Blog Voices from the Frontlines
A Sad Day in Montana, and across the Country - In Remebrance of Robin Prosser - Americans for Safe AccessIt is a sad day for the people of Montana, medical marijuana advocates, and people anywhere who are sympathetic to the plight of the sick and dying. Robin Prosser, a Missoula, Montana medical marijuana patient, and a powerful activist fighting for the rights of patients, took her life on October 18. She will be remembered in the struggle for a compassionate and humane federal policy on medical marijuana. Robin was a fighter. She encountered many obstacles, but many victories along the way. In 2002, she sustained a 60-day hunger strike in order to bring attention to her need for medical marijuana, as well as a need for the protection of patients. In 2004, Robin was charged with possession of an illegal substance and paraphernalia, but managed to fight the charges and continue to use medical marijuana. Arguably, the attention Robin gave to the issue in the preceding years helped to pass I-148, the Montana Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) of 2004. However, even with the passage of the much-needed MMMA, Robin's troubles were not over. In 2007, a UPS package was intercepted from her registered caregiver by the DEA. The package was her twice-monthly shipment of 20 grams of medical marijuana. Though no federal charges were ever filed against Robin, the action by DEA agents was a clear attempt to intimidate her and others. In fact, the DEA's involvement is representative of increased attacks on patients in states with medical marijuana laws. It is part of a last-ditch effort to avoid a federal policy change. I had a chance to talk with Robin shortly after the DEA seized her medical marijuana and she informed me at the time that she had no other way to obtain the medicine she relied on to treat her severe pain and nausea caused by an immunosuppressive disorder she had endured for more than 20 years. Robin was rightfully angry and despondent. It is a shame that we have lost another activist in this struggle. It is shameful that the DEA either cannot see the harm it is inflicting, or is cognizant of the consequences of its actions but refuses to change course. Regardless, it's a tragedy. Robin will be missed, but we must carry on her strong activist conviction.
Stand Up for Patients' Rights was apparently well documented. On Thursday, hundreds of patients and advocates rallied outside of Governor Schwarzenegger's Los Angeles office: Later that night, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. ASA and LA activists jumped into motion and coordinated a protest outside of the dispensary: During the weekend, Dean Becker interviewed me for a documentary he's working on, and I discussed the increase in raids and ASA's response to DEA actions (my interview follows the one with Dr. Mitch Earlywine):
Considering Cannabis," We have been introducing several MS Society chapter leaders, members, and staff to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and it's ability to treat several symptoms associated with MS. Since ASA participated in last year's conference, the National MS Society has implemented a Cannabis Task Force, led by MS expert, Dr. Alan J. Thompson, to, "review published studies on medical marijuana and make recommendations." Read more about the objectives of the task force in the Considering Cannabis article. Click here to read more about ASA's Patients' Unions.
Green-Aid. Paramilitary-Style Raids Deny Patients Access to Edible Cannabis On September 26, 2007, the DEA raided 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 killed an employee’s dog. On October 4th, Michael Martin turned himself in following an arrest warrant issued during the raids. He spoke in front of the Oakland Federal Building, surrounded by his wife, two children, and his mother, pleading with the federal government to spare his family more pain. Martin and three other defendants in the Tainted case are facing a lengthy and expensive legal battle, and Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis to qualified patients. You can help out by donating through Free Tainted.
Eureka Reporter. Landlord Letters Come to Orange County In continuation of the DEA's recent trend targeting innocent third parties, this week, landlords in Orange County received asset forfeiture letters. These letters threaten to confiscate the landlords' properties if they do not cooperate with the DEA and evict dispensing collective tenants. The DEA, once more, has chosen to victimize an innocent third party, property owners, in its ongoing war on medical cannabis. This trend of targeting innocent people has been seen in other Southern California cities such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach. We need a political fix for this problem in the immediate future. The DEA is continuing to go to drastic measures like these to undermine California state law. This is yet another reason Governor Schwarzenegger needs to stand up for patients' rights and defend California's medical marijuana laws. Click here to send a message to the Governor urging him to stand up for patents' rights. We must put an end to the mindless victimization of innocent citizens! To sign up to receive the weekly round up by email, click here.
http://www.ASAaction.org You can join the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research right now – http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Join You can also sign up for our emergency text message alert to be notified about DEA raids at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert See you at the meeting! See you in the streets!
