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Patients protest curbs on pot

Santa Cruz (California), Sept. 18 (Reuters): Hundreds of cancer and AIDS patients along with other sick wheelchair-bound people lined up outside Santa Cruzs City Hall yesterday to receive medical marijuana and protest a recent US government raid on local pot growing cooperative that distributes it.

Several patients, including a 70-year-old man suffering from post-polio syndrome received small bags of marijuana or tinctures containing its active ingredient.

The group distributing it said there was not enough to go around and warned that many patients could lose their most effective means of pain relief, or be forced to buy it on the street, if the federal government continued to fight Californias practice of allowing pot to be grown and handed out for medicinal use.

Local cooperatives have been providing pot to patients since 1996, when voters approved a medical marijuana initiative. But federal drug enforcement agents last week raided one such cooperative here, run by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, and destroyed all the group's plants. The California law allowing the use of marijuana to treat illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and glaucoma, has always been in conflict with federal law, and last year the US Supreme Court unanimously upheld the federal ban on marijuana.

Among those protesting the raid were Harry Boyle, a 24- year-old brain cancer patient who said pot had helped offset nausea brought on by chemotherapy, and helped him maintain his weight. I was devastated when all our plants were torn up, said Boyle, who said the group had always followed a strict procedure of checking with doctors to make sure patients' health claims were legitimate, before they distributed the pot. Several city council members and local doctors also came to the demonstration to voice their support of the medical marijuana programme.

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