ASA Activist Newsletter - OCTOBER 2012

October 01, 2012

Volume 7, Issue 10

Federal Appeals Court to Consider Medical Uses of Cannabis

Challenge to denial of rescheduling petition to be heard this month

For the first time in nearly 20 years, a federal court will consider whether cannabis has medical uses. Patient advocates are appealing the federal government’s refusal to change the classification of cannabis to reflect new research on its role in treatment.

On October 16, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford will appear before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to argue that the Drug Enforcement Administration wrongfully denied the petition from the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), of which ASA is a member.

'The current classification of cannabis is based more on politics than science,' said Elford. 'This is an historic opportunity for patients and doctors to confront politically motivated decision-making with the scientific evidence that cannabis is a safe, effective medicine that can meet the needs of millions of patients.'

ASA will argue that the DEA deviated from its normal review procedures, applied the wrong evaluative standards, and ignored hundreds of scientific studies and expert medical opinion in denying the latest petition. Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration is the first case to bring recent scientific research on the medical uses of cannabis before the federal courts.

Cannabis was classified by Congress in 1970 as a Schedule I substance, defining it as a dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse and no current use in medical treatment. Federal hearings in 1988 on its classification concluded with the DEA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge ruling that the medical uses were proven, the safety record unparalleled, and that continuing to deny patients access would be “arbitrary and capricious.” His decision was set aside on procedural grounds. A 1995 petition to the DEA for review was also denied.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles published in the past 20 years have described the effectiveness of cannabis in treating serious medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, arthritis, and others. Dozens of professional medical organizations -- including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association – have called on the federal government to make cannabis available for research and treatment.

More information:
D.C. Circuit announcement of oral arguments
ASA appeal brief
DEA denial of CRC petition
CRC rescheduling petition

Medical Professionals Launch National Letter Supporting Rescheduling

Americans for Safe Access is asking medical professionals to sign on to a letter urging the federal government to reclassify cannabis as a drug with medical uses.

The open letter, released August 31 by the medical practitioners who serve on ASA’s board, states that “cannabis has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and an acceptable level of safety for medical use.” Anyone licensed to prescribe medications can add his or her name at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/PrescriberLetter.

The letter supports ASA’s appeal of the DEA’s recent denial of a petition to reschedule cannabis, which will be heard October 16 before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The letter cites the consensus opinions of several leading national health organizations that challenge the current classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance. The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American Nurses Association are just a few of the respected professional organizations that have asked the federal government to change its policies to reflect current scientific understanding.

In introducing the sign-on letter, ASA board member Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD, notes that the government’s position on medical cannabis “requires strained and ill-conceived arguments,” including a refusal to accept research findings published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“With likely over 10,000 physicians authorizing patients to used cannabis in medical marijuana programs, which have been around for 16 years, and with the string of positive outcome clinical trials of cannabis and cannabis extracts, there is more than enough medical experience and evidence available to recognize that a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States exists for marijuana,” Dr. Aggarwal writes. “If strong scientific evidence and clinical professional opinions count for anything in policy, then it is time to re-schedule/de-schedule marijuana.”

Dr. Aggarwal’s introduction to the prescriber sign-on letter is at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Medical-Professionals-Letter.

More information:
See the sign-on letter for prescribing medical professionals.

ASA to Host Dinner and Awards Event in DC

Oct 16 Celebration Honors Advocates for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access is celebrating medical cannabis patients’ historic day in federal court October 16 in Washington, DC with a gala reception, dinner and awards ceremony honoring individuals whose advocacy for safe access has helped get us here.

ASA’s challenge to the DEA’s denial of the most recent cannabis rescheduling petition will be the first opportunity in nearly 20 years for a federal court to hear scientific evidence on the therapeutic uses of cannabis.

Those attending will have the chance to talk to the plaintiffs, meet ASA’s new board of directors, and celebrate ASA’s 10 year anniversary. The award ceremony will honor individuals who have fought to ensure safe access to medical cannabis.

Receiving ASA’s Courage awards will be the plaintiffs in Americans for Save Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration: Mary Lynn Mathre, RN; Al Bryne; Bill Britt; Kathy Jordon; Michael Krawitz; and Rick Steeb. ASA’s Spirit Award will be presented to the originator of the two most recent cannabis rescheduling petitions, Jon Gettman, PhD. ASA’s Movement Building Award will go to Dan Rush of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The Patient Partnership Award will be accepted by Michael McGuffin on behalf of the American Herbal Products Association.

ASA’s Ten Year Anniversary Dinner and Awards Ceremony will be held at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C from 7:30pm-9:30pm. All proceeds benefit ASA. Information about tickets is at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/oct16-dinner.

Patients Protest Obama's Medical Cannabis Policy

Hundreds of patients and advocates gathered for rallies nationwide on September 20 to protest the Obama Administration’s aggressive efforts to shut state-authorized medical cannabis dispensaries and obstruct laws that would regulate them. The rallies organized by ASA were held at 'Obama for America' campaign offices and other key locations in at least 15 cities in 8 states, including the nation’s capitol.

