Medical Marijuana Users Alarmed by Court's Ruling

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The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday to allow the prosecution of medical marijuana users has already alarmed patients who view the drug as part of their treatment. Alex Chadwick speaks with Valerie Corral, co-founder and director of the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, Calif., about how she views this decision.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And joining us now is Valerie Corral. She's co-founder and director for the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, California. She uses medical marijuana to treat her epilepsy.

Ms. Corral, welcome to the program, and what's your reaction to this ruling?

Ms. VALERIE CORRAL (Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana): Thank you for your invitation. My reaction is--of course, it's great sorrow. I'm not completely surprised, but you know, this morning at 4 AM--and excuse me, because I'm a little bit sleepy--one of our longtime members, who was a member of WAMM for 10 years, he died, and a couple of our members and friends were with him as he passed. And you know, I think about this day, as my heart breaks, recognizing that this simple decision, with the mark of a pen, a member who has been in good standing, a remarkable human being, becomes a criminal, and so do the other nearly 200 members in our organization.

We don't sell marijuana. We're a collective of patients and we provide it for one another at no cost. We also provide, as you heard here, end-of-life care. Some 155 members have died since our inception in 1993, and our work is no less important because our government considers us to act outside of the law.

CHADWICK: Since the founding of this group, the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana. Let me ask you this. There are plenty of authorities who say there are currently available prescription drugs that act just like the effects of marijuana in treating people's pain, and that indeed these things will deliver the same kinds of therapeutic effects without the dangers of smoking something.

Ms. CORRAL: Yes, that's true, and in many cases there are alternative drugs, but I for one happen to be one of the 25 percent of epileptics that do not respond to pharmaceutical medication, and no matter what the development of science is over the years--and I've had epilepsy for 30 years, nearly--there has been no medication that seems to affect that percentage of epileptics who do not respond. Now I'm not saying that marijuana's a panacea. All we're doing is we're asking for a chance. We're just asking for the opportunity to relieve our suffering and live a normal life, or as normal as it can possibly be, and to not be criminalized by our government.

CHADWICK: Well, what are people in your group going to do now?

Ms. CORRAL: We're left with little choice. I have no alternatives to treat the epilepsy that I suffer from. You know, a car accident changed my life in a moment. Everything was different, and to think that in this life, everyone will not face suffering, every human being will not face it, is absurd. Any time that we can find or offer relief of that suffering, that's the duty of every citizen and certainly the obligation of our government to do so.

CHADWICK: Are you saying, just so I'm clear on this, you are going to find some way to continue using marijuana as a medication whether or not the government says it's OK?

Ms. CORRAL: I must, yes. I must, and this is--it breaks my heart to think that I have to be a criminal when really I'm a good, compassionate person, and I just happen to have epilepsy. You know, to stand against your own government is one of the most difficult things to do, but I'm not really standing against my government, and neither is anyone in our group. We're trying to stand against our illnesses. We're trying to prevent more suffering, and we're faced with acts of tyranny by our own government. I mean, it's no less an act of tyranny to have the government come into your home, kick in your door and put a gun to your head. I cannot tell you what that feels like. I can never convey the fear, the injustice, the sorrow that I have to be afraid of my own government and my illness.

CHADWICK: Valerie Corral is co-founder and director of the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, reacting to a Supreme Court decision today saying that medical marijuana is not permissible in this country.

Valerie, thank you and good luck to you.

Ms. CORRAL: Thank you. I believe I'll need some.

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