Pages tagged "California"


California Weekly Round Up

ASA Holds an Emotional Press Conference as Tainted's Michael Martin Turns Himself In Yesterday, dozens of ASA's supporters and ASA staff gathered at an emotional press conference as edible producer Michael Martin, 33, turned himself over to federal authorities in response to an arrest warrant issued last week. Martin received word of the September 26 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid on Tainted, Inc. while on vacation, and is not considered a fugitive as reported earlier by government and media. Martin, a medical marijuana patient, spoke at the press conference saying, "We must put a stop to this travesty and, as a community, speak up, and defend a patients' right to use safer alternatives of medication as they and their doctors see fit. We must no longer allow the federal government to viciously intimidate its citizens by misinforming and blantantly lying to the public about the benefits of cannabis as a safe and effective medicine..." Read Michael Martin's open letter, which he read from at the press conference at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Martin_Letter.pdf. The press conference continued with Martin's lawyer, Sara Zalkin, his mother, Kimberly Miller, a patient who relies on cannabis edibles, Jeff Bishop, collective operator Richard Lee, and ASA's Executive Director, Dr. Frank Lucido, Steph Sherer, speaking. Several media sources covered the press conference including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press, ABC 7, CBS 5, and KTVU Channel 2. Martin was released on bail of $300,000 and will appear before the Magistrate Brazil in Oakland Federal Court along with the three other defendants facing charges, on October 26th at 10:00am. ASA will be posting his upcoming court dates in the CA Weekly Alerts to come. Read ASA's press advisory on the event here. ASA Chapters Organize Statewide Banner Drop Targeting Governor Schwarzenegger Yesterday, with one week until the statewide mobilization left, several California ASA chapters throughout the state conducted a synchronized banner drop during rush hour. Activists performed this act of civil disobedience by rolling out homemade banners, reading the message, "Gov. Schwarzenegger: Defend California's Medical Marijuana Laws!" Some of the chapters, like the San Francisco ASA chapter, left the banner up after they had left. The banner drops were designed to further promote the important mobilization to the Governor's office next Thursday, whilst increasing public awareness around the issue. As many of you may know, medical marijuana activists, supporters, patients, and providers, have been organizing a statewide mobilization to the Governor's office in Los Angeles. The event will take place next Thursday, October 11th at 12:00pm at the Governor's Los Angeles office. To read more about the campaign and the mobilization, check out the "Take Action" and "Special Events" sections in the Weekly Alert, or visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp. Several people called ASA's headquarters yesterday to report spotting the banners on their way to work. ASA's San Francisco chapter recorded their banner drop on video. We will be posting the video on ASA's website early next week. Thank you to all the chapter members for taking action to promote this historic campaign! If you are interested in getting involved in your local ASA chapter, contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org. Longtime Medical Marijuana Activist is Arrested at a Drug Free Coalition Meeting Earlier this week, longtime medical marijuana activist and leader of the Inland Empire's Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, Lanny Swerdlow, was arrested at a Drug Free Community Coalition meeting in Rancho Cucamunga. Swerdlow was arrested after law enforcement were called by the Drug Free Community Coalition's leader, Paul Chabot. Authorities claim that Swerdlow was arrested because Chabot was pressing charges for alleged assault. Swerdlow refutes this claim, and is preparing to fight the charges. Below is an excerpt that Swerdlow wrote up about the event:
"After about an hour of sitting in the car while the police questioned some of the people and ran background checks on the four of us who were there and questioned me as well, the officer issued me a citation, citing me for battery. They informed me that they were not doing this because they had seen anything, but doing it because Mr. Chabot was pressing charges against me. They were very courteous the entire time and I suspect that they felt this was all a crock, but, if I understood them correctly, they had no choice but to arrest me because Mr. Chabot was adamant in filing charges... No matter what happens, the Chabots and their Drug Free Community Coalition better get used to seeing us if they are going to operate in the Inland Empire and continue their attacks on California's medical marijuana laws. Riverside County has made great strides especially in the light of where this county was five years ago. San Bernardino County is somewhat where Riverside County was five years ago but there are two cities, Claremont and Diamond Bar in SB County that allow dispensaries. We have come too far and achieved too much to let anyone stop us now. We will do what we can to see to it that patients in the Inland Empire continue to have access to sources of medicinal marijuana and that laws of the state of California are respected by all. "
Read the Lanny Swerdlow's full report on ASA's Forums here. For more information on the event and the work MAPP is doing, contact Lanny at: lannyswerdlow@earthlink.net. To sign up to receive this weekly round up by e-mail, click here.

