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San Francisco puts growing pot on the ballot

The city that helped create the proposition in 1996 that made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana may start growing its own.

In a move toward making San Francisco the first city in the nation to defy openly the federal ban on growing marijuana for any reason, the Board of Supervisors has approved a ballot measure that would explore growing marijuana on public property as a way around the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's continual closing of medical marijuana clubs.

The measure was drafted by Supervisor Mark Leno, a Democratic candidate for the State Assembly, who said he was fed up watching federal agents shut clubs that dispense marijuana for seriously ill and dying people.

"Our clubs have been continuously intimidated and assaulted," Leno said, adding that one club had closed because of fear of federal prosecution.

If voters pass the measure on Nov. 5, the supervisors would be able to explore the hows and wheres of growing marijuana. Leno suggested that vacant city property might be used and that the program could be agricultural job training for the unemployed.

Federal authorities were not amused. "Unless Congress changes the law and makes marijuana a legal substance, then we have to do our job and enforce the law," said a spokesman for the regional office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The measure has a strong chance of passing. San Francisco has long been in the forefront of expanding medical marijuana rights.

Texas confirms its first human case of West Nile

HOUSTON _ Health officials Tuesday confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus in Texas, further evidence of the disease's spread since it appeared in the United States three years ago.

Richard Hicks, 50, was admitted Friday to the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center with a fever and viral encephalitis, which causes swelling in the brain.

Hicks was beginning to recover, said Dr. Daniel Musher, the VA's head of infectious disease.

Previously, only birds and horses in Texas had tested positive for West Nile, which is spread by mosquitoes.

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