WAMMfest Facing Major Downer

September 15, 2008

Santa Cruz, CA — WAMMfest, the annual event where medical marijuana patients toke up in San Lorenzo Park while touting the benefits of their medicine, may be in for a major bummer.

Organizers might have to throw a marijuana festival without the smoke. On Sept. 27, Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana will hold its annual WAMM Festival — a medical pot, hemp and music celebration.

The group last week requested an exception from the city’s ban on smoking in San Lorenzo Park so its 200 patients could attend the event and inhale their medicine.

With Councilman Tony Madrigal sick, the City Council on Tuesday split the vote 3-3 and the motion failed. All council members voiced their support for medical marijuana, but not all were crazy about granting an exception to city rules for a festival celebrating drugs that are illegal without a prescription, fearing it could draw recreational tokers.

The issue will return to the council on Sept. 23. But Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who voted for the measure the first time around, will be absent — raising the possibility of another tie. While Madrigal said he supports lifting the ban, one of the other council members who voted “no” Tuesday — Ed Porter, Cynthia Mathews or Lynn Robinson — would have to change their stance to lift the ban and allow patients to light up in the park.

“In all likelihood it will be a 3-3 vote and it will not pass,” Coonerty said.

Porter, a teacher at Santa Cruz High School, said he supports medical marijuana but does not want to lift the ban because “inevitably the festival becomes a recreational thing and a celebration in the park.”

“I encounter students who want to use it recreationally and I need to work against that. I think it’s a problem,” he said.

For Valerie Corral, the co-founder of WAMM, the situation is infuriating.

“I don’t understand the big kerfuffle about taking legal medicine, really. I think it’s absurd,” Corral said. She does not plan to move the festival at this late date; instead, Corral said she is preparing vaporizers for the event, which heat cannabis to the point where active ingredients are released but smoke is not.

Councilwoman Emily Reilly, who with Coonerty and Councilman Mike Rotkin voted to lift the ban, said she still hopes to find a way around the smoking ban.

“This is not and never has been about the recreational use of illegal drugs. This is about having compassion for sick and dying people,” Reilly said.

WAMMfest in recent years has come under the jurisdiction of the city’s no smoking rule, which applies in San Lorenzo and other parks. The council unanimously approved a temporary suspension of the smoking ban for last year’s event, and organizers planned a closed tent for patients who couldn’t wait to get home to take a hit.

However, Sentinel reports from last year’s festival showed that many participants did smoke joints on the lawn, and some drove in from out of town for what they considered a recreational event.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

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