UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
I, Valerie Corral, declare as follows:
1. On March 23, 1973, at the age of 20, I was in an automobile accident when a plane swooped within feet of the Volkswagen “Beetle” I was riding in. The driver lost control of the vehicle and I was thrown from the car and rendered unconscious. I suffered a severe closed head trauma. That detour dissolved my world and created in its wake a journey that has carried me through an unexpected future.
2. As a result of the accident, I began to suffer grand mal seizures and was later hospitalized for a full week as doctors attempted to control the seizures that often occurred up to five times a day. When I began to convulse, my parents would turn me on my side to keep me from swallowing my tongue. They held me on the floor while I foamed at the mouth and lost control of my bladder, urinating all over myself. During the seizures, I had no conscious control over my body, my mind or my being. Following the seizures, I typically slept for several hours and would wake up in tremendous pain with no memory of the seizures.
3. Doctors prescribed a myriad of anticonvulsants and pain medications. But the medications did not prevent seizures and only minimally reduced my pain. Since phenobarbital and Dylantin offered little reprieve from the convulsions, my doctors added more prescription medication to my regimen. They prescribed a crippling anti-epileptic drug called Mysoline along with Percodan and Diazepam for pain. I did not fare any better with these medications. Each left me drunk with side effects and failed to alleviate my symptoms. No medication or treatment offered me any hope as I continued to suffer as many as three to five grand mal seizures a day. I sometimes had to be hospitalized on account of either the violent uncontrolled thrashing or the cumulative effects of the drugs.
4. These anti-convulsant
and pain medications also sedated me to the point that I lived in a near
vegetative state. My parents described me as “catatonic.” I felt like I was
living under water. I was wholly dysfunctional. Friends and family had to
remind me to eat. I
could not think clearly. I slept fitfully. My doctors changed my medications and tried different dosages, but the seizures continued to strike with little warning. The medications affected my vision disabling me from being able to read. They also affected my joints and connective tissue, my kidneys and liver and they depleted my white blood cells, diminishing my immune system and rendering me vulnerable to viruses. I constantly battled ordinary colds and flus, which often resulted in hospitalization.
5. Eventually, I became physically dependent on my medications. I descended deep into a pharmaceutical darkness that paralyzed me. I could not work. I discovered that I could not even cross the street by myself after an incident where I walked into oncoming traffic. On another occasion, I nearly drowned while taking a bath. I could not complete the simplest of tasks. Family and friends would not leave me unattended, because at anytime I could have been overcome by a seizure and injure myself. I spiraled into the isolation resulting from both the illness and the only drugs available to treat it. I survived this way for more than two years.
6. Meanwhile, my husband and caregiver, Michael Corral, scoured scientific and medical journals for a sign of some promising new therapy. His thorough research uncovered information that changed my life forever. He found an article published in a medical journal in the early 1970’s, discussing marijuana’s ability to control laboratory induced seizures in rats. This revelation, though hard at first for us to believe, offered a rare glimmer of hope. I yearned for any alternative to the powerful, debilitating prescription drugs and the ravages of the seizures and pain that consumed me. I obtained a small amount of marijuana and found that smoking it diminished my seizure activity almost immediately. Michael and I carefully figured out how much and with what frequency I should use medical marijuana to stave off my symptoms, and I adhered to that religiously. Whenever I felt an aura (the premonitory sensation that often precedes a seizure), I smoked a little more. To our amazement, it halted the onset of convulsions.
7. For the next two and one-half years, I slowly decreased the dosages of my various prescription drugs and finally stopped my anti-convulsants altogether. The only medication that I continue to rely on is marijuana. It controls my seizures and restores normalcy to my life. I can now do virtually everything that I did before my accident, including driving. I still experience neurological problems, but I live seizure-free because I use medical marijuana.