Demonstrations were also held in Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, with many. The rally in Seattle, Washington included a press conference with local elected officials and state lawmakers calling for a stop to the Justice Department enforcement actions against state-licensed medical cannabis facilities.

The national day of action was part of ASA's campaign 'Camp WakeUpObama,' a series of local actions and activities launched this summer to draw attention to the Obama Administration's medical cannabis policies.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have said the federal government should not target individuals who comply with state medical cannabis programs. But the DEA has staged more than 200 raids on registered medical cannabis businesses in at least 6 states, while the U.S. Attorneys in many medical cannabis states have systematically threatened both landlords who rent to medical cannabis business and the elected officials tasked with regulating them. More than 70 individuals have been indicted on charges related to medical cannabis during the Obama Administration.

'We’re asking President Obama to tell the more than one million American patients who use medical cannabis how he intends to move this issue forward,' said Steph Sherer, ASA's Executive Director. 'We want him to ensure that the promises he made in the last campaign are honored.'

Connecticut Medical Cannabis Law Takes Effect

As of October 1, patients in Connecticut with certain debilitating medical conditions may apply online for authorization to possess and use medical cannabis. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection will issue temporary registration certificates to state residents at least 18 years old who are certified by their doctor. Eligible conditions include AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, HIV, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The Department of Consumer Protection has until next July to tell state lawmakers how it intends to manage the distribution of medical cannabis in the state. Until then, purchase or cultivation of cannabis remains illegal for authorized patients, but they may legally possess up to 2.5 ounces.

Five in Michigan Face Federal Prison for Medical Cannabis

Five Michigan patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court early this month on counts related to medical cannabis.

Federal prosecutors are asking for long sentences. Gerald Lee Duval Jr., 52, of Monroe County received 10 years on October 1. His son, Jeremy Duval, 30, faces a similar sentence. Greenhouses they used were raided by DEA agents in 2011. They were convicted in April of multiple felonies after a federal trial that prohibited any medical defense or evidence of compliance with state law.

Three other Michigan patients and caregivers are to be sentenced under federal plea agreements after state law enforcement turned their case over to federal prosecutors. John Marcinkewciz, 42, Shelley Waldron, 42, and Jaycob Montague, 26, each took plea deals in order to reduce their sentences but still face potential federal prison sentences of a decade or more.

'These cases show the injustice of the selective enforcement of federal marijuana laws against state-authorized patients and caregivers,' said Steph Sherer, ASA Executive Director. 'Local law enforcement shouldn't be able to turn over cases they can't win to their federal counterparts where state law and medical conditions do not matter.'

Montana Caregiver Convicted, State High Court Rules Against Advocates

Montana medical cannabis patients faced setbacks last month as a caregiver was convicted in federal court and the state Supreme Court overturned an injunction that had blocked draconian changes to Montana’s medical cannabis law.

The federal case was the first to go to trial after federal raids on 26 medical cannabis providers in March, 2011. Chris Williams, a Montana man who cultivated in Three Forks and then Helena for dispensaries was convicted in federal court last month after a trial that barred all evidence of his compliance with the state’s medical cannabis law. Williams was found guilty of eight counts of drug trafficking and firearms violations.

The state Supreme Court ruling rendered state law even murkier by reversing an injunction against state lawmakers’ changes to the medical cannabis initiative passed by voters. The lower court was directed to apply a different standard of review to SB423, which radically changed standards for participating in the state medical cannabis program, including barring providers from receiving any compensation for their services or distributing cannabis to more than three registered patients.

Regardless of what the lower court decides, Montana voters will have a chance to decide on the law in November, after advocates qualified IR-124, a referendum on SB423 that will allow them to restore the original 2004 initiative.

Federal Action Targets Los Angeles Dispensaries,
City Council Lifts Ban

Last month, federal prosecutors took action to close 71 medical cannabis dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. The U.S. attorney’s office filed property forfeiture suits against three landlords who rent to dispensaries and sent letters threatening forfeiture to another 68 property owners.

The action was welcomed by some Los Angeles city officials whose attempt at banning the dispensaries was thwarted by a voter referendum filed by patient advocates.

The Los Angeles City Council decided October 2 to repeal the ban effective immediately, with many members calling for workable regulations.

ACTION ALERT: Write a Letter on Rescheduling

ASA is getting an historic opportunity Oct. 16 to present the scientific evidence on the medical uses of cannabis to a federal appeals court. Joe Elford will present the facts to the panel of federal judges in DC, but you can get the word out in your community today!

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of ASA’s lawsuit. Tell everyone that science and facts should decide public health policy, and this case is a chance to make sure it does.

To find your local papers and send a letter, go to AmericansForSafeAccess.org/LTE.


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