Pages tagged "legal"


New Documentary Illustrates the Need for and Benefit of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

In a time of increased federal raids and DEA attacks on patients and providers across California, it is important to have educational tools like the new documentary, "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," to illustrate the importance of understanding and protecting dispensaries as an integral part of safe access and the successful implementation of state law. According to the producers of this important documentary:
In the hour-long documentary "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," voices from inside discuss practices and issues involved in distributing medical cannabis. Of the twelve states in 2006 that permit medical cannabis use, California is the only state that allows for the distribution of the medicine. How and where do people get their medicine? How does one insure that their medicine is clean, safe and of sufficient quality? Tours of five cannabis dispensary models provide an unprecedented look into this quasi-legal business. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, patients and caregivers share their perspectives and concerns.
The documentary is a finalist in the La Femme Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 11 at 10am at the Wilshire Screening Room, 8670 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills (cost is $10). The Director/Producer Ann Alter will be in attendance at the screening. The filmmakers are interested in holding additional screenings in the Los Angeles area between October 11 - 14. Contact distribution coordinator Ben Shaw at 707-496-9439 or s33@humboldt.edu for details. A trailer for "Dispensing Cannabis" can be viewed here, and you can purchase a DVD by visiting the official "Dispensing Cannabis" website. For more information on medical cannabis dispensaries and to hear what public officials across the state have said about them, refer to ASA's report, "Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation."

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.

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.

Michael Teague Is Free at Last, as Federal Judge Questions Another Federal Medical Marijuana Prosecution

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter terminated the supervised release of Michael Teague fifteen months early in response to a motion filed by Americans for Safe Access.  Michael was one of the first federal medical marijuana prosecutions in California.  He served nearly seventeen months in federal prison, and a month and a half in a halfway house, before serving almost 33 months of a four-year term of supervised release for cultivating 102 plants.  In cutting Michael loose early from the onerous drug-testing and other conditions of supervised release, Judge Carter commented on Michael's exemplary conduct. What made the hearing interesting, though, is that Judge Carter went to lengths to explain that it was tragic for Michael to have been harmed so severely for being caught in the conflict between state and federal law.  Through these statements, Judge Carter joins Judge Breyer of the Rosenthal case as federal judges who have openly criticized or questioned federal criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients.