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November 1, 2006 - North County Times (CA)

Medical Marijuana Patients Arrested

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SAN DIEGO - Angry medical marijuana patients were arrested Tuesday when they staged a protest at a convention of federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents at the San Diego Marriott in Mission Valley.

Officials from Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based group that has advocated on behalf of medical marijuana patients, said seven people were arrested, and one man cited, when the protesters refused to leave the hotel after demanding to see DEA Chief Karen Tandy.

A San Diego Police Department spokesman confirmed that there was an incident at the convention that involved arrests.

Local medical marijuana patients have been angered by a crackdown by federal agents -- supported by county law enforcement officials -- that has essentially shut down marijuana dispensaries.

California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, which makes it legal for seriously ill people to use marijuana to ease their pain or symptoms.

However, federal law says all marijuana use is illegal, and San Diego County supervisors are suing to overturn the Compassionate Use Act.

Vista resident Craig McClain, who said he has used marijuana for years to ease severe spasms from having his spine crushed in a construction-related accident, was the protester who was cited and released.

"I can't believe I'm having to go through this all over again," McClain, who, though relegated to moving around by electric scooter because of pain, lobbied for the Compassionate Use Act 10 a decade ago.

"I feel like my vote never counted."

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