Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Jan 042008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 04, 2008 10:59 AM

Oakland Mayor Dellums Speaks Out for Safe Access On December 20th, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums came out strongly in support of medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by issuing a statement and sending a letter to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI). Dellums also stated his support for Representative Conyers' decision to hold hearings scrutinizing the latest DEA tactics in California of sending threatening letters to landlords and raiding dispensaries that are in compliance with local and state law. In Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers, he "urge[s] the House Judiciary Committee to expeditiously hold hearings and examine this very important issue." Mayor Dellums' public statement and letter were a result of a coalition of activists reaching out to the mayor, including ASA, local attorney James Anthony, the Drug Policy Alliance, CA NORML, and the Marijuana Policy Project. Just under a month ago, Bay Area landlords who rented to collectives received letters from the DEA threatening to seize their assets if they did not evict the medical cannabis providers. ASA and the coalition of advocates sprung into action, reaching out immediately to local elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. Mayor Dellums' recent public support joins a handful of other elected officials in the Bay Area, including Senator Carol Migden, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and the Oakland City Council who have come out publicly against the federal government's attack on medical marijuana. We are continuing to rally support from local officials and the community. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates have yet to release a statement supporting medical cannabis patients and providers and condemning the DEA's attacks. Read Mayor Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers at: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Letter_to_Conyers.pdf Read Mayor Dellums' statement at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Statement.pdf

To find out ways to get involved and ensure safe access in San Francisco please contact Alex Franco at: AAAFranco@yahoo.com To find out ways to get involved in the East Bay please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org

Check out Mayor Dellums' press coverage on Channel 2, the Oakland Tribune, and KPFA

Court Appeals Verdict: Patient's Conviction is Reversed The Fourth Appellate District Court issued another very positive published decision in People v. Chakos last week. The two concurring judges, Aronson and Fybel, involved in the unanimous opinion were the same two concurring judges in the Garden Grove (Kha) case.

The court found that the conviction for possession with the intent to sell of defendant Chakos should be reversed because the court improperly admitted a cop to testify as an expert about marijuana distribution. They found him to be no more an expert than the average layperson because he did not understand the unique practices and difficulties faced by medical marijuana patients. Although the defendant possessed approximately six ounces of marijuana, had a digital scale, and plastic baggies, the court found that this did not suggest non-medical use. Specifically, after noting that a patient is legally entitled to possess eight ounces of marijuana under California law, the court stated:

"One might posit, then, that individuals who may lawfully possess marijuana under state law for medicinal purposes will have patterns of purchase and holding that will reflect the practical difficulties in obtaining the drug. Those practical difficulties could also explain the gram scale -- anyone with the lawful right to possess marijuana will need to take precautions not to insure that he or she does not get “ripped off” by a dealer, but that he or she does not possess more than the eight ounces contemplated by the Act. Practical difficulties of obtaining the drug also explain why a patient entitled to 13 possess it under state law might want to keep an extra supply on hand within the legal amount, since supplies would not be reliable."

They end the decision by referring to the "expert" cop:

"Now, are these speculations to be rejected because contradicted by the expert’s testimony on the record? No -- and that is the point: The record fails to show that Deputy Cormier is any more familiar than the average layperson or the members of this court with the patterns of lawful possession for medicinal use that would allow him to differentiate them from unlawful possession for sale. In other words, Cormier was unqualified to render an expert opinion in this case."

Read more about the case and the 4th Appellate Court's decision in the San Francisco Chronicle's story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/21/BAJ0U37B7.DTL&tsp=1 Ukiah City Council Calls for Medicine Limits- Board of Supervisors to Consider Ballot Initiative The Ukiah City Council is expected to vote on a resolution today at 4:00pm, which calls on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to put an initiative on the ballot to limit the number of plants medical cannabis patients are allowed to cultivate and repeal the landmark legislation, Measure G. Measure G was voted on by the Mendocino County voters in 2000. The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use.

The Council is calling for a repeal of Measure G and limiting the plant numbers to six per patient. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss putting the repeal of Measure G and limiting patients' cultivation on the ballot next Tuesday, January 8th.

Come out and support patients' access! Scroll down to "City and County Hearings" to find details about the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday.

