The Medical Marijuana Magazine


From The San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, July 30, 1997 Page A14

Pot Club Operators Threaten To Go on Fast

Maria Alicia Gaura, Chronicle South Bay Bureau

Claiming that San Jose's marijuana laws are putting them out of business, two directors of the city's only medical marijuana dispensary yesterday threatened to begin a hunger strike unless the city amends its rules. Peter Baez and Jesse Garcia announced that they will begin fasting, and also suspend their medical treatments for AIDS and cancer, unless the city dumps the rule requiring them to grow all their marijuana inside their tiny Meridian Avenue office. ``If the chief of police and the mayor tell us absolutely no, and order us to stop (distributing marijuana), Jesse will stop taking his AIDS anti-viral medication, and I will stop my chemotherapy (treatment for colon cancer),'' Baez said. State voters approved the medical use of marijuana in November with the passage of Proposition 215, and San Jose made national news when it became the first city in the United States to regulate and license medical marijuana dispensaries. But Baez and Garcia, who helped draw up the San Jose laws and say they have complied with most of its provisions, now say the city's insistence that they grow marijuana on-site is impossible to meet. They also want the city to change the part of the law that allows police to search patients' medical records at any time, without a search warrant. The Santa Clara County Medical Cannabis Club is now operating outside the law, Garcia said, and will continue to do so if the law is not changed. Garcia and Baez now buy marijuana from a San Francisco grower, take it to their San Jose office and distribute it to about 150 patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana use. ``I confess it,'' Garcia said. ``I transport it, and I use it. I have to get it from somewhere.'' City officials are willing to talk about changes in the law, but they are making no guarantees. ``We want to make it clear that an ordinance is in place, and we expect it to be followed to the letter,'' said Kevin Pursglove, a spokesman for Mayor Susan Hammer. Police spokesman John Carillo said law enforcement will continue to work with the marijuana club. ``Chief (Louis) Cobarruviaz understands the spirit behind the law, but we can only proceed so fast,'' Carillo said. ``We understand their frustrations, and we have similar ones. We are not giving up on this.'' The San Jose club, which law enforcement officials have described in the past as ``squeaky clean,'' now distributes marijuana to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. Baez says he has complied with ``90 percent'' of the city's requirements, and yesterday morning appeared at a court hearing for a man charged with attempting to pass a forged prescription for marijuana. Andrew Poltorak, 44, pleaded no contest to a charge of forgery yesterday after Municipal Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez dropped the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Baez urged the judge not to reduce the charge, saying that a soft approach would encourage more forgers. Baez said that since Poltorak's arrest, he has reported two other people to police for trying to pass phony doctor's notes at his club.

Copyright The San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, August 6, 1997  Page A18       1997 San Francisco Chronicle


Medical Marijuana Club Says It Has A Deal With San Jose Police
Maria Alicia Gaura, Chronicle South Bay Bureau
	Two directors of San Jose's medical marijuana dispensary say they've reached a deal with police that will allow the club
to continue to operate legally.
	Police have agreed to soften their position and are recommending a change in the city's laws requiring the
dispensary to grow pot on site, according to the directors, Peter Baez and Jesse Garcia.
	Police and city officials refused to comment, but a spokeswoman for City Attorney Joan Gallo confirmed that
portions of the city's laws regulating medical marijuana dispensaries are under review.
	Baez, executive director of the Santa Clara County Medical Marijuana Center, said he no longer fears arrest even though
the center is operating outside the city's law. The law requires the center to grow all of its marijuana supplies
inside its tiny Meridian Avenue office, which center officials said would put them out of business.
	``We met with (San Jose Chief of Police Louis) Cobarruviaz, and he assured us that he very much supports the spirit of
Proposition 215,'' the state initiative that legalized medical use of marijuana, Baez said. ``He said he would
recommend changes to the law, and in the meantime we are going ahead with business as usual.''
	Baez and Garcia threatened last week to stop eating and to discontinue their treatments for cancer and HIV if the city
didn't change the on-site cultivation rule.
	The rule was imposed by the city because transporting marijuana remains illegal under state and federal law.
Baez, whose group provides marijuana to more than 150 patients, said the cultivation requirement was impossible to
meet. The center wants permission to transport marijuana from a San Francisco grower until it can set up a growing
operation in San Jose in a location separate from the office.
	Other Bay Area cities such as Oakland and Fairfax have ignored the state law and allowed marijuana to be grown away
from where it is distributed.
	Baez and Garcia also protested a provision in the city law that allowed police to examine patients' medical files at
any time, without a search warrant.
	According to Baez, Cobarruviaz agreed to recommend that the city allow the files to remain confidential, in part because
the center now has an on-staff physician, Dr. Dennis Augustine, who can invoke physician- patient privacy rights.
	Calls to the police department were referred to Sergeant Scott Savage, who could not confirm details of the meeting.
Even with a positive recommendation from the chief of police, any changes in the city's laws must be reviewed by
the city attorney and adopted by the city council, according to Kevin Pursglove, spokesman for Mayor Susan Hammer. At
this time there is no plan to bring any changes before the council, he said.
	San Jose was the first city in the United States to regulate and license medical marijuana dispensaries, but no group has
yet been able to meet the requirements of the new law.
	Baez's group has worked with the city to develop the new law, and is currently the only group openly distributing
marijuana to sick people in the state's third largest city.
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