Pages tagged "legal"


Building a Movement in Maryland

Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA’s successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at tonebowles@sbcglobal.net Last week, ASA, in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, kicked off our Patients for Access campaign in Maryland, which I first wrote about here in January. The campaign is designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership to support future legislative reform efforts. More than a dozen people came out for our first Medical Marijuana Teach-In and Know Your Rights Training. I think we gave an astounding presentation and I was pleased to see many familiar and new faces. The crowd was incredibly diverse and the feedback portion of the training indicated that they sincerely appreciated the information and the training. "Dynamic", "Necessary", "Informative", and "Enraging" were just a few of the descriptions used during an oral evaluation. Little is known by the public about the state’s medical marijuana law and a few attendees were not even aware that Maryland has a medical marijuana law. We believe our first training raised awareness and provided a foundation to build on. Everyone at the training signed our petition to protect Maryland medical marijuana patients and many also signed up to participate in a field trip to meet friendly state legislators next Month in Annapolis. A few took the information, sign-up sheets, and membership forms to get their friends and family involved. We were fortunate to be hosted at a really great space in Baltimore's Charles Village inside an old Methodist Church which now serves as a noncommercial, cooperatively managed space for radical politics and grassroots culture -- a project sponsored by a local co-op, 2640. We are conducting similar teach-ins throughout the month of March. This week we host trainings in Salisbury, Maryland (Eastern Shore) and Silver Spring, MD (Montgomery County). Our final training occurs in Western Maryland on the March 25th. For more information and to keep updated about our continued efforts to improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law see: http://www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/maryland/ http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/maryland

And Sometimes We Win

Hours ago, the California Supreme Court denied review, as well as a request for depublication, of Garden Grove v. Superior Court. This was the 41-page published decision that strongly affirms the right of medical marijuana patients to possess their medicine without law enforcement harassment and requires courts to order the return of marijuana that was improperly seized by the police. The decision seemed unlikely to survive the California Supreme Court's scrutiny after the Supreme Court's horrendous decision in Ross v. RagingWire. Now, the decision ihas withstood this challenge and is binding on all of the superior courts of this state. Whereas the California Attorney General was on our side, all of the largest police officers' associations, as well as the California District Attorney's Association, filed briefs against us and plead with the Supreme Court to grant review of the case. Their desire for the published decision be repealed is understandable. It rejects all of the meritless arguments made by the police in no uncertain terms, especially in the last five pages. In particular, the decision states that California's laws are not preempted by federal law and that "it must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such." So much for the police's purported confusion about which law to enforce. The decision also contains many other quotable passages. Among them is the court's rejection of the characterization of medical marijuana patients as "criminals." In response to the police, the court states as follows:
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.
This court got it. I am elated their words remain "published" and binding on every superior court and law enforcement as well.