Read about Ukiah City Council's efforts to repeal of Measure G in the Press Democrat: http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20071224/NEWS/712240316/1033/NEWS01 and in the Willits News: http://www.willitsnews.com//ci_7812598?IADID=Search-www.willitsnews.com-www.willitsnews.com

Orange County Begins Issuing Medical Cannabis ID Cards From Safe Access Now's Aaron Smith

On January 2nd, the Orange County Department of Public Health launched the statewide medical marijuana ID card program. Application for the cards are being taken on an appointment-only basis. Obtaining a card is voluntary for patients and caregivers but many find them to be very helpful in preventing false arrest by state and local law enforcement. In order to qualify for the ID card, you must be able to provide a copy of a valid doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, proof of residency within Orange County and pay an application fee of $150 ($75 for MediCal recipients).

To make an appointment and apply for the card program, call the County Health Department at (714) 480-6717 during normal business hours.

Dec 202007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 20, 2007 11:09 AM
ASA Files New Arguments in San Diego Case This week, patients throughout California along with the city of San Diego filed a brief incorporating two new legal arguments that oppose San Diego County's attempt to defy and overturn California state law.  Representing the medical marijuana patients of California, ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford filed the brief with the intent to highlight the recent California Court of Appeals decision in Kha vs. Garden Grove, which was released in late November of this year. San Diego County is awaiting a decision in their appeal, which was filed in early February. San Diego County filed a lawsuit in February 2006 challenging the state requirement to implement an identification card program for qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers.  In December 2006, San Diego Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, Jr. ruled that there is no "positive conflict" between federal and state law, affirming the sovereignty of state law. The Counties of San Diego and San Bernardino appealed in February. ASA and the City of San Diego filed the amicus, "friend of the court," brief citing the Kha decision. Since San Diego County's main legal argument is that federal law preempts state law, incorporating the Kha decision in this recent brief has the potential to have an major impact in the lawsuit.  The California's Fourth Appellate District, which heard the Kha case, is the same appellate court that will hear this case. In the November 28th ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, the court held that state law was neither "preempted" nor "superseded" and stated further that, "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws..." Read ASA's press release about the brief here. DEA Raids Los Angeles Dispensary Herbal Nutrition Center in Los Angeles was raided yesterday afternoon by DEA agents.  The collective was ransacked by agents, but no one was arrested. DEA agents seized medicine and vandalized displays and the collective's surveillance system.  As a result of the raid and the upcoming holidays the collective will be re-opening it's doors on January 2, 2008. Thank you to all that came out to show your support.  If you haven't signed up for ASA's raid alert text messaging system, do so today at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert Read a report about the raid from the collective's operator on ASA's forums at: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=642   Special Announcement: Tom Kikuchi has Moved to a Different Facility ASA has been alerted that recently convicted Tom Kikuchi has been moved has been taken from Dyer Detention Center.  Sarah Armstrong, longtime supporter and caretaker for victims of the war on medical marijuana reports that, "he feels this is a temporary situation, and that he will soon be shipped away to somewhere else, they will not tell him where."  Sarah has also reported that Tom has asked that people hold up on cards and letters until he can ascertain how long he will be at this federal facility.  ASA will keep you updated as news comes in. Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced only a few weeks ago to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Read Vanessa Nelson's article(s) on Tom Kikuchi at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/
Dec 192007

