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Judge Orders Marijuana Club Closed

October 15, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A federal judge ordered a medical marijuana club to close, rejecting its claims that the drug is essential to relieve patients’ pain or save their lives.

Unless an appeal is successful, Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer will allow federal marshals to close the 2,000-member Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative on Friday, said Rachel Swain, a spokeswoman for the clubs that the federal government is suing.

A second club, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, was not ordered to close immediately, said its lawyer, William Panzer. He said Breyer allowed a trial on the narrow question of whether the club distributed marijuana on the day that it was under a federal agent’s surveillance.

But Panzer said Breyer rejected the defenses that would allow the club to operate, including the claim that enforcing the ban on marijuana violates patients’ constitutional right to relieve excruciating pain.

The clubs sprang up around California after passage of a November 1996 ballot initiative that allows seriously ill patients to grow and use marijuana for pain relief, with a doctor’s recommendation, without being prosecuted under state law.

Longstanding federal law declares, however, that marijuana has no medical use and cannot be administered safely under medical supervision. Many of the marijuana clubs have been shut down through the efforts of Attorney General Dan Lungren, who obtained state court rulings limiting the ballot referendum’s scope, and the U.S. Justice Department.

The Justice Department originally sued six Northern California clubs to enforce federal laws against marijuana distribution. Breyer issued an injunction in May prohibiting the clubs from distributing marijuana while the government’s suit was pending.

His latest ruling involved the government’s motion to hold the two clubs in contempt of court and require their immediate closure for violating the injunction.

Panzer said the government’s position is ``absurd, considering that marijuana is one of the safest substances known to mankind.″

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