Pages tagged "Barack Obama"

Let's Get Jerry Out of Prison!

Jerry Duval (left) with his son Jeremy

Last month, on June 11th, Michigan medical marijuana patient Jerry Duval surrendered to federal authorities to serve a whopping 10-year prison sentence, even though he was never in violation of the state's medical marijuana law. Jerry is a kidney-pancreas transplant recipient who also suffers from heart disease and glaucoma. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration saw fit to arrest, prosecute, and imprison Jerry at a cost of more than $1 million.

This is not just a tragedy for the Duval family, though they were hit hard (as a result of the same case, Jerry's son Jeremy is serving 5 years and the Duvals lost their family farm to forfeiture), it's also an outrage that we have to foot the bill.

However, two other milestones recently occurred that give Jerry and the rest of us hope for his release sooner than planned. Before Jerry even began serving his sentence, attorney Andrew Greenlee of Brownstone filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of Jerry and his son Jeremy. We'll be watching that one closely.

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National Lawyers Guild Report Condemns Federal Marijuana Policy, Calls for Reclassification of Marijuana for Medical Use

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) -- the country's oldest and largest public interest and human rights bar organization -- issued a report yesterday addressing the federal government's flawed policy on marijuana. According to its author NLG Senior Researcher Traci Yoder, High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives "analyzes the legalization process under way in the states, suggests strategies to further marijuana legalization initiatives, and highlights current obstacles to ending prohibition."

While significant attention is given to the adult use of marijuana, generally, the report recommends reframing drug use as "a social and public health issue and not a criminal justice problem," something we've been saying for years at Americans for Safe Access. High Crimes also recommends reclassifying marijuana for medical use. Citing the "[m]ounting scientific and anecdotal evidence" of marijuana's therapeutic benefits, the Guild rightly points out that "Rescheduling cannabis would allow for expanded medical research and use under international law."

The NLG report comes days after a report issued by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), detailing the social and economic costs of the federal government's war on medical marijuana. The ASA report entitled What's the Cost? is geared toward educating federal legislators on the consequences of that war, not only in terms of how it affects the prisoners, their families, and thousands of patients, but also how it impacts the average taxpayer and our federal budget.

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U.S. Mayors Demand Change to Federal Policy, End to Crackdown on Medical Marijuana in Their Cities

Mayors from across the United States gathered in Las Vegas this past weekend for the 81st annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. In a watershed moment, mayors voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a  resolution "in support of states setting their own marijuana policies without federal interference." The resolution was introduced in advance of the conference by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and co-sponsored by 17 other mayors from across the country. Yesterday's passage of the resolution came just days after medical marijuana advocates issued an alarming report detailing how the Obama Justice Department has spent nearly $300 million to undermine medical marijuana laws in the U.S.

"Ultimately, this is about whether local and state governments can develop, adopt, and implement public health laws without heavy-handed interference by the federal government," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which authored "What's the Cost?" an extensive report issued earlier this month on the economic and social costs of the federal government's war on medical marijuana. "This resolution is emblematic of the frustration experienced by local and state officials, which will continue until the federal government ends its attacks on medical marijuana." More than 100 million people, or 34 percent of Americans, currently live in states with medical marijuana laws.

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Off to the U.S. Supreme Court We Go

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, last week the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a petition for rehearing filed be Americans for Safe Access in ASA v. DEA. After more than a decade of legal wrangling with the federal government over the medical efficacy of marijuana and its relative lack of abuse potential, the D.C. Circuit gave great deference to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) position that marijuana has no proven medical value. In doing this, the D.C. Circuit not only ignored voluminous evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy, but it held the petitioners to a standard above and beyond that advanced by the government itself. Out of thin air, the Court interpreted the phrase “adequate and well-controlled studies” to require FDA-approved Phase II or Phase III studies, rather than the common meaning of the term. A similar such standard as that interjected into the proceedings by the Court at the last possible moment had already been rejected by the same Court and others in the cases of Grinspoon v. DEA, 828 F.2d 881 (1st Cir. 1987) and Doe v. DEA, 484 F.3d 561 (D.C. Cir. 2007).  This, coupled with the failure of the Court even to consider marijuana’s lack of abuse potential, was the basis for ASA’s recent petition for rehearing.

Unfortunately, for medical marijuana patients and others, the extremely small number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit makes rehearing en banc (by the entire circuit) next to impossible. Because there are only eight active judges on the D.C. Circuit, en banc review is extremely rare, with only one petition granted by this Court last year. Thus, the next legal step is to challenge the DEA’s action in the Supreme Court of the United States through a petition for writ of certiorari , which must be filed within ninety days. This opens the possibility for arguments that exceed those allowed under the recently denied petition for rehearing.  It also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of this wrong-headed approach to medical marijuana at the highest judicial level.

