In California, Smoke And Fire Over Pot

They smoke lots of marijuana. They're gravely ill and dying. And they've got a lot on their minds besides politics. But California proponents of medical marijuana also have plenty of fight in them, particularly when authorities threaten to take away their painkiller of choice. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the "medical necessity" defense in federal marijuana cases, which may open the way for the Feds to close down cooperatives distributing cannabis to people suffering from diseases like AIDS and cancer. "We have no way of knowing what actions the Feds will take," said Scott Imler, president of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, where 381 pot plants are under cultivation. "But we know we're going to stay and fight."

Round one begins this week. Marijuana activists have amassed enough support to force Marin County District Attorney Paula Kamena into a "recall" vote. (If the measure passes, Kamena will lose her job to a candidate more favorable to the pro-pot crowd.) Her alleged misdeed: harassing marijuana-smoking patients with legal action. The 55-year-old Kamena insists that she has been unfairly targeted by the "medipot" forces. During her 2-1/2-year tenure, Kamena has allowed patients to keep as many as six mature marijuana plants without fear of prosecution. "That means it's OK for patients to have $30,000 worth of marijuana!" she says, adding that some other D.A.s "find that appalling." If she loses, those other D.A.s may be next on the political hit list.