10 Questions: Presidential Candidates on Medical Marijuana - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 19, 2007 12:24 PM
There's a great online presidential forum that has asked 10 questions to each of the presidential candidates. Question #3 asks the candidates how they feel about medical marijuana, whether they would stop the DEA raids, and if they would change the laws. So far, one Republican and four Democrats have answered the questions. Here are there answers: Mike Huckabee does a great job at dodging the question and even claims that the way to go about this would be for advocates to just change the laws (as if we weren't trying, and as if Huckabee would have no influence over this if he was president): Mike Gravel dodges the question in a completely different way, using the opportunity to bash the war on drugs and talk about broader decriminalization of marijuana: Dennis Kucinich probably does the best job of answering the question directly, clearly stating that he would end the raids and that medical marijuana should be available to those who need it: John Edwards states that he would end the DEA raids and ties medical marijuana into the broader issue of the Bush administration's neglect of science, in favor of politics: Barack Obama also voices support for medical marijuana, saying that if it's safe it should regulated like other prescription drugs, though he takes jabs at patients who grow their own medicine: So what do you think? Who dodged the question? Who answered it the best? Did any of these answers change who you're going to vote for?
Dec 142007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 14, 2007 10:37 AM
Dozens of Patients and Activists Protest DEA in Support of Tainted, Inc. Today, dozens of Bay Area activists gathered at the Oakland Federal Building in protest of the recent raids on several Tainted, Inc. facilities and the arrests of four employees. The "Holiday Party Protest," commenced with Tainted operator and ASA activist, Michael Martin, dressed in a Santa Claus costume singing holiday carols. Martin then gave a compelling speech, presenting the DEA with a selection of scientific research which proves the efficacy of medical marijuana, and a Grinch plush doll. Referencing the tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Martin encouraged the DEA to have a change of heart, as the Dr. Seuss story says. The protest continued with patient activist, Jacqueline Patterson, speaking about the importance of medical marijuana for patients, and Dr. Frank Lucido, echoing her sentiments. The Tainted, Inc. defendants' court hearing has been postponed to January 29th. Bay Area activists and ASA plan on attending for court support. We will keep you updated on the hearing's date and location in future alerts. Read ASA's press release about the DEA's raid on Tainted here.  For more information on what you can do to support the defendants, visit www.FreeTainted.com.  DEA Asset Forfeiture Letters Reach Northern California; Activists Mobilize This week, the DEA's newest tactic of shutting down access for patients reached Northern California. Several Northern California collectives' landlords received asset forfeiture letters from the DEA. In these letters, the DEA threatens to seize the property of the innocent third-party landlords for allowing medical cannabis collectives to operate in their properties. While this is a concerning development, ASA is working in coalition with Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California NORML, and other activists and leaders to ensure that andlords, patients, and providers are protected. We will need the grassroots' support and actions in the upcoming weeks. Please stay alert, as the coalition will be calling on activists to take action to ensure safe access in California. Court Denies Appeal for Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative This week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative's oral arguments, affirming the U.S. government's injunction. This decision does not change the current situation for medical cannabis dispensaries in California. Read more about the decision, reported by CBS 5: http://cbs5.com/local/medical.marijuana.oakland.2.610402.html DEA Seizes Taxes from CA Board of Equalization From Dale Gieringer, Executive Director, California NORML DEA raids on California's medical marijuana dispensaries are costing the state's taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues, according to records collected by California NORML. The DEA has not only closed facilities that were paying millions of dollars yearly in sales taxes, but also seized as much as $450,000 in sales tax payments that were in transit to the state Board of Equalization. Among them was a $350,000 electronic payment to the BOE from the Compassion Center of Alameda County, which the DEA seized from the bank on October 30th. Read the rest of the story>>
Dec 032007

Court of Appeals Orders Police to Return Medical Marijuana - Americans for Safe Access