Stay tuned for more details on the upcoming appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in ASA v. DEA.

California Medical Association Calls on Governor Brown to Urge for Marijuana's Reclassification

More than two weeks ago, with less fanfare than it deserved, the California Medical Association (CMA) voted to urge Governor Brown to petition the federal government to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Notably, the vote occurred two days ahead of oral arguments before a federal appeals court in a widely watched case concerning the reclassification of marijuana: Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. With this latest resolution from the CMA, pressure continues to build on the federal government to design policy based on sound science and to treat medical marijuana like the public health issue it is.

On October 14th, the 141st annual CMA House of Delegates voted unanimously to approve Resolution 103-12, urging the Governor to petition the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis. The resolution was co-authored by Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Hematology-Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and an eminent cannabis researcher in his own right, and Dr. Larry Bedard, president of the Marin Medical Society and a physician who has practiced emergency medicine for more than 30 years.

Resolution 103-12 requests that:
California Governor Jerry Brown petition the DEA and the Administration to reschedule marijuana based on the science that shows medicinal marijuana has ‘accepted medical use.’

The CMA resolution also emphasized that:
[M]edical decisions should be based on science, not politics.

The CMA resolution comes as more than 70 medical professionals have co-signed an open letter calling for marijuana to be rescheduled from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value.

It’s not as if Governor Brown would be politically sticking out his neck, either. Within the last year, the governors of Colorado, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have all petitioned the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Given that the vast majority of Californians support medical marijuana, it would be politically prudent for Governor Brown to take this action. For all the harm that the Obama Administration has caused the medical marijuana community over the past few years -- incessant raids and prosecutions against legally compliant businesses -- it’s the least Governor Brown could do in favor of the state’s hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on the same dispensaries the federal government is shutting down.

According to its website:
CMA serves more than 35,000 members in all modes of practice and specialties representing the patients of California. CMA is dedicated to serving our member physicians through a comprehensive program of legislative, legal, regulatory, economic and social advocacy. … Our goal is to provide our members with the necessary support, so that they can surpass the challenges and continue to run successful medical practices.

Romney says patients aren’t significant: Show him your significance!

During a TV interview in Denver yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got testy when asked about access to cannabis. He asked, “Aren’t there issues of significance you would like to talk about?”

Mitt Romney, access to medical cannabis is significant to patients and their loved ones.

President Obama has not been a friend to medical marijuana users, as we all know. Under his watch, more than 170 dispensaries, caregivers and patients have faced federal law enforcement action in states where medical marijuana is legal. But Mitt Romney’s statement is harsher than anything the President has said on the issue. Romney added, “I think medical marijuana should not be legal in this country.”

Of course, given Romney’s history of flip-flops on healthcare and other issues, maybe this means he’ll change positions again, to support safe access! But we can’t sit around waiting for Presidential candidates to change their minds while caregivers are arrested and patients lose safe access to their medicine.

That’s why we are converging on Sacramento next weekend. ASA’s California Unity Conference, and the free Monday lobby day, will build our base, educate our allies and impress the Capitol with the strength of our movement.

To succeed on the state and federal level, we need your support. Politicians like Mitt Romney need to know that real people are suffering real harm from cruel federal policies - and that state governments are willing to stand up for their citizens’ health.

Please join us May 19-20 for our conference - only $50 a day gets you lunch and training to be a successful advocate for patients’ rights. Monday May 21, we’ll meet with Assembly and Senate representatives to argue for compassionate use and common-sense regulations. Register today to make a difference in California - and show national politicians how significant this movement is!

Obama (Double) Speaks on Medical Marijuana






Finally, President Obama has spoken about his aggressive stance toward medical marijuana. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, his statements are underwhelming, inaccurate and do nothing to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. In response to a question from Rolling Stone on why his administration is conducting more medical marijuana raids than the Bush administration, President Obama failed to come clean on reasons for the breadth and intensity of the attacks, which significantly escalated since he took office.
What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana…

Actually, what Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008 was that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

The shell game continued with Obama declaring that, as President, he “can’t ask the Justice Department to…‘ignore…a federal law that’s on the books.’”

In fact, Obama has complete discretion to let local and state authorities enforce their own medical marijuana laws. When affirming that discretionary authority in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court also questioned the wisdom of going after medical marijuana patients.

Obama then declared that his Justice Department should use “prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize [its] resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.”

That, however, seems to beg several questions, not the least of which is “how does one determine what “things” are “really doing folks damage?” Why is that not the purview of local and state officials to enforce? And, is the federal government doing more damage than it’s supposedly preventing? Keep in mind that the damage his administration has inflicted also impacts the fiscal bottom line of local and state governments. In California, dispensary closures precipitated by the federal crackdown have robbed the state of millions of dollars in lost taxes.

