December 1995

New York Medical Marijuana Bust May Spur Legal Challenge
By Paul DeRienzo

Medical marijuana activist Johanne Moore fell afoul of some New York City police officers on August 22 while distributing pot to members of a Manhattan buyers’ club on the lower East Side. The longtime AIDS activist said he was on East 5th Street distributing about an ounce of grass to a group of AIDS patients who receive marijuana at wholesale cost, when a vanload of cops closed in and arrested him. Moore spent the night in jail and was released the next day without bail.

The bust occurred at a place infamous as a heroin and cocaine location, where addicts often shoot up in doorways and police think nothing of frisking suspicious-looking individuals. The nearby Lower East Side Needle Exchange provides clean syringes to addicts, and the AIDS-activist group Housing Works promotes the harm-reduction model of humane drug treatment.

According to Moore, the cops were "relatively cool," although at first they didn’t believe this story that the pot was being provided for medicinal purposes. Although the arrival of reporters at the precinct and phone calls from supporters later convinced police Moore was telling the truth, he was taken to central booking and "put through the system."

Moore says he’s asking the judge to dismiss the charges "in the interest of justice." He hopes he can use the court case to get an agreement from the police similar to the "memorandum of understanding" that allows medical-marijuana distribution to people with AIDS in San Francisco. Moore adds he’s organizing a demonstration and possible smoke-in at his next court hearing.

email Paul DeRienzo

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