For years there has been harassment against medical marijuana patients through the confiscation of their medicine, and, until now, there had been no clear statement on this by the appellate courts. On Wednesday, this changed. In City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a unanimous panel of three judges on California's Fourth Appellate District issued a 41-page published opinion, which made clear that all superior court judges across the state must return confiscated marijuana to qualified marijuana patients who demonstrate that they are entitled to possess it under California law. The opinion is written by the Honorable William Bedsworth, whom many consider the "Literary Jurist." It has many quotable passages. The opinion starts out with a noticeable description of the issue presented -- "We confront here the facially anomalous request that we approve state confiscation of a substance which is legal in the circumstances under which it was possessed." I take this to mean that the court is stating that it will not condone police seizing marijuana that is possessed legally under California law. In other words, the police should not have taken Felix Kha's marijuana in the first place. The court, then, treated seized medical marijuana just like other legally possessed property taken by the police and found that "[b]ecause Kha is legally entitled to possess it, due process and fundamental fairness dictate that it be returned to him." There would not be an exception to these constitutional principles for medical marijuana patients. Courts must return medical marijuana to qualified patients. But what about federal law, you wonder? Well, federal law expressly contains an exception to its marijuana laws for law enforcement officers performing their functions. 21 U.S.C. Section 885(d) provides that "no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed [under the federal Controlled Substances Act] upon any . . . duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances." Thus, as did a unanimous court of appeals in Oregon, the Fourth Appellate District held that the courts and police are immune from federal drug laws for returning medical marijuana. Law enforcement's reliance on federal law in refusing to do this is misplaced. The court further explained:
By complying with the trial court's order, the Garden Grove police will actually be facilitating a primary principle of federalism, which is to allow the states to innovate in areas bearing on the health and well-being of their citizens. Indeed, "[o]ure federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of States [that have authorized the use of medical marijuana] to decide from themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens." [citation] The [Compassionate Use Act] and the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] are a clear manifestation of that decision-making process.
The feds may do what the feds will do in enforcing their own laws, but the people of California are entitled to decide to tread a different path, which requires the return of medical marijuana wrongfully seized by the police. The City of Garden Grove was joined in its resistance to court-ordered return of medical marijuana by several amici (friends of the court), which included the California Peace Officer' Association and the California District Attorneys' Association. (The Attorney General, on the hand, filed a brief supporting our side.) The court addressed several of their claims:
Amici for the City also claim that ordering the return of Kha's marijuana is ill advised as a matter of public policy because local police are held to a high moral standard, they often cooperate with federal drug enforcement efforts, and they are generally charged with enforcing and administering “the law of the land,” which includes federal law. We appreciate these considerations and understand police officers at all levels of government have an interest in the interdiction of illegal drugs. But it must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such. For reasons we have explained, state courts can only reach conduct subject to federal law if such conduct also transcends state law, which in this case it does not. To the contrary, Kha's conduct is actually sanctioned and made “noncriminal” under the CUA.
The court emphasized to the police that medical marijuana patients are not criminals:
Amici argue the police should not have to return Kha's marijuana to him, even though he is qualified to use the drug for medical reasons under California law. Characterizing Kha as a “criminal defendant,” amici claim the CUA only provides him with a “defense” to certain offenses and does not make his possession of medical marijuana “lawful.” But Kha is clearly not a criminal defendant with respect to the subject marijuana. Since the prosecution dismissed the drug charge he was facing, he is nothing more than an aggrieved citizen who is seeking the return of his property. The terms “criminal” and “defendant” do not aptly apply to him.
For the first time in a published opinion, a California court clarified to the local police that it is state law, not federal law, they should be enforcing. It was a pleasure to read this thoughtful, well-reasoned decision which strongly vindicates the right of medical marijuana patients everywhere. It will be cited often. For the briefs filed in the case see here.
Dec 032007

