ASA Activist Newsletter - Nov 2013

November 01, 2013 | William Dolphin
NOVEMBER 2013 Volume 8, Issue 11

IN THIS ISSUE

ASA Fighting Washington’s Proposed Medical Cannabis Restrictions

After a Washington State work group recommended new highly restrictive rules for medical cannabis late last month, patients and other stakeholders held meetings across the state with ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer to plan a response. Patients and others at the meetings expressed deep concern over what is universally seen as an attempt to dismantle the medical cannabis program in place in the state since 1998.

Among other changes, ASA is urging passage of new legislation based on Senate Bill 5073, the proposal to regulate medical distribution sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, which was line-item vetoed in 2011 by then-Governor Christine Gregoire because of threats from the US Attorney, Jenny Durkan. Earlier this year, Durkan called Washington's medical marijuana system "untenable," and vowed to shut down the state's dispensaries.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is tasked with presenting final recommendations to the legislature by January 1, is soliciting public comment on the draft recommendations, which were produced by a work group comprised of representatives from the liquor board, the Department of Health and the Department of Revenue. Among the proposed changes are a ban on personal and collective cultivation, new restrictions on physicians and qualifying conditions, and a drastic lowering of possession amounts.

"Washington was one of the first states in the nation to recognize that patients under a physician's care have the right to use medical marijuana," said ASA’s Steph Sherer. "The needs of this vulnerable population are distinctly different from the wants of recreational users, and it's vital that elected officials understand the difference."

The stakeholder meetings were hosted by the ASA’s Washington chapter in Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, and Yakima. The ASA campaign in Washington, called “Health before Happy Hour,” is focused on protecting patient rights as the state decides how to implement I-502, the initiative voters passed last November making cannabis use and possession legal for anyone 21 or over. ASA is submitting its response to officials this week.

Comments will be accepted until Wednesday, Nov, 13 at medicalmarijuana@liq.wa.gov.

Further information:
"Health Before Happy Hour" campaign website: http://HealthBeforeHappyHour.org
2011 letter from both U.S. Attorneys in Washington, derailing efforts to license medical marijuana dispensaries: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/DOJ_Threat_Letter_WA.pdf
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Medical Initiative Campaign Launches in Arkansas

ASA and Arkansans for Compassionate Care have just launched a signature-gathering campaign to put a new medical cannabis initiative before voters next fall.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA) is a comprehensive blueprint for establishing and regulating a medical cannabis program run by the Arkansas Department of Health. The campaign kicks off with the AMCA Music Festival on Saturday, November 9, 2:00pm - 2:00am, at the Silverado Club in El Dorado.

If passed, AMCA would allow Arkansas patients with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis for serious debilitating medical conditions. Patients would also be able to purchase their medicine at well-regulated, not-for-profit dispensaries.

To get the measure on the ballot, ASA and Arkansans for Compassionate Care are spreading out across the state of Arkansas to collect the 62,507 valid signatures needed to qualify by the July 2014 deadline.

Last November, over half a million Arkansans, nearly 49% of voters, said yes to safe access. Just 30,000 more votes and Arkansas would have been the first medical cannabis state in the south. A year later, the political climate is even better.
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D.C. Oversight Hearing Highlights Patient Challenges

At the first hearing since creating the District’s Medical Marijuana Program more than three years ago, the D.C. Council Committee on Health last month heard from patients and advocates who urged the Council to make changes that would expand the program’s reach.

Over a dozen District medical cannabis advocates offered public testimony, ranging from a patient for whom access to cannabis means she no longer needs her pharmaceutical pain medication to potential patients with debilitating conditions and the parent of a young person with epilepsy, as well as cultivators, dispensary operators and other advocates.

Many witnesses asked officials to revise the restrictions on qualifying conditions to allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis for any condition they deem appropriate. ASA staff, including Executive Director Steph Sherer, urged the Council to allow the Department of Health (DOH) to begin adding new conditions through the rule-making process without waiting for the Advisory Committee to be formed. Dr. Fesha Woldu, testifying on behalf of the council’s program, agreed that physicians should be in charge of treatment decisions, noting that their conduct is already professionally monitored, so they do not need additional oversight.

Many concerns were raised over how few patients have been enrolled. Only 59 patients have registered. Many patients have reported their physicians are unwilling to write recommendationss. DOH has yet to produce the Training Program for Recommending Physicians mandated by the regulations.