8. In addition to my personal experience with medical marijuana, sharing what I had learned with other patients allowed me to witness the benefits of medical marijuana. A particular patient, Harrold Allen, comes to mind. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a prognosis of six months to live. His illness did not only devastate his health, it robbed him of his ability to provide for his family. Financially, he had to rely solely on state disability funding, which was not enough to pay for his prohibitively costly medication. Consequently, he lost everything including his home, his automobile, and family heirlooms. When we met, he was using medical marijuana which was positively affecting his condition, but the prohibitive cost reduced his access. He reached a point where he was taking forty-two Dilaudid per day. He substituted medical marijuana for the narcotics he was taking and within one day he ceased all narcotic use, without experiencing any withdrawal. His doctor once told me how astonished he was at the success of medical marijuana in Harrold’s case, and that he completely supported this alternative treatment. The miracle is that Harrold Allen lived six years beyond his prognosis.
9. By the early 1990’s, I had seen numerous examples of the remarkable difference marijuana made in people’s lives, including my own. It provided a single medical alternative to a multitude of symptoms by relieving them as well as allowing patients to return to a kind of normalcy. Even in facing death, I witnessed many patients suddenly experience less suffering and welcome some of the simplicity that daily life can bring. My personal experience, the experiences I witnessed of other patients’ use and my research convinced me of the powerful potential that medical marijuana and a patient community offer. In our small collective of patients, we recognize the wonder of helping one another in a group setting.
10. My husband and caregiver, Michael Corral, and I founded the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (“WAMM”) in 1993. WAMM rents an office and meeting space in Santa Cruz, California and uses our land in Davenport, in Santa Cruz County, for the collective cultivation efforts. The organization is run by myself, my husband, our board of directors, our members, their caregivers and other volunteers. WAMM serves approximately 250 members who suffer from diseases including HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, various forms of cancer, and other terminal and chronic illnesses. It is comprised of 85% terminally ill patients and the remaining patients suffer from chronic pain and illnesses.
11. Before joining WAMM, all members are interviewed and must have their doctors complete a physician recommendation form. Upon joining WAMM, all members sign two contracts. First, members must sign an agreement binding them to follow the policies of WAMM. By signing the WAMM Guidelines and Protocols, WAMM members agree that WAMM will be their only source of medical marijuana, that they will not sell or provide marijuana to others and that all use is monitored and recommended by a physician. In addition, each time members receive their allotments of medical marijuana, they attest that they have not and will not take the marijuana outside of California.
12. The primary mission of WAMM is to provide palliative care treatment and support services for the terminally and seriously ill, many of whom suffer excruciating physical pain. The support that WAMM provides is a crucial component of many patients’ care. For example, WAMM is comprised of a group of patients with terminal cancer and AIDS, who are undergoing chemotherapy and use medical marijuana to ease the effects of their treatments. These patients met through WAMM and regularly attend support and meditation groups. They council each other as they cope with the debilitating side effects of their illnesses. Members frequently tell me that their suffering creates an intimacy between each other, when they might otherwise be isolated. Members frequently share experiences and support each other by offering rides to doctors’ appointments and the grocery store and assist one another in important day to day tasks. Some have met, befriended and even married through WAMM meetings. For many, the weekly support meetings are their only social engagement. This bond creates friendships that carry us through the burdens of our illnesses and the inevitability of death.
13. Central to our mission, WAMM members cultivate marijuana exclusively for our personal medical use and receive a free, regulated, weekly allotment of medical marijuana. We do so in consultation with our personal physicians; in full compliance with California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 – codified as California Health and Safety Code § 11362.5 – which recognizes both the need to aggressively treat pain and the medical efficacy of marijuana; in full compliance with city and county ordinances; with the approval of Santa Cruz County and an established relationship with local law enforcement since 1994; pursuant to the City of Santa Cruz’s deputization of WAMM as an official local government agency; and with the understanding that marijuana is the best – and in many cases the only – medicine that offers adequate relief for our particular symptoms. WAMM provides a free, organic and reliable source for medical marijuana for patients with a physician’s recommendation. Even for those who are well enough to do so, very few people who come to WAMM have either the land or the knowledge to cultivate safe and effective marijuana for their own, exclusive medical use. WAMM has a garden in Davenport, California and some members cultivate their own personal medical marijuana at home as part of the WAMM Cultivation Partnership Program.
