A long-running lawsuit against the federal government by the nation's most prominent medical marijuana collective ended in a settlement today that enables the organization to continue serving the ill.

The founders of Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) said they agreed to dismiss the lawsuit based on new government policy with the understanding the litigation they started can be re-instated if the federal government changes its mind and sends drug enforcement agents to WAMM.

The lawsuit stems from a 2002 Drug Enforcement Agency raid on the Santa Cruz-base collective. Thirty armed agents used chainsaws to eradicate marijuana WAMM was growing to provide free to sick people. DEA agents also rousted several members and the owners of the property from bed, pointing assault rifles at them.

Attorneys for WAMM — including the ACLU, Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen and private attorney Ben Rice — said the settlement was a huge victory for the movement by collectives like WAMM to provide medical marijuana who need it.

The settlement was approved this morning by Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose. About 35 members of the Santa Cruz-based collective and their attorneys were in the courtroom. The attorney for the federal government conducted his part by phone.

Uelmen said the case doesn't have "precedent value" for the rest of the country. "But we can point to this case if there's any further interference with our clients," he said. "What this case represents is a commitment that federal policy will be followed."

That policy was announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who issued an order that said the federal government would target medical marijuana distributors only where they violate both state and federal laws.

Contact Linda Goldston at 408-920-5862.