California Weekly Round Up

Judge's Decision Keeps Cathedral City Dispensary Open This week, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen G. Larson ruled that the Cathedral City cannot use Federal law to shut down the Essential Herbs and Oils dispensary.  Cathedral City had requested that the U.S. District Court Judge issue an injunction. Judge Larson's decision said that he found no precedent allowing him to shut the dispensary down.   This decision is an important victory for safe access in the region. Despite this important victory, the dispensary remains under attack in Cathedral City. The city is now fighting to revoke Essential Herbs and Oils' business license and they also recently received an eviction notice.  ASA will keep you updated on the dispensary as news comes in. Read more about Judge Larson's decision  and the recent attacks  as reported in the Mercury News and the Desert Sun. Dispensary Operator Sues Modesto for Conspiring with the DEA On Thursday, former California Healthcare Collective Operator Luke Scarmazzo filed a lawsuit against the city of Modesto for conspiring with the federal government to shut down his dispensary.  Assisted by local police, the DEA raided California Healthcare Collective in September 2006. Scarmazzo is suing the city for emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of employment. The September 2006 raid occurred five days after the city had realized that they could not shut the dispensary down. For more information on the lawsuit read the Modesto Bee article. Sacramento ASA Leader Questions Gov. Schwarzenegger About Medical Cannabis From Sacramento ASA's Lanette Davies "As most of you already know I had the opportunity Wednesday to meet Governor Schwarzenegger at Mimi's cafe while he was promoting "redistricting."  I was invited by the League of Women Voters to attend and was sitting with our state President of the league when the governor came to our table to shake hands, while being filmed and recorded by a score of press and TV reporters. This gave me the opportunity while on camera to ask him directly about how he feels about protecting the medical marijuana patients of California and I asked how he feels about the use of cannabis by patients. He stated, " support medical marijuana and the patients of our state." I then informed him that we have legislation right now in the California Assembly  and the Senate that will protect the patients and we need his support. He then stated  he was not aware of the new legislation however, he promised to take the time to review the bills as he definitely is interested in protecting the patients. He asked for my business card so his staff can call my office to get further information. Later, when he came back by I asked for a picture as I was wearing my nice Stop Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients button and both the Governor and the Secretary of State took their picture with me. The picture was taken by the League of Women Voters and they requested use of it in their website. They also said they will email me a copy of the picture. It was a good day for us!" DEA Raids Orange County Dispensary On Tuesday, DEA agents raided Natures Wellness Collective in Orange, California. ASA received reports of the raid after it had occurred.  According to an unconfirmed eyewitness there were no arrests made. If you have information about the Natures Wellness Collective raid please e-mail Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org Sign up for ASA's Emergency Response Text Messaging System to receive instant alerts about raids in your area. Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlerts

Riding the Medical Marijuana Roller Coaster

OK, the title of this post might be a bit misleading. I haven't ridden any medical marijuana themed rides lately, but many of us have been riding a political and legal roller coaster. Here are some of the ups and downs our movement has experienced recently: Sometimes this work is dizzying, and I only scratched the surface of all the conundrums we face...

California Weekly Roundup

Assemblyman Leno and ASA Introduce Patients' Employment Rights Bill This week, Assemblyman Mark Leno, working with ASA, introduced AB 2279, a bill that would protect a patient's right to work and will help end discrimination against patients in the workplace. The employment rights bill, which is being co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), is in response to a January decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. ASA argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor of the bill. AB 2279 marks a historic milestone for the medical cannabis community. This is the first bill that ASA has co-sponsored and the first California bill that specifically focuses on expanding the civil rights of medical cannabis patients. If passed, this bill will end employment discrimination against patients. We are very excited to work with Assemblyman Leno's office on passing this bill and will keep you updated on how you can help to ensure a patient's right to work. For more information, contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org. Read ASA's press release and the Oakland Tribune article about the bill introduction. Medical Marijuana Awareness Week, For Patients By Patients Title Provided by SF ASA Organizer, Alex Franco Last week the medical cannabis community celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week 2008. Thousands of patients, activists, and supporters participated in ASA's daily action, generating letters to the editors, joining ASA as members, and meeting with elected officials. Locally, the week started out with Sunday's Medical Cannabis University, sponsored by San Francisco ASA. Twenty patient-students graduated from the Medical Cannabis University. On Tuesday, San Francisco ASA sponsored a free legal training at which over 30 patients learned their constitutional rights and developed skills on how to deal with a raid situation. Meanwhile, in Arcata, Humboldt County ASA honored several medical cannabis supporters, including Rep. Mike Thompson, for their leadership around medical cannabis issues. San Francisco ASA sponsored the 5th Annual ASA SF Valentine's Day Spread the Love Seed Planting to deliver a special Valentine to mayor Gavin Newsom asking him to write letters to both Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to publicly support medical cannabis and Congressman John Conyers encouraging him to hold investigative hearings. The Valentine also stated that if patients lost safe access to medical cannabis because of his inaction, we will ask him to personally grow the medicine for us. Over 50 patients participated in the event and 20 plants were given to Mayor Newsom. On Friday, East Bay ASA hosted a testimonial video filming walk-in day with dozens of patients participants. LA ASA celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week at their monthly meeting by hosting ASA's Medical Advisory Boardmember, Jahan Marcu, to speak.The week also featured two separate film screenings, first on Wednesday, at Oaksterdam University with a Sneak Preview of an unreleased medical marijuana film and on Saturday, with a free film festival featuring several medical cannabis documentaries. The week came to a close on Sunday with SF ASA's 5th Annual 215 Party, which featured live music, raffles, and live djs. Over 100 advocates and patients turned out for the event. Thank you to everyone who helped organize the events and actions. It is volunteers and supporters like you that made Medical Marijuana Week 2008 a success! Fullerton City Council Vote Leaves Safe Access Up in the Air After originally voting 3 to 2 against a ban on dispensaries several weeks ago, the Fullerton City Council met on Wednesday and voted against banning dispensaries, and at the same time voted against developing dispensary regulations, leaving the situation up in the air. The police department made a presentation against collectives. Orange County ASA members and other advocates attended the hearing and spoke in support of safe access in Fullerton. What is next in Fullerton remains to be seen. Patients and activists are preparing materials to follow up with the council and will decide how to move forward after meeting with the local representatives. Local patients will be crucial in this effort, so please keep you eyes on ASA's forums and the upcoming Weekly Alerts for updates.