14. Since WAMM’s inception, I have personally seen hundreds of patients through their illnesses, witnessing the profound effects medical marijuana has had on their survival. I have sat at the bedside of dying patients and observed the relief this medicine has offered to people facing death. Through all of these experiences, I have witnessed medical marijuana offer hope, reduce suffering, and people have repeatedly told me that it has helped them accept their deaths with more ease. Also, I have seen the power of group healing that WAMM provides people who have been isolated from friends and family because of their illnesses. The human contact and group support provided by WAMM gives terminally and chronically ill members a place to turn.
15. I have seen members relieved from the suffering and anguish associated with pain after they start using medical marijuana. In some cases, I have seen members with renewed energy who have been bed ridden for months and suddenly have the energy to walk and leave their house because much of their focus is taken off the pain and placed onto other more important things. It is easy to recognize improvements in patients’ general mood and demeanor after joining WAMM and as they begin using medical marijuana.
16. I have also seen medical marijuana help patients alleviate nausea. WAMM has a constant supply of snacks and health food available for anyone who visits the office. For many members just the mere thought of food or eating seems difficult for them because of nausea associated with their illnesses. I have seen those same members eating regularly of their own volition, in a very short period of time, after taking their recommended medical marijuana.
17. I have spent time in the hospital rooms and homes of patients who have recently undergone chemotherapy for treatment of cancer. It is common for those member-patients to experience tremors, loss of appetite, weakness, fatigue and other symptoms following their chemotherapy. I have sat with patients and observed as medical marijuana provided drastic improvements in their condition following chemotherapy.
18. Overall, WAMM provides the means through which its member-patients can care for themselves and each other as part of a collective group. WAMM provides medicine that allows its dying patients to mitigate their pain, nausea and other suffering, so that they can live their lives in greater comfort.
19. The City of Santa Cruz enacted the Personal Medical Marijuana Use Ordinance, Santa Cruz Municipal Code §§ 6.90.010-6.90.090 (“the City Ordinance”). Among other things, the City Ordinance allows the City to officially recognize a “medical marijuana provider association,” which the City Ordinance defines as “a collective of individuals comprised of qualified patients and primary caregivers, the sole intent of which is to provide education, referral, or network services and to facilitate/assist in the lawful production, acquisition, and provision of medical marijuana to qualified patients.” Santa Cruz Municipal Code § 6.90.010(4). The City of Santa Cruz officially recognizes WAMM as a medical marijuana provider association.
20. WAMM complies with all the requirements set forth in Santa Cruz Municipal Code § 6.90.020(4). WAMM provides all medical marijuana at no cost and membership is in no way predicated upon financial ability. Some members donate time or money and all sign agreements that neither they nor their caregivers will sell any marijuana. Any member found in breach of contracts or protocols may be called before the board of directors. Our board then will investigate any allegations. Were a member found to be engaging in misconduct, he or she would be asked to leave the group.
21. To ensure that qualified patients are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction, the City added a provision to the Ordinance that allows medical marijuana provider associations, such as WAMM, to issue valid identification cards to qualified patients and primary caregivers upon receipt of a physician’s written recommendation for medical marijuana. Santa Cruz Municipal Code § 6.90.020(2). It also provides that medical marijuana provider associations may issue valid identification cards “upon the physician’s written declaration or confirmation that the qualified patient is under the physician’s care,” for medical conditions for which the physician has approved the use of marijuana, which include, but are not limited to, “HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy or other spasticity-related illnesses, migraine, [and] anorexia.” Santa Cruz Municipal Code §§ 6.90.020(2) and 6.90.010(2).
22. WAMM creates and issues identification cards for all of its members. The identification cards include the member’s name along with WAMM contact numbers and mailing address. A special section on the cards is labeled, “FOR POLICE USE ONLY” and includes a 24-hour phone number for police to obtain identification and patient status information regarding a particular member. The cards also include the patient or caregiver’s WAMM identification number, verification of member status, confirmation that the card and member’s use is in compliance with California Health and Safety Code § 11362.5 and an expiration date. The identification cards also include a photo of the member and a symbol which determines if the patient is a regular or Satellite Program member.