Associated Press, the Daily Breeze, and KSBY - NBC TV 6 (San Luis Obispo). DEA Raids Downtown Dispensary Following the Rally From ASA California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Last Thursday, more than 300 medical cannabis patients and advocates rallied in front of the Governor's office in downtown Los Angeles demanding that he stand up for patients' rights and the will of California voters and lawmakers. Last night, the DEA and LAPD staged yet another raid a one of Los Angeles' collectives, the Arts District Healing Center (ADHC). More than 50 protesters turned out again to defend ADHC, which serves patients just blocks from City Hall. It is disheartening to see our local police department continue to support these harmful and unnecessary raids – despite clear guidance from LAPD Veteran and City Council Member Dennis Zine and his colleagues that the City intends to regulate medical cannabis facilities instead of close them. It is crucial that City Council members move forward quickly with a proposed resolution calling on an end to cooperation between the LAPD and DEA on medical cannabis raids. The image of our police department has been battered of late by brutality and scandal. This city does not need to see the men and women who should be heroes doing the work of villains. I was so proud of my fellow Angelinos and our guests from as far away as Rhode Island who stood up twice yesterday. It is a tremendous credit to local organizers that this constituency is so well trained and prepared to respond to an emergency on short notice. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) staff and volunteers leapt into action – sending hundreds of text messages and thousands of email alerts about the raid and protest less than one one half an hour after in began. You can sign up for our emergency text message alert to be notified about DEA raids at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert. To sign up to receive the weekly round up by email, click here.
Some Examples of Local Cooperation with the DEA in Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients - Americans for Safe AccessSo, think about this. Medical marijuana use and cultivation has been legal in California since 1996, but more than ten years later, there are still local law enforcement agents who refuse to follow state law. Especially since the Raich decision in 2005, many California law enforcement officials have cooperated with the federal government in investigating, raiding, and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers. In the most egregious cases, local governments have actively regulated and issued permits to these providers, only to have local law enforcement later turn them over the federal government. Here is an incomplete list of some stories of this practice, feel free to post others in comments with source links.
- On 9/13/07, DEA and Nevada County Sheriffs raided several residences near Big Oak Valley, and arrested 3 individual patient-cultivators for cultivating 190 plants. Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal initiated the investigation, and utilized federal DEA warrants because federal charges carry more jail time upon conviction than state cases and he intends to continue to raid collective cultivation sites. "We asked for help through the U.S. Attorney, and the DEA came through with the warrants," Royal said. Source
- On 8/29/07, DEA, San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, and San Mateo PD raided 3 dispensing collectives in San Mateo (Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, Peninsula Patients Local Option, M.H.T.), confiscating medicine and shutting them down. After considering a letter he had received from Patients Choice that explained the legality of dispensing collectives under state law, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe decided to call in the DEA to raid the dispensaries. "We could have sat here and spent a great deal of taxpayer money in San Mateo County, prosecuting it and going through the appeals, or we could bring the case to the attention of the federal government," Wagstaffe said. Source
- On 7/25/07, DEA & LAPD raided 10 dispensing collectives in Los Angeles, confiscating medicine, arresting 5 and closing many of the collectives. Specifically, one LAPD Officer, Detective Dennis Packer, was caught on video wearing DEA regalia and actively participating in the raid, and was a cross-deputized agent. While the LAPD promised to investigate his role in the raid, on 8/16/07, LAPD Commander David R. Doan told the Los Angeles City Council that the LAPD will continue to participate in federal raids on local medical marijuana dispensing collectives. Doan told council members (many of who were pressuring him not to cooperate) that the LAPD had a positive relationship with the DEA and he did not want to risk damaging that relationship and that it was LAPD policy to provide assistance with lawful federal warrants. Doan stated, "If it's going to be our position to say we're not going to help the [Drug Enforcement Administration], I'm not authorized to make that statement today," Doan said. Sources here, here, here and here.
