Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Sep 282007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 28, 2007 12:57 PM

DEA Raids a Sacramento Dispensary and Attacks Oakland Edible Provider, Tainted, Inc.

This week, the DEA escalated their attacks on patients in California when agents raided the oldest running dispensary in Sacramento, River City Patients' Center and in a separate attack, Oakland-based medical marijuana edible manufacturer, Tainted, Inc.

Wednesday morning, federal agents showed up at River City Patient Center raiding the facility, detaining five employees, stealing medicine, seizing the collective's financial assets, and detaining the collective's operartor, William Pearce. The raid came after a supposed yearlong investigation into Pearce's collective. Pearce, a highly respected member of the medical marijuana community, and the five employees were released Wednesday evening. No arrests were made.

ASA's Sacramento Chapter and affiliates turned out over 100 protesters during the raid, showing their support for the collective. Read more about the raid in the Sac Bee, and read about ASA's response on our new blog.

The other attack on Wednesday was independent of the Sacramento raid. The DEA targeted medical marijuana edibles provider, Tainted, Inc. The paramilitary-style raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) involved five locations the DEA says are connected to Tainted, Inc., a well-known supplier of edible medical cannabis products available in dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Heavily armed federal agents seized cannabis plants and medicinal edibles, arrested three people and shot an employee's dog.

Tainted, Inc. provides clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles to medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. Edible cannabis products provide an alternative to smoking cannabis and are preferred by many patients. The products made by Tainted, Inc. are available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carry prominent warning labels.

Tainted owner Michael Martin was out of town when the raids occurred and is expected to turn himself in to federal agents next week. Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis. Because federal law does not recognize medical uses for marijuana, if he goes to trial, Martin will not be allowed to tell jurors that his company supplied medical cannabis products through licensed dispensaries to qualified patients. Defense attorneys are prevented from raising state law, local regulations or the vast amount of medical cannabis science in federal marijuana trials.


Read ASA's full press release on the Tainted, Inc. raids.

The Medical Marijuana and HIV/AIDS Movement Mourn the Loss of Bay Area Activist, John Shaw
By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

I am very sad to learn that John Shaw, my friend and ally in the struggle for safe access, died yesterday in San Francisco. Many of you know John from his years of crusading and selfless volunteer work on behalf of medical cannabis and other HIV/AIDS patients. John's good spirits and positive attitude were always an inspiration. I remember how he brought so much enthusiasm to our first ASA outreach teams when he traveled to Los Angeles, never being daunted by the enormity of the task or the always-present opposition. He was always an empathetic friend and a joy to be around - someone who will long be missed by me and his many friends in the Bay Area and all over California.

I hope you will join me in expressing condolences to his family, loved ones, and friends. I have not yet heard word about services, but wanted to let the community know about this terrible loss. John Shaw at an ASA rally protesting a 2005 DEA raid.



Here is a link of John testifying in San Francisco earlier this month:

John Testifying


After clicking on this link, choose September 11th full Board meeting, then Jump to #19 in the 'Jump To' bar below the video screen. John appears at 51:15 in the video.

John's family is planning a memorial, and ASA will announce this when a date is chosen.

Thanks to ASA's Los Angeles Field Coordinator, Chris Fusco! You Will be Surely Missed

By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

I am sorry to report that Chris Fusco, our LA County Coordinator, will be leaving Americans for Safe Access this week. Chris has done an amazing job here in Los Angeles, helping to steer the campaign for safe access through some very turbulent times. He has helped shape the greatest expansion of safe access since Proposition 215 was adopted, and helped the community bear the brunt of the DEA's unprecedented pressure on patients and collectives.

I have watched Chris take initiative and show leadership as an ASA volunteer and as my personal assistant this year. With LA's moratorium finally in effect and the process of writing permanent regulations under way, Chris can move on knowing he has made a positive difference for this community.

His diligence and good nature will be missed. Let's all wish him well in his next endeavors and hope to see him again soon!

Call to the LA Office may be directed to (323) 882-6766 and emails may be sent to me at Don@SafeAccessNow.org

ASA vs. Alameda Elections Suit: Victory for Medical Marijuana Patients!

This past Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith ruled that the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and Alameda County, "have engaged in a pattern of withholding relevant evidence and failure to preserve evidence" necessary to conduct a recount of a hotly contested Berkeley ballot measure in 2004. As a result, the Court has voided the election and ordered the County to place Measure R back on the ballot for a re-vote at the next year in the general election. Judge Smith continued by saying Alameda County officials should pay attorneys' fees and reimburse a medical marijuana group more than $22,000 for the costs it incurred during a disputed recount shortly after the November 2004 election.The measure sought to end limits on the number of plants allowed to medical marijuana users and would have created a peer oversight committee for medical cannabis dispensaries in the city.