No Pattern or Rules to DEA Attacks

Guest post written by James Anthony. James Anthony is a former Deputy City Attorney for Oakland and a LEAP member (www.leap.cc). He now serves as land use permitting counsel for better MCDs throughout the State of California and looks forward to a day when the federal government realizes it has better things to do with its resources than harass patients. You can reach him at jasanthony@comcast.net. Patients and advocates often ask if there's any pattern to DEA raids. This a common and understandable question--as human beings we want a predictable and sensible universe. And this natural impulse to seek patterns is exploited by all psychological terror groups in a number of ways. (I include the DEA as a psychological terror group because 1) they are losing the war on medical marijuana and must resort to ever more desperate tactics, and 2) because they are part of the US government which openly condones torture and preemptive warfare--clearly a dangerous and ruthless adversary). There are two basic ways to exploit this human desire for patterns: 1) Be utterly random--this generates fear and leaves the victim completely without any pattern to rely on--think of random car bombings and how demoralizing that must be, the only protection is to never go out in public or to leave the area. 2) Create the appearance of patterns and then break them. This is good because it leaves the victim eternally vigilant and seeking for and inventing non-existent patterns. In experiments with animals this is called "experimental neurosis." It is a proven method of driving mammals crazy and leads to fits and frenzies of self-biting, mania, and catatonia. The DEA and the US government are well aware of this dimension of psychological warfare. They truly believe it is a war and that we are the enemy. They are not interested in debating this issue or in allowing different states to try different approaches. To the DEA, we are evil and must be eradicated--or intimidated into surrender. Given all that, the DEA does three things: 1) it throws darts at a map (randomness), 2) it looks for maximum propaganda value (what story can they tell to make us look bad?--and those are indeed narrative patterns), and 3) individual offices in the various geographical areas have to justify their existence for continued funding and positive job evaluations (it is after all a job in a bureaucracy--once in a while, you got to do something), this leads to the "low hanging fruit" pattern. So we have the following patterns: 1) Randomness--to keep us all on our toes, and to keep us fooling our selves with silly stories like, "You only get busted if you . . . (fill in the blank: advertise, don't advertise, are public, are private, for profit, non-profit--it might make you happy but there are now examples to prove every such "rule" both true AND false--the DEA is very Zen that way). 2) Propaganda Narratives--front for legalization; front for criminal gangs; front for "able-bodied urban youth gangs" (code for young people of color); danger to the environment; "profiteers"; corrupters of youth; gonna getcha daughter; pot stronger than ever; grow houses gone amok; conspiracy; terrorist funders; etc, etc--all basically Reefer Madness Redux. Think of the recent 60 Minutes coverage which fell into this to some extent. Think of any DEA press conference and you will clearly see one of these narratives. 3) Low Hanging Fruit--who would you want to go after: a well-organized 100 million a year crack, heroin and meth distribution network (which can now be found in any part of America, rural or urban or in between, thanks to 30 years of ramped up prohibition)--or a bunch of peaceful medical cannabis advocates, sitting there with no violent inclinations at all and a sign hanging up saying Medical Cannabis--Come and Bust Us, We Will Lie Down on the Ground? Yeah, me too. So when you need to bump up your stats (or you need to justify that useless multi-agency task force's multi-million dollar budget that aint done jack all year), whip up a "year-long investigation" (what takes a year to figure out that they are selling marijuana in there? duh) and put on the flak jacket, round up the SWAT team and go kick some ass. Oh yeah, and extra bonus points if you can bust a person of color, or a youth, or someone with a record, or someone who's doing it right and actually balancing the books, generating a surplus and paying all their taxes--then you can use their financial statements against them (ask their CPA politely and s/he'll print them out for you)--and you can seize their bank accounts and literally pay tribute to your bosses (maybe in the tens or hundreds of thousands--oh, was that why they waited a year? So they could steal your money?), Hi Boss, the task force brought in $200K this morning--and rounded up some dangerous sick people who provide a medical service. Well, it's a job and the benefits are good--and the potheads NEVER shoot back. At least, those are the only patterns I see, but maybe I'm missing something. (Oh yeah, and I hear busts usually happen on Wednesdays. Go fishing on Wednesdays.) And, yes, I'm really sorry that I can't give you the "rules," so we never have to worry about being busted. The DEA is not rules-based. It is our enemy--distribute cannabis, and you are fair game for capture, torture, imprisonment, kidnapping, and loss of all property (the only thing left is attainder of blood-- where they curse your entire family name for all time to come, but give them a minute to work it out). Of course you can sweeten the odds: have your city government and neighbors love you, be white, sit in a wheelchair, change your last name to Bush, be extremely lucky, turn around three times counter-clockwise every morning and say the Hail Mary backwards. I wish I could add sincerity to the list, but I'm not quite that naive. Still, it couldn't hurt, as long as you're real with yourself about the rest of it. Here's my advice, which I give to every potential client at the first meeting: Don't do it (for all the reasons given above and more). And I totally understand that most of them walk away. That's a good thing. If they go for it anyway, I call that committed. And that's a good thing too. But just be real. And be smart. Anyone who operates a dispensary has an extremely high risk-comfort level, or you could say, is either a hero or a fool.

Nice Reponse to Daily Bulletin smear Op-Ed

Drug Law Blog does a nice job of taking apart a misinformed Inland Empire Op-Ed railing against medical marijuana dispensaries:
Chabot (the author) spends hundreds of words repeating misinformation about medical marijuana's medical efficacy, arguing that "Marinol is a medicine - smoked marijuana is not," flogging the "gateway drug" theory, and generally championing the party line of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She forgets to use the goofy ONDCP tagline -- "Marijuana: harmless?" -- but otherwise sounds like she's writing a speech for John Walters to deliver to some provincial Rotary Club. The thing she seems to forget is that the train she's riding already left the station a long time ago in California, along with 11 other states.
Apparently, even with all of the evidence, some dead-enders continue to deny that marijuana is medicine. So, I guess that's why we're here, to continue to educate so that when writers like Chabot spread misinformation like "Research has not demonstrated that smoked marijuana can be helpful as medicine," a chorus of voices cry out in protest. Letter to the Editor, anyone?

California Weekly Round Up

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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DEA Raid analysis 6/1-9/26/07

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.

DEA Gives Schwarzenegger Another Reason to Stand Up for Patients' Rights

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.

60-Minutes Highlights Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and Interference by the Feds

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.