- On 5/1/07, DEA, Kern County Sheriffs & Bakersfield PD raided Nature’s Medicinal Collective in Oildale and confiscated medicine, warning the dispensing collective not to reopen. It reopened anyway, and as the culmination of an 18-month investigation, the same law enforcement agencies raided again on 7/17/07, confiscating medicine and eventually arresting 8 patients on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, remarked after the first raid, “I understand why they are offended. First you regulate us and then arrest us. It’s contradictory and I am aware of that.” Eventually, all 6 dispensing collectives in the Bakersfield area closed, with one owner/operator crediting his decision to an alleged discussion where Sheriff Youngblood informed him of his intention to call the DEA to shut him down. The Sheriff himself took credit for these shutdowns in Business Week, saying that his own warnings, combined with the federal raids, have eliminated dispensing collectives in Kern County. "It is a federal crime, and federal law trumps California law," he says. Sheriff Youngblood then announced in 8/07 that he will not issue any more dispensing collective licenses (which is his job under the Kern County dispensing collective regulation ordinance) as he feels that he is helping people break the law. Sources are here, here, here, here, and here.
- On 3/29/07, DEA & San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs raided Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, confiscating medicine, and arresting 1 patient-employee on state charges. The Sheriffs spent the afternoon inside the dispensing collective with the DEA, taking down names and other information of patients arriving throughout the day. Sheriff's Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brian Hascall reported that the raid was the culmination of a year-long investigation by his Department. "The entire investigation started with us," Hascall said in a later interview. "I can't say why, but we started the investigation, and then because of the nature of the investigation, we requested the DEA's assistance, and it became a joint investigation between the two of us. That's common for it to be done that way." The Sheriffs did not get a state search warrant, and used a federal search warrant to carry out a local arrest warrant. Hascall explained that the Sheriff's Department has a duty to uphold both state and federal laws, pointing to the oath of office that requires them to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the Constitution of the State of California. "That's where the conflict between the federal law and the state law becomes such a problem," Hascall said. Sarah Pullen, Public Information Officer for the DEA's Los Angeles field division said that the agency does typically use local law enforcement in all enforcement actions. Source
- On 7/17/07, presumably as a result of evidence gathered in the previous state-initiated raid, DEA arrested Charles Lynch (owner/operator of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers) at his residence. He is currently being federally charged with manufacturing and distributing marijuana, distributing marijuana to a person under 21, possession with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug-involved premise, and aiding and abetting to distribute marijuana and his case is ongoing. Source
- On 9/27/06, DEA, IRS and Modesto PD raided the California Healthcare Collective in Modesto, confiscating medicine and arresting 4 patients. Modesto PD and DEA engaged in a 15-month investigation in which they sent officers to purchase cannabis from the clinic. Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden’s gave a statement supporting the raid: "Make no mistake about it…It simply will not be tolerated." Sources here and here.
- On 12/12/05, and then again on 7/6/06, after a self-characterized joint investigation, DEA, San Diego County Sheriffs, and San Diego PD raided 11 dispensing collectives in San Diego under federal and state search warrants, confiscating medicine, arresting 6 on federal charges, and then pressured the rest of the city’s dispensaries to shut down. San Diego County DA Bonnie Dumanis filed state charges against five dispensing collectives and during the investigation, San Diego PD officers went to doctors to get recommendations and also visited dispensaries, posing as legitimate patients. After the raids, Dumanis put the unraided dispensaries on notice, saying, “We've raided some of you today. We'll raid the rest of you if you do not cease and desist. We'll raid you again and again.” Sources here, here and here.
ASA's amicus brief seeks a definition of primary caregiver that is more faithful to the language of the Compassionate Use Act and the voters' intent.