Americans for Safe Access and three other patients filed the lawsuit against Alameda County on December 30, 2004. The lawsuit challenges Alameda County's refusal to allow the public to examine copies of the Measure R electronic votes and system audit logs during the recount of the ballot initiative conducted on electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, Inc.

Read about the victory for Measure R and patients and providers in Alameda County in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Sep 272007

DEA Raid analysis 6/1-9/26/07 - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 27, 2007 10:00 AM
As the Legal Coordinator, I recently started trying to collect all of the data on DEA raids and state-to-federal-turnovers so that we could all see how widespread and insidious this despicable war on patients really is. The results were interesting and saddening, if somewhat unsurprising. My data is far from complete, and even these next figures may undergo slight variations before I would call them final. Nonetheless, here are my observations on DEA activity from 6/1-9/27/07:
  • The DEA has truly been stepping up its war of intimidation on medical marijuana patients across the West. From 6/1/07 until today (approximately 4 months), there have been an astounding 23 DEA raids on dispensing collectives (18) and the residences of individual patient-cultivators (5) and 4 instances of State to Federal Turnovers. This would seem to bely the DEA's claim that they "do not focus their resources on individual medical marijuana patients" anyone have a link for a statement like this, I know I've heard it before? please post in comments
  • These 23 DEA raids occurred in 10 different counties (Los Angeles, Kern, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, San Diego, Nevada, Sacramento, Alameda Counties, and in Multnomah County, Oregon). State or local police also turned over 4 cases to the federal government in CA and NM.
  • To put the 23 raid figure into perspective, while there were 21 raids in the first 4 months of 2007, 11 of them occurred on one day in LA in January 2007. Raid frequency pre-2007 is even more sporadic, with only 9 raids occurring in 2006, and while there were 19 in 2005, 13 again were part of DEA "grand gesture" in San Diego to deny patients' access. This summer campaign seems different in that instead of hitting many dispensaries in one area on a single day, the DEA is trying to inspire fear and uncertainty all across the state (and in other legal states) by engaging in a long, sustained campaign of raids in a wide variety of cities and counties and by expanding their harassment to individual patient-cultivators with very minimal amounts of medicine.
  • For info some of these raids, see San Mateo, Bakersfield, Morro Bay, & Riverside County stories.
As we process more data about the raids, I will post it, such as whether arrests/charges have increased recently as well. In the face of these raids, I have faith that our solidarity will win out, and my heart goes out those in federal custody.
Sep 262007

DEA Gives Schwarzenegger Another Reason to Stand Up for Patients' Rights - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 26, 2007 9:58 AM
Today, on my way into the office, I got a call alerting me that the DEA was raiding River City Patient Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento. I was immediately outraged by the DEA's continued harassment of patients and providers, but here at ASA, we're used to putting these feelings aside and springing into action. By the time I reached ASA's headquarters, everyone was on the phone, calling media outlets and supporters to urge them to protest at the site of the raid. A text message had been sent out to ASA's Sacramento raid emergency response text messaging group, emails had been sent to local listserves, and alerts had been posted on message boards. Just a couple hours after the raid began, ASA's Sacramento chapter leader informed us that 100 patients and advocates were protesting outside the dispensary with signs and flags. Several reporters had interviewed her and filmed the progress of the raid. Their was some good news - it didn't appear as if Sacramento's police or sheriff's department had been involved in the raid. The feds acted on their own. Also, we just found out that all the employees who had been detained were released. No arrests were made. After two and a half years at ASA, raid response has become a routine part of my work life. Still, DEA actions continue to shake me up. I refuse to get used to them and instead, I use these times to reflect on the important work we're doing and to reinvigorate my activist energy so that one day we will not need emergency responses. If you're a CA resident who's also shaken up, here's something easy you can do to make a difference - call the Governor as part of ASA's Stand Up for Patients' Rights campaign. Here's the info: Call the governor's headquarters today to urge him to stand up for patients' rights by calling on the Bush administration to end the DEA raids on state-sanctioned patients and providers. The Governor's Headquarters in Sacramento: 916-445-2841 Phone Script:
"Hello, my name is __Insert Your Name__ and I live in __Insert Your City__ in California. Thousands of California medical marijuana patients depend on safe access to medicine to treat the chronic and terminal disease symptoms. The federal government has taken serious actions to raid, arrest, and prosecute hundreds of patients and providers, publicly stating that they will not recognize the validity of our law. Today, the DEA raided another medical cannabis provider in Sacramento. On Thursday, October 11, we are gathering at your office in Los Angeles, I urge you to join us on that day to stand up for patients’ rights. I also urge you to defend California's laws and call on the Bush Administration to end the attack on patients and providers. Please let me know what you plan to do."
Please let ASA know you've called the governor by e-mailing Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org.
Sep 252007

