Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Santa Cruz WAMM Fest News
WAMMfest asks for smoking exception, again
By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Posted: 09/15/2009 01:30:19 AM PDT
SANTA CRUZ -- Santa Cruz leaders should decide Sept. 22 whether to lift
the city's smoking ban in San Lorenzo Park for the third year in a row
and allow medical marijuana patients to smoke in designated tents during
the annual WAMMfest celebration.
The decision comes two weeks after the City Council passed sweeping
no-smoking bans for the entire city, including Pacific Avenue, Beach
Street, Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and all city parks. Some parks,
including San Lorenzo, already were off-limits to smoking.
WAMM's request includes permission to errect a special tent to
accommodate members of its nonprofit collective -- many of whom are
terminally ill -- if they need to light up during the event. Another
tent would be available to medical marijuana patients with proper
"We just hope to have a great time in the park," said Valerie Corral,
co-founder of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which sponsors
the annual WAMMfest. "Create a day where there's low stress and fun for
However, Corral acknowledged the group is rebounding from last year's
event, where city leaders nearly denied WAMM's request for an exception
to the smoking ban as the festival has a reputation for attracting
out-of-town visitors who spoke pot recreationally on the park's
expansive lawn. In addition, after the event a child-care provider for
WAMMfest was identified as a registered sex offender. Corral said WAMM
has vowed those problems won't happen again.
Meanwhile, some city leaders are noncommittal on whether they would
grant a third exception. Last year the council first split the vote on
whether to grant a similar request, as one member was out sick and
others said they supported the cause, but not the venue. After much
discussion WAMM's request was granted the following week.
This year, "we're going to have to make sure they reduce their impact of
secondhand smoke as much as everyone else," Councilman Ryan Coonerty
said. "The law was meant to cover all secondhand smoke, and secondhand
smoke at WAMMfest is part of it."
WAMMfest also pits two of Santa Cruz's competing values against each
other, as Council members two weeks ago unanimously approved expanding
no-smoking rules to overwhelming public approval. But seven years ago
Santa Cruz allowed WAMM to hand out medical marijuana on City Hall steps
after federal drug enforcement agents raided their North Coast farm, and
voters in 2006 directed police to make marijuana enforcement their
Police at last year's event said they had no problems, and WAMM provided
its own security. Corral said the group will do the same this year.
Police spokesman Zach Friend said on Monday that his department does not
plan to increase patrols for WAMMfest.
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