One of the other barriers to enrolling was demonstrated by ASA's Steph Sherer during her testimony as she unfurled the nine full pages of the District's medical marijuana application form, with 23 lines to initial. By contrast, the District's firearm registration form is only five pages with a handful of lines to initial. D.C. is known for having the strictest gun laws in the nation.
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Michigan Parents Regain Custody of Child Lost over Cultivation

After two months of separation and intense efforts by patient advocates, a Michigan family was reunited on October 25 after a deal was reached with Child Protective Services (CPS) that respects the rights of the parents to participate in the state’s medical cannabis program while caring for their 8-month old daughter..

Brielle "Bree" Green was removed from the home of Maria and Steve Green by CPS on Sept. 13. CPS became involved after police responding to a nearby home invasion smelled marijuana coming from the Green’s home and obtained a warrant. They confiscated 29 plants Maria Green was cultivating for her husband, who has a seizure disorder, and a handful of cancer patients.

After the Greens provided their patient and caregiver documentation, they were told the case was being dropped, but CPS alleged that the home cultivation put their child at risk for injury in a robbery. The cultivation charges were formally closed on October 3, clearing the way for the Green's attorney, Joshua Covert, and Ingham County Probate Judge Richard Garcia to reach a deal for Bree’s return.

The Greens must attend parenting classes for 30 days and will be allowed to resume growing cannabis. During the two months of separation, Bree was in the custody of her maternal grandmother, 140 miles from her parents. Michigan’s medical cannabis law specifies that patient or caregiver status is not to be used as grounds for loss of any parental rights.
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Arizona Judges Overturn Bans on Dispensaries, Probation Use

Two Arizona judges last month issued rulings affecting the operation of the state’s medical cannabis program. One ruled that state corrections officials cannot deny qualified patients access to medical cannabis as a condition of their probation. The other found that a county cannot use zoning rules to prevent the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries allowed by state law.

In the probation case, Judge Cele Hancock of Yavapai County Superior Court reversed the terms of a plea agreement 43-year-old Jennifer Lee Ferrell had accepted that included a provision prohibiting her from using cannabis while she awaits sentencing for DUI, resisting arrest and attempted aggravated assault on a police officer.

The Yavapai County Attorney Office had added a provision to all plea agreements that prohibits the cultivation, possession or use of cannabis, "whether or not the defendant has a medical marijuana card."

In the zoning case, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon held that county officials "may not use its zoning powers to violate state law." While the ruling only applies to Maricopa County, it lays the groundwork for local governments to adopt land use regulations for the operation of more than 100 dispensaries provided for in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, passed by initiative in 2010. Currently, more than 40,000 patients have qualified to use medical cannabis under the program.
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Bay Area Providers Latest to Go to Federal Prison

Four people connected to a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Alameda County received federal prison sentences last month and forfeited more than $800,000. Concluding a prosecution that has lasted more than six years, two brothers, Winslow and Abraham Norton, accepted a plea bargain in April, agreeing to money laundering and conspiracy charges in exchange for reduced sentenceS of six months in federal prison followed by six months of alternative detention and three years of supervised release, in addition to the cash forfeiture. If convicted of all charges, each brother faced mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years. The Nortons' father, Michael, and the dispensary's manager, Brian Everett, were indicted two years after the brothers and pleaded guilty to lesser charges, resulting in probation.

The brothers operated the Compassionate Collective of Alameda County (CCAC) for more than two years in full compliance with local and state medical cannabis laws. CCAC was one of the many area locations raided by the DEA in 2007. Although all of the dispensaries in Alameda County were shut as a result, only the operators of CCAC were indicted.
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Connecticut Dispensary Applications Due Nov. 15

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) is accepting applications for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facility Licenses. DCP plans to award three to five dispensary facility licenses at locations capable of servicing the counties of Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, Litchfield, and New London. The applications are being considered on a competitive basis and are due by 3pm Friday, Nov. 15.

Questions about the application process can be emailed to dcp.mmp@ct.gov. More information on applying for a license or obtaining a patient registration certificate is available at www.ct.gov/dcp/mmp.
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ASA Executive Director Honored at Policy Conference

Steph Sherer, Founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access was awarded the Robert C. Randall Award for achievement in the field of Citizen Action at the International Drug Policy Reform Conf-erence in Denver on October 23. The award, named for the glaucoma patient whose landmark case created the federal government’s Investigational New Drug program for cannabis, is awarded to “citizens who make a democracy work.” Sherer was recognized for making ASA the leading medical cannabis advocacy organization with 16 active chapters and a grassroots base of over 50,000 members.

"I'm truly grateful to receive the Robert C. Randall Award," said Sherer. "I started ASA in 2002 as a campaign response to DEA raids, and now ASA has members in every congressional district and has brought the patients' voice to the conversation on medical cannabis."

Sherer was recognized for making ASA the leading medical cannabis advocacy organization with an office in DC, 16 active ASA chapters and a grassroots base of over 50,000 members.
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