ASA Applauds Gov. Richardson’s Inclusion of Medical Marijuana in HIV/AIDS Platform - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 03, 2007 10:29 AM
On Saturday, December 1, to commemorate Worlds AIDS Day, Democratic Presidential Candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson unveiled his HIV/AIDS policy platform.  In addition to recognizing the need for a National AIDS Strategy, the Governor’s plan includes a provision that would permit the use of medicinal marijuana to help people living with HIV/AIDS improve pain and symptom management. The anti-emetic and analgesic properties of cannabis have been particularly useful to HIV/AIDS patients.  People living with HIV/AIDS have long used cannabis to help with symptoms of HIV related illnesses ranging from wasting and loss of appetite to adherence to medications.  Consequently, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 AIDS patients use cannabis for medical purposes. Earlier this year, the journal Neurology published the results of a clinical trial indicating that smoked marijuana can alleviate painful, peripheral HIV/AIDS-related neuropathy.  Research also shows that access to cannabis may improve health care outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.  For example individuals who use cannabis in conjunction with their antiretroviral therapy are approximately 3.3 times more likely to remain on their prescribed drug therapies than those who do not use cannabis. The Bush Administration has failed to acknowledge the growing body of evidence which demonstrate that marijuana has medical value.  In fact, neither the Clinton nor the Bush Administrations  have ever undertaken any effort to review or fully implement the recommendations of the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, Marijuana and Medicine-Assessing the Science, which acknowledged that "For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication." In contrast, California and 12 other states, including New Mexico, have passed laws that authorize the use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physicians.  Americans for Safe Access is encouraged by Governor Richardson’s sensitivity to the intersection of medical marijuana and HIV/AIDS.  We hope other Presidential candidates will take note, and follow his lead.
Nov 302007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 30, 2007 10:58 AM
Victory in Kha Case Will Have a Major Impact for Patients This week, medical marijuana patients throughout California received a monumental victory.  On Wednesday, a California Appeals Court ruled that “it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws.” Ending years of dispute, the court ruled in favor of Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient seeking the return of his medical marijuana that was seized by police. In a ruling that rejects law enforcement’s claim that federal law preempts the state’s medical marijuana law, the court asserted “we do not believe the federal drug laws supersede or preempt Kha’s right to the return of his property.” Joe Elford, ASA's Chief Counsel, said it best when asked about the effect this case will have. Elford said, "This case will have beneficial ripple effects on all of our other cases, since the decision is so comprehensive.  This was an even better decision that I would have hoped." This victory is the result of years of work put in by ASA's legal staff, volunteers, activists, and patients.  Kha, a medical marijuana patient, was cited for marijuana possession and had his medicine seized in 2005.  The case was quickly dismissed, but the City of Garden Grove refused to return the unlawfully seized medicine.  After more than 2 years of waiting, the appellate court's decision puts an end to state law enforcement seizing medicine from patients, preventing future injustices like the one Kha faced. Since proposition 215 passed, the seizure of medicine by California law enforcement has been a far too common experience for many of California's terminally ill and chronic disease patients.  Just in the past two years, ASA has compiled reports from nearly eight hundred patient encounters with local or state police.  These glaring trends will now be forced to end due to this court decision. As a result of this court decision, ASA will be revamping our Return of Property campaign to ensure justice for all patients who have had their medicine taken away. Noah Mamber, ASA's Legal Coordinator says about the decision, "The Legal Department is very excited about the possibilities that this decision creates. Since every Superior Court in the state must follow this decision, we intend to simplify our Motion for Return of Property template, and relaunch the campaign, encouraging all patients who were possessing their medicine legally and have had it confiscated to use this case in trying to get it back. The more motions we file, the more pressure the judges will exert on the district attorneys and police to stop harassing legal patients." Read more about the decision in our press release at:http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5251 Read the press coverage by: NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/us/30pot.html?ref=us SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/30/BAIFTLCNQ.DTL The Recorder: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1196361712064 Orange County Register:  http://www.ocregister.com/news/marijuana-law-kha-1931328-state-garden CBS 2: http://cbs2.com/local/Medical.Marijuana.Garden.2.598475.html Medical Marijuana Movement Loses Linda Senti From Chris Payaso, c/o Oaksterdam News and Weedbay.net: It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you all that a great shining light of compassion and freedom here in California has been snuffed out. Linda Senti, wife of cannabis activist Eddy Lepp, passed from this world at 8 pm PST Sunday, November 25. Linda was my closest confidant and friend in California, and although sad at her passing, I am happy she is no longer in pain from the cancer she has been fighting for decades. Please pray for Linda, and especially Eddy Lepp. He needs all the support and love that we can offer so that he can continue fighting for OUR RIGHTS. Both Eddy and Linda worked tirelessly for at least the last 20 years together on their vision. A vision that included personal freedom for everyone. Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Deny Dispensary Permit This week, in a disappointing  act, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors denied Creekside Medicinal Organics their permit in a 3-0 vote with two Supervisors missing.  Despite the large contingency of Sonoma ASA chapter members, patients, and activists who testified in support of Creekside Medicinal Organics, the board went ahead and voted the permit down, citing ordinance residential zoning rule.  The collective had met every stipulation of the county's ordinance with one small exception.  The land parcel site is 53 feet from residential zoning. The ordinance rule is 100 feet.  The physical building, however, is located over two hundred feet from the residential zoning, but because parcel line is only 53 feet away, the permit was recommended for denial and then voted down in a unanimous decision. ASA would like to thank Sonoma ASA and all the activists, patients, and concerned citizens that showed up in support of the collective.  Even though we did not win, we appreciate your hard work and your commitment to safe access. It is people like you that keep this movement alive and strong. Read more about the hearing at: http://www.ktvu.com/news/14710912/detail.html Update on Long Beach Raid Two weeks ago, DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers, seizing medicine and other resources and arresting the collective's operator, Samuel Matthew Fata.  The collective has remained closed since the raid, and ASA has not received reports of their plans to reopen. The raid was the first federal attack on a dispensary in Long Beach, and the DEA has released a press statement saying it will not be the last. The city of Long Beach does not have a dispensary ordinance, nor regulations in place, despite the reported 10+ dispensaries in the city. Several dispensaries in Long Beach have fallen under attack recently when the DEA issued asset forfeiture letters to the facilities' landlords.  ASA will report breaking news on access in Long Beach as well as upcoming court dates and support for the collective as we receive reports.  If you have any information about upcoming court dates for Fata, please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org To read more about the raid, see the following news articles: Long Beach Press-Telegram:  http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7530132 and http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7544769
Nov 292007