23. The City Ordinance also empowers the City of Santa Cruz to deputize individuals and organizations who may function as medical marijuana providers to assist the City in implementing the City Ordinance and the Compassionate Use Act. As one of the many gestures of its support of WAMM and its activities, the City deputized both Michael and myself as medical marijuana providers pursuant to Santa Cruz Municipal Code § 6.90.080. The City officially recognizes our capacity as deputies, entrusted with the duty of carrying out the law and following the codes related to the legal cultivation and provision of medicinal marijuana to patients.
24. Santa Cruz politicians have been very supportive of WAMM. At the local government level, current Santa Cruz mayor, Emily Reilly, has been a vocal supporter of WAMM. Former mayors Scott Kennedy, Christopher Khron and Celia Scott also played an integral part in nurturing WAMM along through its formative stages and continues to support its activities. Along with mayors, past and present, Santa Cruz county supervisors have supported WAMM. In particular, Mardi Wormhoudt has been instrumental in fostering a relationship between the county and WAMM. The relationship of commonality between WAMM and the city and county truly is mutual and cooperative.
25. Many members of the local law enforcement community also support WAMM, including: Steve Belcher, Santa Cruz Chief of Police; Bob Lee, Santa Cruz County District Attorney; and Mark Tracy, Santa Cruz County Sheriff. Local law enforcement have cooperated with WAMM in addressing legal concerns and helping to craft and implement policies and protocols to ensure compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. In fact, WAMM openly cultivates its medical marijuana, and local law enforcement officials and the district attorney’s office have full knowledge of the cultivation.
26. Since entering the political arena of the debate over legalization of medicinal marijuana, I have kept myself educated and actively involved in developments in cultivation of and uses for medical marijuana in addition to conducting ongoing anecdotal research since 1993. I served on a 28-member panel convened by the California legislature to seek ways for better implementation of Prop. 215. The panel included, among others, California Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, Santa Clara County District Attorney, George Kennedy and California Senator, John Vasconcellos. The panel reviewed aspects of the legal and practical applications of medical marijuana, including a voluntary statewide identification system. I served as an advisor on the panel for the cultivation committee.
27. Despite support from city, county and state officials, WAMM has fallen prey to an attack by the federal government in an attempt to rob patients of a legal, necessary medicine. Early in the morning on September 5, 2002, my husband and I were awakened by the sound of approaching vehicles. With no warning, 20 to 30 armed DEA agents broke into our home with terrifying and overwhelming force. These agents were comprised of San Jose police officers, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office officers, and others from unidentified jurisdictions. Yelling, with guns drawn, they commanded us to lie on the floor. They cuffed us and held guns to our heads. A paraplegic WAMM board member who sleeps with an assisted breathing device was staying at my home. She was awakened at gun-point by five agents, handcuffed, and ordered to stand, which she is physically incapable of doing. Officers brought me to the other house on the land, leaving my friend behind. Knowing the severity of her condition, I pleaded with them to remove her handcuffs and bring her to where we were being detained. Eventually they did so and I noticed that she was experiencing difficulty in breathing. She mentioned that she was also experiencing chest pain and her blood pressure was dangerously high.
28. Outside our home, officers raided our collective garden used to cultivate medical marijuana. The agents tore from the ground and seized 160 of WAMM’s marijuana plants and seven plants growing in my personal vegetable garden. They also seized numerous allotments of marijuana that had been pre-sorted for correct patient dosages and were kept in assigned envelopes. Additionally, they took various pieces of property including personal laptops, and photographs. They also took several documents, including a list of patients’ and caregivers’ names and contact information. The confiscation of WAMM’s medicine has had a devastating effect on our ability to serve patients and to mitigate suffering. In addition, WAMM members have expressed fear that our government will commit additional acts of reprisal against us because of our visibilty. To date, neither myself nor my husband and caregiver, Michael, have been officially charged with any crimes stemming from the September 5, 2002 raid and seizure.