The president seems to seek cover with his comment that, “there haven’t been prosecutions” of medical marijuana users. But, even if it was true, and it’s not (all of the more than 60 people indicted on his watch use medical marijuana), this reasoning would still not justify the SWAT-style raids and the fear and intimidation they create. Nor would it justify the purging of lawful medical marijuana businesses from commercial banking institutions, or the IRS requirement that dispensaries pay taxes on gross proceeds, thereby ensuring bankruptcy, or discrimination against patients in public housing and the Veterans Administration.

At the end of the day, whether or not Obama’s Justice Department decides to prosecute whom it considers “wrongdoers,” qualified patients are still being denied a safe and legal means of obtaining their medication.

Even Obama’s “Drug War” excuses don’t match those of his U.S. Attorneys who are directly engaged in the attacks. The president erroneously stated that, “The only tension that’s come up” has been “commercial operations” that may be “supplying recreational users.” However, U.S. Attorneys have made little reference to targeting medical marijuana businesses because they’re allegedly selling to non-patients. The prevailing excuse has been simply that dispensaries are federally illegal or that they are too close to schools and other so-called “sensitive uses” (according to federal standards, not to local or state standards).

Obama’s weakest rationale for continuing the assault on medical marijuana patients is that he “can’t nullify congressional law.” However, the president can realistically do a number of things to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. First of all, Obama could introduce a bill that would carve out an exception for medical marijuana patients and providers. In fact, he doesn’t even have to introduce his own legislation, he could simply throw his weight behind HB 1983, a bill that would do just that. The president could also issue an executive order, not to change federal marijuana statutes but to exclude medical marijuana so as to let the states enforce their own laws.

Additionally, the president, through his executive powers, could also reclassify marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance -- a dangerous drug with no medical value. Yet, he and his Drug Enforcement Administration choose not to. In addition to four governors who have filed rescheduling petitions within the last year, Americans for Safe Access has a pending federal lawsuit that seeks reclassification.

At some point, President Obama is going to run out of excuses. Until then, please join ASA in urging him to do the right thing.

Lynching Charlie Lynch - A New Medical Marijuana Documentary












As we find ourselves, yet again, under attack by the federal government, a new medical marijuana documentary tells the story of a dispensary operator arrested in 2007 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Five years later, the story of Charles C. Lynch has not died out and, in fact, is more relevant than ever.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rick Ray teamed up with Brainstorm Media to release "Lynching Charlie Lynch" this past Friday. A press release issued at the time described the film this way:
Controversial and provocative, Lynching Charlie Lynch explores the conflict between the state-permitted medical marijuana business and Federal drug law in America, and the human cost of the arbitrary and inconsistent application of the law. Through in-depth interviews with experts and advocates across the country and on all sides of the issue, Lynching Charlie Lynch finds many answers, and raises even more questions.

Lynch was one of more than 200 Californians raided by the DEA during President Bush's 8 years in office. Yet, the Obama Justice Department has conducted more than 200 raids in at least 9 medical marijuana states in just 3 1/2 years, far surpassing his predecessor. Despite President Obama's pledge to do otherwise, he's waged an all-out assault on medical marijuana patients, the breadth and intensity of which is unprecedented in this country's history.

President Obama must be made to answer for the stark and harmful contradiction between his medical marijuana policy and his law enforcement practices. Please help keep President Obama accountable and help us pursue a sensible public health policy for medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Week - Day 4: Protesting the federal crack down nationwide

During Obama’s Presidency, his administration has used a series of familiar and new tactics to interfere with state medical cannabis laws including nearly 200 SWAT-style raids leading to more than 60 indictments, threat letters to landlords and government officials, gross manipulation of the tax code, denying medical cannabis patients the right to bear arms, seizing medical cannabis related bank accounts, and much more. Today, ASA Chapters and affiliates in 9 cities and 6 states rallied outside of federal buildings and other venues across the country to tell Obama that enough is enough.

Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, protested with the San Francisco ASA Chpater in front of his campaign appearance there. She said:
The literal and figurative assault on medical marijuana patients currently underway by the Obama Administration is unprecedented in this country's history, despite hollow proclamations to the contrary.  The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush Administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws.

The Obama Administration has also employed numerous federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, ATF, VA, and IRS to shut down access to medical marijuana, and cut-off services for, or otherwise discriminate against, literally hundreds of thousands of patients across the country.

Patient advocates in San Francisco and across the country called on Obama to end his attacks on the medical marijuana community and begin to address this issue from a public health standpoint. In addition to keeping his pledge of deprioritizing enforcement, advocates are encouraging Obama to reschedule marijuana for medical use. ASA is currently litigating the rescheduling issue in the D.C. Circuit and has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's violation of the Tenth Amendment by derailing state medical marijuana laws.