Visiting with Stephanie Landa - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 29, 2007 1:06 PM
Jane is a medical marijuana activist and ASA volunteer in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Recently, I joined fellow activists Ana and Chris to make our bi-monthly trek up the 5 freeway for a visit with our friend Stephanie Landa.  Stephanie, a 61 year old mother, is being held at the Dublin Federal Parks Camp, a decrepit women’s minimum security federal prison. The prison, a former World War II Japanese internment camp, sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling golden hills, between a military base and the cookie cutter condo development built to house the soldiers. This prison, however, is not like what you’d imagine.  There are no guard towers, sweeping spotlights, and high barbed wire fences surrounding this facility.  In fact, there are no fences at all. A few inmates over the years have literally just walked away, but most don’t because they hope to reintegrate into society as soon as they are done clicking off days handed down by an arbitrary Sentencing Commission. Everyone knows that if they escape and get caught, the punishment is imprisonment just across the parking lot at the infamous maximum security Santa Rita County Jail, a facility that very much looks just as you’d imagine. At the guard’s desk, we surrender our identification and empty our pockets. The guard gives us a once over, to make sure we are dressed properly (no torn jeans or open-toed shoes as we learned on a previous visit). We log our names as visitors (having already undergone Federal background checks for approval) for Stephanie Landa, Prisoner Number: 09247800, then wait patiently for her to be called. She enters the room from a separate entrance, wearing blue prisoner garb and always a smile, her right arm hangs limply at her side under the pain of her ailing shoulder. We usually sit in the outdoor visiting area and Stephanie fills us in on her life in prison. In prison, there is no privacy. Most women are housed in dormitories in lots of 40. Throughout the night, every two to three hours, guards barge into the dorms for the nightly count, shining flashlights in the eyes of women attempting to sleep. Stephanie was recently upgraded to relatively lavish accommodations: a four bunk room, but she still hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since she arrived. She has very little freedom and personal choices are usually limited to a cheese burrito or a pepperoni microwave pizza from the vending machines. All her mail is read and censored, all phone calls are listened in on, and she can trust no one because everyone is a possible snitch. The wardens pit the women against each other by rewarding any piece of incriminating information. All conversations are subject to eavesdropping; even our conversation in the outdoor visiting area is likely to be listened- in on. She is monitored like a child, having to report to certain places at certain times. She must always obey and behave according to the rules. If she rebels in any way, she will be punished.  Of course, this doesn’t stop her.  Even in jail, she continues to be an activist, for medical marijuana and for improved prison conditions. Despite all this, Stephanie jokes that she thinks she might be becoming institutionalized. She doesn’t like it there, but she is getting used to it.  Eventually, Stephanie will be back in Los Angeles , but for now, it is just a matter of waiting. Not surprisingly, Stephanie is making the best of her time and keeping busy. She is the head of the Dublin Federal Correctional Institute chapter of Toastmasters International (which has record attendance since her takeover), she makes cards to answer every letter she receives, and she has nurtured some amazing crocheting skills (I have a hat and bag to prove it!). Usually, we are able to take pictures with Stephanie, but today, the “picture lady” is unavailable. The last time we took photos, four out of five photos were confiscated by the prison officials. We had posed in front of various signs in the visiting area (Keep of the Grass, the sign for the prison, No Smoking) and apparently someone didn’t like the rare moment of personal expression. In fact, now photos can only be taken in two designated areas.  There was even now a backdrop set up.  Tighter control is constantly being placed on the smallest of freedoms. Visiting hours end at 2 PM. It’s always hard to say good bye. It’s hard to leave her behind. Sometimes Stephanie will smile and ask a guard if she can come home with us, and follow it up with an “OK, just checking.” While we leave to enjoy a nice lunch before heading home, Stephanie must go back into the dormitories, where her life is dictated. The injustice of her conviction is felt acutely. She is eleven months into the forty-month sentence doled out to her for growing medication (plants!) for sick and dying patients. Stephanie has been incarcerated since voluntarily turning herself over to federal authorities on January 4th, 2007. In 2002, after receiving the full cooperation of the SF Board of Supervisors, the SF Medical Marijuana Task Force, and San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, Stephanie, Tom Kikuchi and Kevin Gage were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency by a rogue narcotics detective in the San Francisco Police Department, an action that was in a violation of the city’s Medical Marijuana Sanctuary Resolution. Because they were not allowed to present a medical defense in federal court, all three accepted a plea bargain and plead guilty. Despite 8 SF Supervisors and DA Hallinan writing personal letters to Judge William Alsup asking for leniency in sentencing, she was still sentenced to 41 months, Alsup admitting the sentence was improper but claiming his hands were tied. Stephanie is still a beacon of light and love, despite the circumstances. The one thing that has helped through all of this is the mail she receives. She says that she absolutely lives for mail call. Please, write to Stephanie! FCI DUBLIN SATELLITE CAMP Prisoner Stephanie Landa POW # 09247-800 5675 8TH ST DUBLIN, CA 94568
Nov 282007