Michael Teague Is Free at Last, as Federal Judge Questions Another Federal Medical Marijuana Prosecution - Americans for Safe Access

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter terminated the supervised release of Michael Teague fifteen months early in response to a motion filed by Americans for Safe Access.  Michael was one of the first federal medical marijuana prosecutions in California.  He served nearly seventeen months in federal prison, and a month and a half in a halfway house, before serving almost 33 months of a four-year term of supervised release for cultivating 102 plants.  In cutting Michael loose early from the onerous drug-testing and other conditions of supervised release, Judge Carter commented on Michael's exemplary conduct. What made the hearing interesting, though, is that Judge Carter went to lengths to explain that it was tragic for Michael to have been harmed so severely for being caught in the conflict between state and federal law.  Through these statements, Judge Carter joins Judge Breyer of the Rosenthal case as federal judges who have openly criticized or questioned federal criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients.
Sep 242007

60-Minutes Highlights Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and Interference by the Feds - Americans for Safe Access

A 60-Minutes episode, which aired on Sunday, September 23, 2007, has finally shed some light on one of California's medical cannabis (marijuana) predicaments. The fact that 60-Minutes has chosen this moment in time to educate the U.S. public on medical cannabis, eleven years after the passage of Proposition 215, indicates that something is amiss. However, the episode focuses on a narrow aspect of the issue and fails to provide proper context. For example, 60-Minutes chose to focus exclusively on California law and the distribution system that was designed as a result of that law. But, the episode also questions the validity of medical marijuana without sufficiently discussing the vast amount of research and history that would provide the program with its evidence. Regardless, any "unintended consequences" from the Compassionate Use Act (Prop 125) are not due to the way the law was drafted, as 60-Minutes guest Scott Imler suggests, but to a reluctance by the federal government to respect the will of California voters. Prop 215 was drafted to be inclusive of illnesses and conditions for which cannabis was known to be effective. While we may want to pontificate about whether people are really using it medically or if there is abuse in the system, it is ultimately up to a patient and her doctor to determine if cannabis is appropriate. If there is a question about abuse, it becomes the domain of the California Medical Board, which has its own medical cannabis guidelines for physicians. Federal raids are not a proper response to allegations of abuse. It was the hope that Prop 215 would compel "federal and state governments to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana." But, because of a refusal by the federal government to acknowledge marijuana's medical efficacy, not only has this "plan" not been realized, but tactics are also being used to hinder that "distribution" and undermine state law. Ever since the June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court gave it the discretion, in Gonzales v. Raich, to arrest and prosecute medical cannabis patients, the federal government has consistently used Drug Enforcement Agents (DEA) to conduct paramilitary-style raids with flak-jackets, ski-masks, and automatic weapons drawn. With the 60-Minutes focus on the DEA raid of California Patients Group serving as a graphic example, the feds have intensified this tactic over the past few months. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of DEA raids, with medical cannabis dispensaries being shut down over entire regions of the state. Another tactic used by the federal government to undermine California's medical marijuana law, not mentioned by 60-Minutes, is to threaten landlords with asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution if they continue to lease to dispensaries. More than 150 letters have been sent, mainly to landlords in southern California. Given that limited DEA resources would prevent the government from acting on most (or all) of its threats, this tactic amounts to nothing more than intimidation. It is with admirable resolve that dispensary operators across the state remain undeterred and continue to provide a much-needed medicine to patients. Dispensaries are a community-based solution to a problem of access to medical cannabis in California. This is what access looks like with a federal government resistant to taking part in the implementation of state law. Would distribution look different if cannabis could be prescribed? Probably. Would we see it in pharmacies? Possibly. But, until, as the 60-Minutes episode suggests, the federal government changes its policy toward medical cannabis, we will see people needlessly harassed, arrested, prosecuted, jailed, and deprived of a medicine that works for them.