Pages tagged "legal"


CA Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cannabis Collectives

In a major victory for patients and medical cannabis cooperatives, today the California Supreme Court rejected calls from the California Attorney General and law enforcement to review the Appeals Court ruling in People v. Colvin (PDF). At issue in this case was Attorney General Kamala Harris’s interpretation of the Medical Marijuana Program Act to require an undefined percentage of the membership of a medical marijuana collective to actively participate in some way in the operation of the collective. The court’s ruling today means that medical cannabis collectives in California may operate like any other collective, such as REI or Costco, in which a member of the collective participates solely through purchasing products distributed by the collective.

At ASA, we were of course very concerned with the Attorney General’s argument that patients had to participate actively in the operations of a medicinal cannabis collective, because many patients are not physically able to do so (among other objections). Harris’s interpretation of the law was invented from whole cloth, and the Second Appellate district recognized it as such. That Court of Appeal in its ruling that was upheld today, stated that the Medical Marijuana Program Act imposes no such restriction on medical marijuana collectives.

The California Supreme Court’s rejection of efforts by the CA Attorney General and law enforcement to review the Colvin case effectively puts an end to this issue and makes clear that medical marijuana collectives should be treated the same as others under the law. This is a big victory for patients and our movement.

Joe Elford is the Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access.

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.

Trial Court Reverses Medical Marijuana Convictions of Two Joes



Faced with an extremely hostile trial court judge, medical marijuana dispensary operators Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron were convicted of marijuana sales after Long Beach Superior Court Judge Charles D. Sheldon initially deprived them of a medical marijuana collective defense and later gave them only one day to prepare such defense. Judge Sheldon later recused himself from the case after he admitted to sending a congratulatory letter to the prosecutor. Further extreme bias by Judge Sheldon can be found in the trial transcript, which reveals that he repeatedly sustained prosecution objections to the introduction of defense evidence, but did not sustain a defense objection until page 1004 of the transcript of the proceedings.

Many, including me, expected the convictions to be reversed on appeal, due to Judge Sheldon's actions. Instead, the two Joes got a far earlier reversal of their convictions, as Long Beach Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani cited a number of improprieties by Judge Sheldon -- including complimenting the prosecutor, while being extremely rude to the defense team, before the jury -- in granting the two Joes' motion for a new trial. Judge Comparet-Cassani dubbed this a "terrible, terrible, terrible trial." Hopefully, there will be no need for a second one.

Patient Cultivation Passes NH Senate

When the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 409 last week, perhaps the most noteworthy component of the story was overlooked. Bucking the unfortunate and ill-advised trend of “recently” passed bills in east coast states like New Jersey and Delaware, and the District of Columbia, the New Hampshire Senate made the compassionate and pragmatic decision to include patient cultivation in their medical cannabis bill. This is one of the most encouraging state legislative developments for medical cannabis to take place in 2012.

The use of the quotations around “recently” in the prior paragraph was deliberate to illustrate what happens when states refuse to include patient cultivation rights with their medical cannabis programs. Both DC and and New Jersey passed their medical cannabis laws about 2 years ago, and both places have been extremely slow to implement their medical cannabis programs. Progress with New Jersey program has been moving with all of the swiftness of a turtle walking sideways. In fact, the painfully slow implementation has caused at least one patient to sue the state for relief.  Result: no safe access in New Jersey.

In DC, things have moved slightly quicker pace, but only in the sense that ketchup drips faster than molasses. Nearly 23 months since the DC Council passed its medical cannabis law (which was originally passed by DC voters in 1998 [or 173 months ago!]), cultivation centers were at long last officially awarded. Now DC patients must await for the District to approve the dispensary locations (which are facing NIMBY scrutiny by Councilmembers), establish the registry system for obtaining patient ID cards, and hope that the less than 600 plants permitted by the District program (6 locations, 95 plants each) can support the medical cannabis needs of community with 3% adult HIV infection. That’s over 15,000 potential patients from just one of the extremely narrow approved qualifying conditions. Add in DC's cancer, glaucoma, and MS populations, and one can easily predict that the DC dispensaries are going to resemble the completely bare shelves of a Soviet Union-era supermarket. Result: no safe access in DC.

The Delaware law? Their bill that lacked patient cultivation rights was nixed by executive order in February when  Gov. Merkell caved under the pressure a US Attorney threat letter, mere months after he signed the law. Result: no safe access in Delaware.

Yet the state that approved medical cannabis during the same time frame as NJ, DC and DE that from the outside might appear to have the most tumultuous medical cannabis program is actually the one that is best serving patients. Those who qualify as patients in Arizona now have the right to grow their own medical cannabis, in spite of the several medical cannabis lawsuits brought forward by or against Governor Jan Brewer. The state even hosts a website that lets residents know who is eligible to cultivate. Result: Unlike patients in NJ, DC, and DE, Arizonan patients have legal access to medicine.