ASA Weighs in on DEA Rescheduling - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 28, 2007 10:06 AM
From our friends at MAPS:
In late September, DEA proposed a new rule that would effectively place dronabinol (the active chemical in MARINOL) in Schedule III. Wait a second, isn't MARINOL already in Schedule III? It is. When MARINOL was first marketed, it was placed in Schedule II. Once DEA was shown that it had a low potential for abuse, they agreed to place it in Schedule III. But the narrow language only places in Schedule III MARINOL's specific formulation (synthetically derived dronabinol, suspended in sesame oil). All other formulations remain in Schedule I.
Marinol's patent is almost up, which will open up the market to generic dronabinol, as long as the rule change goes through. ASA submitted a Public Comment in support of the proposed rule change. Here are some highlights:
Primarily, the proposed rule is a positive step because in it, the DEA acknowledges, only for the second time (Marinol was the first in 1986), the obvious medical benefits of THC/dronabinol.  These proposed changes also represent progress because they implicitly recognize the value of whole-plant cannabis and its capacity to extract naturally occurring THC that is bioequivalent to synthetic THC... This proposed change is also a positive development because its will likely result in greater access for patients to less expensive, naturally derived cannabis-based drugs in the short term... Generic drugs, drugs that are produced and distributed without patent protection (and approved by the FDA under 21 U.S.C. 355 § 505(j)), are generally much cheaper than brand-name drugs, such as Marinol.
We go on to argue that the rule change does not go far enough, and that the DEA needs to consider rescheduling other cannabinoids:
...the DEA should initiate another proposed rule change that reschedules a wide array of natural, non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids to support the research and development of a wider variety of cannabis-based medicines.  Research suggests that the beneficial therapeutic effects of cannabis may result from the interaction, or synergy, among various cannabinoids. This helps to explain why medicines developed from whole-plant extracts may be more effective than single cannabinoid drugs developed from synthetic compounds.  For instance, Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine, which combines both THC and CBD to produce an entirely different therapeutic potential than THC alone, has been developed by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, and has been approved for use in Canada and is undergoing clinical trials in Europe and the United States...
And we further argue that the DEA should end the obstructions to medical cannabis research:
...the DEA should accept the opinion of its own U.S. Department of Justice-appointed Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mary Ellen Bittner, who urges the DEA to grant a license to Professor Lyle Craker to cultivate research-grade cannabis for distribution exclusively to federally approved researchers, which would greatly facilitate research on the therapeutic value of cannabis and access to its naturally derived constituent cannabinoids, specifically THC.
Please read ASA's full comment and MAPS' comment.
Nov 212007

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 21, 2007 9:59 AM
ASA & Local Advocates Prevail in Orange County! From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Supervisor Bates has pulled her motion to deny collectives and cooperatives licenses from the Board’s agenda. The decision stems from input from ASA and her constituents at and following the October 30th Board of Supervisor’s meeting. This is great news for patients in that traditionally underserved county, and it also keeps the statewide momentum flowing towards regulating safe access – not preventing it. Thanks to all the patients and concerned citizens who chimed in to make a difference! We must all stay vigilant in case another threat pops up… so keep your eyes on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and other local government. Check out my November 5 blog on the last minute campaign to stop this ban at http://AmericansforSafeAccess.org/OrangeCountyBlog DEA Raids Long Beach Dispensary DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Cooperative yesterday. ASA is awaiting further details on the raid. A patient that was there claims that DEA raided LBCC 5 minutes after they opened yesterday morning. DEA took the medicine and harassed the volunteers, but we still have not heard of any arrests. Please post any news on the raid at our forum, http://www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/LongBeachRaid Tom Kikuchi Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced yesterday to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Tom Kikuchi, Stephanie Landa, and Kevin Gage, a noted Hollywood actor, accepted a plea agreement in 2003. This case drew attention because San Francisco police apparently turned her and two others over to federal prosecutors. The three had met with the city’s district attorney and police officials before beginning cultivation. For more information about the case and Tom Kikuchi's hearing, read Vanessa Nelson's article at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/