Is Newsom Waiting Until the Feds Come Knocking in San Francisco?

It was interesting today to see three local newspapers (SF Chronicle, Associated Press, and Bay Area Reporter) cover the issue of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) interference in California's medical marijuana law and its impact on San Francisco dispensaries. No less than seven of the twenty-eight operating facilities are shutting down or have already closed due to fearful landlords. The closures are in direct response to threats of asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution the DEA has made to more than 300 landlords across California. This cynical tactic, unveiled by the DEA in July 2007 in southern California, was opposed by the Los Angeles Times and has also met with significant political opposition. Local elected officials from Los Angeles City Council member and former police officer Dennis Zine to Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, from Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums to SF Supervisors and Berkeley City Council have condemned the DEA tactics against patients and providers. SF State Senator Carole Migden recently introduced legislation calling on the DEA to end its interference in California and threw her support, with others, behind House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, who expressed his deep concern and called for DEA oversight hearings. So where is Mayor Newsom? It seems that Mayor Newsom is in hiding. Alex, at Drug Law Blog, rightly notes Newsom's silence on the issue and links it to the political vulnerability found around the issues of both medical marijuana and gay marriage, with pragmatism as the possible reason for his silence. However, unlike gay marriage, medical marijuana enjoys the support of at least 80% of Americans, not to mention a full 91% in SF. Regardless of any potential political justification for his actions, it is unconscionable that Newsom is refusing to say anything. Let's hope that this round of media compels Newsom, the anti-drug war Mayor, to not only defend safe access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients in his city, but to also protect the same facilities that contribute millions of dollars in sales tax to the state budget. The time for Newsom to act is now. Local and state officials must seize the opportunity to defend safe access to medical marijuana and the will of San Franciscans, Californians, and states that have fought for such assumed protections.

Maryland Grassroots Medical Marijuana Campaign Kicks Off

Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA's successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland's medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at tonebowles@sbcglobal.net Last year’s attempt to introduce HB 1040, The Maryland Compassionate Use Act, which would have replaced the current law with comprehensive language concerning cultivation, identification cards, confidentiality issues, fees, transportation, and possession, was blocked by Chair of the Judiciary, Joseph Vallario. The very same lawmaker who gutted the 2003 legislation. Despite the fact that we had more than enough support in the Judiciary Committee to pass the new law with improvements, Chairman Vallario wouldn’t put the improved legislation up for vote. Why? Because he’s still worried that letting qualified individuals suffering from severe or chronic illness use medical marijuana will bring the wrath of the Federal Government down on Maryland. He even said way back in 2002 "I am not going to have a part in something that is in violation of federal law." This year we’re taking a new approach in Maryland to help tackle this problem. I am working with ASA and the Drug Policy Alliance to build up grassroots support to compliment our next legislative efforts. We’ll be focusing on recruitment, training, and developing strong, vocal and representative leadership that will be crucial for helping policymakers move far-reaching legislation aimed at establishing full legal protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens and the people who care for them. Between now and early spring we will hold several regional teach-ins and know your rights trainings. These forums will provide an opportunity to introduce patients, their care providers and other grassroots supporters to each other, briefly recap previous efforts to improve the law, and explain the strategy and tactics while covering all of the basic legal information for interactions with law enforcement. We are hoping to bring interested medical marijuana supporters to Annapolis for a tour of the Capital where they can take advantage of the activity of the legislative session, meet their state lawmakers, deepen their understanding of the legislative process, and raise enthusiasm around working on a legislative campaign in the future. Maryland’s existing medical marijuana law, “The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act” does not go far enough; it slaps patients with a criminal conviction even if they successfully offer a medical necessity defense in court. This means that even a successful defense results in a permanent criminal record, which poses barriers to financial aid, housing, employment, and more. Maryland’s medical marijuana law is the only state medical marijuana law that does not shield patients from arrest! We need real compassion and honest protection now!

Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order

Nationwide campaign launched today to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana With only a week left until Super Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates launched a nationwide campaign today to urge presidential candidates to end federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. The campaign urges candidates to issue an Executive Order upon taking office that would end federal interference in state-sanctioned medical marijuana laws. The proposed Executive Order would deny funds to the Department of Justice for federal enforcement efforts against patients and providers in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. "To match the increased level of federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws, we're asking candidates to clearly state their opposition by pledging to issue an Executive Order, if elected." said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, the advocacy group that launched the campaign. "We're spending millions of dollars on law enforcement actions that harm our most vulnerable citizens," continued Woodson. "And, the President wields the power to stop it at any time." Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stepped up its enforcement actions against medial marijuana patients and providers. While federal interference has occurred in multiple medical marijuana states, some have been hit harder than others. In California, the DEA has conducted more than 100 raids and threatened more than 300 landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue to lease to medical marijuana dispensing collectives (dispensaries). In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently prosecuting more than 100 medical marijuana-related cases. The campaign focuses on candidates that have already made supportive statements on medical marijuana: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, and Representative Ron Paul. These candidates are being asked to officiate their support by pledging to issue an Executive Order, which states that:
"No funds made available to the Department of Justice shall be used to prevent States from implementing adopted laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. In particular, no funds shall be used to investigate, seize, arrest or prosecute in association with the distribution of medical marijuana, unless such distribution has been found by adjudication to violate state or local law."
DEA actions have already garnered opposition from both local and federal lawmakers, including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. In December, Mayor Dellums made a public statement condemning DEA tactics. The same month, Chairman Conyers publicly voiced his "deep concern" over DEA "efforts to undermine California state law," and he committed to sharply question these tactics in oversight hearings.

California Weekly Round Up

California Court Rules Against Patients' Rights- Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA Respond with Legislation

This week, the California Supreme Court delivered a major blow to patients' civil rights.  On Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 215 does not protect legal patients from being fired if they test positive for medical cannabis use.  In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court claimed that Ross could not rely on the Fair Housing and Employment Act or the state's medical marijuana law to prevent discrimination at the workplace. Gary Ross, a 45-year old disabled veteran and a medical marijuana patient, was fired in 2001 by his then-employer Raging Wire Telecommunications after he disclosed that he was a medical cannabis patient and would test positive to the company's mandatory drug test. Following this event, Ross filed a lawsuit arguing that Raging Wire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition. However, a Sacramento Superior Court, and then the Third Appellate District Court both rejected his argument. In October 2005, ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court on behalf of Ross. The California Supreme Court's decision on Thursday was a major blow to medical marijuana patients' rights, with the potential to limit a patients' right to work. ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, played a significant role in Mr. Ross' case, helping write the appeal and serving as co-counsel to Mr. Ross starting in 2005. For more information on the Ross case read Mr. Elford's  blog on the case and the California Supreme Court Decision at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RossDecisionBlog

The good news is that California Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA were waiting to respond in case of an adverse ruling like this. Assemblyman Leno announced only hours after the decision on Thursday that he will be introducing an ASA-sponsored piece of legislation that will amend California law to protect patients from this kind of discrimination. In his press release, Assemblyman Leno wrote, "Today's California Supreme Court ruling strikes a serious blow to patients' rights.  In the coming weeks I will introduce legislation that secures a medical cannabis patient's right to use their doctor recommended medication outside the workplace. Through the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 and SB 420 in 2004, the people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana."  Assemblyman Leno's legislation will accomplish what the California Supreme Court's decision has diminished.  This bill will properly protect legal medical cannabis patients and ensure their right to work.

