 medical marijuana initiative in California. It was in response to this raid that countless members of WAMM came out to support the protest, many of which had life-threatening and debilitating illnesses including multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer, as well as Santa Cruz residents. Due to fear of harassment from the federal government, the couple then went in to hiding after the raid.
The D.E.A. claimed a multitude of reasons for the raid on the Corral’s farm including claiming growers and distributors are simply “fattening their pocketbooks under the disguise of medicine.” The Corral’s vehemently denied this claim saying they “live off the land” and are “here to help dying people.”
The marijuana debate continues to make headlines and alter legislation across the country, but although California was a progressive on the issue, it is lagging behind states like Colorado, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon for legalizing recreational use. Legalization does appear to be moving forward still and possibly making a federal impact with the D.E.A. making a decision in 2016 on whether marijuana should be rescheduled.