Patient cultivation rights are certainly not the only component of an ideal medical cannabis law, but without the right for patients to grow their own medicine, patients are forced to rely slow moving bureaucracies, or worse, the black market, to obtain the medicine they need.

Tension Builds Between Local and Federal Officials over DOJ Crackdown on Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late last year, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag successfully shut down Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), the oldest operating dispensary in California, by threatening its landlord with asset forfeiture. It didn’t seem to matter that MAMM had the staunch support of Fairfax public official and members of the community. It was, truly, the end of an icon.

Then, news came out this week that the federal government had won in its effort to shut down Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), another historical icon in the medical marijuana community. Despite support from the Chamber of Commerce and its neighbors, BPG and its landlord were targeted by Haag for being too close to two private schools. Notably, teachers from one of the schools Haag is ostensibly trying to “protect” have spoken out in defense of BPG.

While Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates joined the chorus of support for BPG, calling it a “high-class operation,” with “no complaints,” and “compliments from neighbors,” he stopped short of standing up to the federal government. Instead, Bates said in a statement that, “We’re really sorry to see them close up.”

However, no sooner than it was announced that BPG would be shutting its doors, the dispensary refuted the news. In a statement issued on Thursday, BPG Chief Operating Officer said, “BPG is not closing.”
Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees… We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon.

Maybe they won’t have to wait for Mayor Bates to grow a spine after all.

In contrast to Berkeley’s trepidation, other Bay Area cities have shown bold leadership on medical marijuana. Both San Francisco and Oakland have recently permitted several new dispensaries. While Haag has been threatening numerous San Francisco landlords, which has resulted in a handful of dispensary closures in the so-called “Sanctuary City,” three new facilities have just been permitted. In Oakland, four new dispensaries were licensed this week, doubling the number facilities in that city.

Cities like San Francisco and Oakland are examples of how to stand up to federal intimidation. We need more local officials to take their lead and develop local laws that recognize the needs of patients in their communities, not the fickle demands of the federal government.

California Court of Appeal Issues Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana

Landmark decision denies localities the right to ban dispensaries outright Last week the California Court of Appeal issued another landmark decision on medical marijuana, which is sure to have a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the state. The Fourth Appellate District ruled in City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective that localities may not pass outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, facilities which a majority of Californian patients rely on for their medication. In its 48-page published decision, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that “local governments may impose a per se ban on medical marijuana dispensaries without contradicting state law.” This is the first time an appellate court in California has rejected the argument that local governments can use their land use authority to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating outright. The court reasoned that SB420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), allows for medical marijuana dispensaries as a matter of statewide concern, so localities cannot simply ban them. The court’s decision brings into question nearly 200 such bans across the state. Unless or until it’s appealed and taken up on review by the California Supreme Court, the Lake Forest case throws a significant wrench into the efforts of medical marijuana opponents and favors the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. That said, the Lake Forest decision was a mixed bag for the medical marijuana community. Even while agreeing with another recent landmark decision in People v. Colvin, that “a patient or primary caregiver [need not] personally [] engage in the physical cultivation of marijuana” in order to enjoy the protections of California law, the Lake Forest court held that dispensaries must cultivate all of the marijuana they sell on-site.
[W]e conclude off-site dispensaries are not authorized by California medical marijuana law because nothing in the law authorizes the transportation and possession of marijuana to stock an off-site location.
Unfortunately, in this regard, the Lake Forest court got it wrong. The MMPA explicitly protects patients from arrest and prosecution for transportation of marijuana when engaged in collective medical marijuana activity.  This part of the court’s decision is not only bad public policy, but has no basis in the law.

Landmark Court Decision Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries in California



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation. Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another. Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:
The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:
[The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative's products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:
[T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.

Medical Marijuana Week - Day 2: Congress can Protect Patients and Safe Access with HR 1983

On May 25, 2011, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced HR 1983, a bill that in many respects would end the federal government's assault on safe access for patients. Known as the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, the legislation would force the executive branch to stop dragging their feet on reclassifying marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. It would also prevent the federal government from imposing penalties on anyone legitimately participating in a state medical marijuana program. The bill would further prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana through the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. While this fantastic bill was able to attract 21 cosponsors - several of whom signed a letter to Obama in support of HR 1983 - it has since languished after being referred to committee.

The seemingly permanent classification of marijuana in Schedule I has got to be one of the most notable examples of the federal government sticking its head in the sand in recent US history. To keep marijuana under Schedule I, the federal government is literally saying that:

  1. Marijuana has a high potential for abuse.

  2. Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision.