29. Since the raid, there is not enough medicine to serve the needs of our significantly terminally ill population. I believe that at least three WAMM members’ deaths were hastened by the raid. Patient allotments of medical marijuana have diminished significantly, in some cases, allotments have been reduced to allow those more critically ill patients to maintain theirs. With each passing week, the supply dwindles and we are faced with an imminent crisis as people will not be able to access the medicine they need.
30. Scott Vadnais was an AIDS patient and member of WAMM. Both his wife and child died of AIDS. His son, Brett, was born with the disease and died when he was nine years old. Brett’s mother died when he was a year and a half old and Scott became his son’s sole caregiver. He used medicinal marijuana to counteract the wasting associated with his battle with AIDS. Immediately following the raid, Scott’s need for medical marijuana increased but due to the lack of supply, we were unable to meet that need. He was unable to eat or properly nourish himself and he became unbearably weak. His diminished health left him vulnerable and incapacitated. Three months after the raid, he fell into dillerium and was hospitalized. On the morning of December 5, 2002, less than three months after the raid, I was on my way to visit Scott when the charge nurse called to tell me that Scott had died.
31. Kathy Nicholson suffered from osteoarthritis. Her condition caused her hands and limbs to be severely deformed. She suffered extreme pain and medical marijuana offered her the relief that narcotics could not. A longtime WAMM member, she met her partner through WAMM and was married by a WAMM member who was an Episcopalian deacon (he died two years ago). As a bookkeeper in a doctor’s office, Kathy was well-suited to work the table at our weekly supply meetings, tracking necessary information. After the raid, while her condition worsened and her pain became increasingly unbearable, WAMM was incapable of increasing her allotment of medicine. In order to diminish her pain, she was forced to resort to increasing her pharmaceutical medication. Because medical marijuana had alleviated her condition so well, she initially experienced little success with the prescribed pharmaceuticals. To compensate for this inconsistency, she increased her dosage of pharmaceuticals of her own volition. On January 12, 2003, days/weeks after the raid, Kathy’s blind husband, Tony, found her dead in their bed of an accidental overdose of her narcotic medications.
32. Charlie Park was a terminal patient who used medical marijuana to ease the side effects of chemotherapy and the pain caused by his metastasized cancer. His pain and physical suffering was drastically reduced because of medical marijuana. Charlie was an active community member, a radio announcer, and the father of a 16 year-old son. He and his wife lived in a rural part of Santa Cruz. As Charlie’s illness progressed, he was unable to attend meetings and became homebound. While the cancer in his liver increased his suffering from hour to hour, our depleted store of medicine left him with no relief. His pain increased. Charlie chose to endure the pain with only a small amount of marijuana rather than face the incapacitation that narcotics bring. With so little time left, Charlie wanted his last moments to be spent with his family and he wanted to be as aware as he possibly could. Charlie lived the last part of his life in great suffering because of his limited access to medical marijuana. Charlie died on January 29, 2003.
33. On September 17, 2002, less than two weeks after the federal government took our garden, the City of Santa Cruz allowed WAMM to distribute allotments of medical marijuana to thirteen patients at Santa Cruz City Hall. WAMM members, caregivers, supporters, city and county officials gathered on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall to demonstrate outrage at the federal action. As what appeared to be DEA helicopters circled overhead, community members spoke of their allegiance with over 200 members of international and national media watching. 1,300 people assembled in solidarity. The event illustrated the strong endorsement from our community that WAMM has earned.
34. Overall, since the September 5, 2002 raid, fifteen WAMM members have died and many more face a hastened and more painful death because of WAMM’s diminished capacity to provide its member-patients with their necessary allotments of medicine. This unprecedented number demonstrates the degree of harm imposed by the federal government upon sick and dying people who seek only to lessen their pain while complying with the law. The September 5, 2002 raid stripped WAMM of more than just its marijuana plants. It redefined our ability to effectively and legitimately treat illness. Should another raid occur in the future, our struggles will continue.
As evidenced by the recent passing of fifteen members and WAMM’s inability to comprehensively provide for all of our members’ needs, future raids will deny access to effective medication for patients who deserve to live free from unnecessary suffering.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America and the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and that this declaration was executed on the Twenty First day of April, 2003 in Santa Cruz, California.
Copyright Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana 2007 - 2008