Read Assemblyman Leno's press release about this important piece of legislation: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/leno_ross_release.pdf For background on the Ross vs. Raging Wire case visit: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/Ross Read the California Supreme Court's decision at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Ross_Ruling.pdf                 San Francisco Democratic Committee Calls on Mayor Newsom to Take a Stand From San Francisco ASA Core Leader, Alex Franco In a huge step forward for the Stand Up Newsom Campaign and patients in San Francisco, the San Francisco Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee passed a resolution with the following amendment: "...that Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and San Francisco’s State legislators join with Oakland Mayor and former Congressman Ron Dellums in denouncing the DEA tactics surrounding the property rights of landlords who rent to medical cannabis dispensaries." At Wednesday night's San Francisco Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee meeting, party Vice Chair and San Francisco Marijuana Offenses Oversight Committee co-chair, Michael Goldstein, seeing the ineffectiveness of the resolution as presented proffered an amendment requesting Mayor Gavin Newsom to join Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums in condemning the DEA's recent tactics of intimidating property owners who rent to medical cannabis dispensaries.  Upon hearing the loud applause from the public in attendance, committee member Robert Haaland was moved to ask to join Vice Chair Michael Goldstein's amendment by adding language that included the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and San Francisco's elected state officials.  This added strength to a position of support already voiced to advocates by many of the Board members, and Senator Carole Migden who is currently moving legislation supporting medical cannabis dispensary owners and their landlords through the state legislature.  San Francisco Assembly member Mark Leno has also voiced support of safe access of patients to their medication. Activists from Axis of Love SF, the Harvey Milk Club and Americans for Safe Access San Francisco spoke on behalf of the resolution. Some activists who were called minutes before the meeting rushed to the site and were able to demonstrate their support through their presence. The committee showed it understood the issue by first supporting the amendment, then by passing the entire resolution that included the amended language. Both votes were nearly unanimous with the exception of one abstention by Senator Diane Feinstein.  Feinstein's proxy, George Broder, explained his vote by noting he was unable to vote without passing it by the Senator. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The DCCC is the only political committee in the country whose principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates every step of the way through this critical election year.  Congratulations to ASA and the activists involved in getting this resolution passed. For more information about the DCCC's decision and to find out how you can get involved, contact Alex at: aaaFranco@yahoo.com


Sometimes the Court Gets It Wrong

It was a very cold day today in the Bay Area. It was cold in San Francisco and, unusually, colder still in Oakland. Far colder was the California Supreme Court's decision in Ross v. Ragingwire, which limits the Compassionate Use Act to far less than a shell of its promise of "ensur[ing] that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician. . . ." And this is not even to mention the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which, though hardly mentioned by the Supreme Court, was the basis for our position. While the politics involved here, as well as the uninformed opinion of those that think this was case was governed by federal law, make this decision unsurprising to many, I can state with confidence, even in defeat, that our legal position was solid and we should have won. Rather than take my word for it, I will simply direct everyone to the dissenting opinion. Put simply, in the words of Justice Kennard, "The majority’s holding disrespects the will of California’s voters who, when they enacted the Compassionate Use Act, surely never intended that persons who availed themselves of its provisions would thereby disqualify themselves from employment." There is no federal law that required the employer to drug test under the facts of this case, much less to fire Ross for testing positive for marijuana. The only relevance of federal law to the facts of this case is to sell Ragingwire's legally disingenuous position to the press and public. Unless there is a conflict between state and federal law, and here there is none, federal law cannot defeat state law requirements, which require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Absent such conflict the Court was obliged to apply state law (the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Compassionate Use Act), which requires Ragingwire to provide a reasonable accommodation (not fire him for using the substance, legal under California law, to treat his disability). Unfortunately, as an an attorney who must continue to litigate cases before this Court, there are limitations on what I can say. Suffice it to say, we would not lose this case before all judges in California (or elsewhere), but only before these five of seven judges who were appointed to sit on this Court. Judges make all the difference, and in this case, they made for a cold, cold day.