Really? Given that 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, with at least another 16 states considering new legislation, it is patently absurd for the federal government to maintain that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Indeed, countless doctors in these states have recommended marijuana as a treatment to their patients because they are confident in its safety and efficacy. In terms of potential for abuse, not a single medical marijuana patient has died as a result of using marijuana for medical purposes. What’s more is that several apparently safe drugs under Schedule III or lower have caused fatalities in patients, such as hydrocodone, vicodon or benzodiazepines. This situation might be laughable if not for all of the patients who must suffer at the mercy of a federal government which refuses to listen to reason and ever-mounting scientific evidence in favor of medical marijuana

Congress should be embarrassed by its failure to protect safe access for patients. For Day 2 of Medical Marijuana Week, ASA is asking you to remind your members of Congress about this absurdity, so please take a moment to call Congress and demand your member’s support for HR 1983.  Americans for Safe Access is moving forward with the decade-long court battle with the federal government to marijuana rescheduling, but passage of HR 1983 would mean the government would have to complete the rescheduling process in 12 months. The election year presents a wonderful opportunity to put pressure on members of Congress, so please take time today to call, demand passage of HR 1983, and remind them that your vote is not to be taken for granted.

ASA Fact Sheet on HR 1983: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/1983FactSheet.pdf

National Action Alert - Urge Congress to Co-Sponsor HR1983: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7066

Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

 

ASA Launches Medical Marijuana Week in Response to 3 Years of Obama's Broken Promises

UPDATE: Click here for today's detailed action alert.

When President Obama was elected in 2008, the medical marijuana community was optimistic that the worst days of federal harassment were finally in the past. After all, he had once said, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources." This caused patients and those who provide them with safe access to their medicine to be hopeful that the 200-plus medical
marijuana dispensary raids under President Bush would be resigned to being a terrible memory, a dark chapter in America’s past never to be repeated. Hopeful, indeed.

For a brief time, it seemed that Obama’s campaign promises would be followed through upon, with the issuing Holder Memo, which seemed to announce a federal ceasefire in the war on patients. Ultimately, the campaign pledges and Holder Memo turned out to be broken promises, with over 170 SWAT-style raids resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, causing great distress to patients seeking safe access to their medicine. After little more than 3 years in office, Obama is not only on track to surpass two terms worth of Bush raids in just half the time, his Department of Justice has initiated a vicious attack on state sovereignty, designed to destroy the means of safe access patients have come to rely on. Americans for Safe Access is calling on patients, their loved ones, and all concerned citizens to voice their unwillingness to accept Obama’s massive assault against safe access by taking part in Medical Marijuana Week.

Things would be bad enough if the Obama DOJ had merely doubled Bush’s rate of raids, but instead, US Attorneys have escalated hostilities against safe access to include threats to public officials and landlords. Officials in at least ten states have no doubt experienced a chilling effect on their sovereignty after received threatening letters, such as the City Councils for Chico and Eureka California. This past week, Governor Markell of Delaware announced the suspension of the state's recently passed medical marijuana program. Even the US Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, once considered relatively amicable towards medical marijuana has sent similar threat letters, boldly proclaiming them as “not a bluff.” Americans for Safe Access has filed a 10th Amendment lawsuit against the DOJ for their coercive tactics that have derailed medical marijuana legislation in several states. In a separate federal legal action, ASA has recently filed a brief in its petition against the arbitrary and capricious refusal by the government to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Now is the time to tell the White House that enough is enough. Americans for Safe Access is launching Medical Marijuana Week with an action alert to call the White House and demand that Obama end using federal resources to undermine state laws, and stop putting politics before science by acting immediately to reclassify marijuana as medicine. Remind President Obama about his campaign broken campaign promises, because if patients, their loved ones, and concerned citizens do not tell Obama that his medical marijuana policy must change, it will never improve. After calling the White House today, please continue to join ASA’s Medical Marijuana Week actions, culminating in several local rallies on Thursday February 16, 2012, and keep the pressure on Obama until his policy promotes safe access.

ASA's Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

Action Alert to Call the White House: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7065

 

 

 

ASA Files Opening Brief in Rescheduling Case

Today, ASA filed the opening brief in its effort to have marijuana rescheduled at the federal level.  The brief outlines some of the most egregious analytical errors made by the DEA, which led it to the the outlandish conclusion that that marijuana is even more harmful that methamphetamine and cocaine.  This denial was prompted by ASA's lawsuit to compel the DEA to give some response to a rescheduling petition filed by the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis  in 2002, which went unanswered for nearly eleven years.  The Petition (rightfully) requests that marijuana be rescheduled to Schedule III, IV, or V because it has an accepted medical use in the United States; it is safe for use under medical supervision; it has an abuse potential lower than Schedule I or II drugs; and it has a lower dependence liability than Schedule I or II drugs. Among the DEA's other errors, the agency deviated from its own criteria in assessing the abuse potential of scheduled substances and it flat out ignored more than two hundred scientific studies demonstrating the medical efficacy of marijuana.  Only by closing its eyes to these peer-reviewed studies could the DEA conclude that marijuana lacks a "currently accepted" medical use.