Pages tagged "legal"


President Obama Makes Case Against His Own Medical Marijuana Policy During SOTU Address

Over the years, President Obama has said some encouraging things about medical marijuana, but his policy has never matched up. To many, Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address will likely be remembered as the moment when he framed his 2012 campaign for reelection. The SOTU laid out his vision and goals on a number of issues, and while he may not have used the words “medical marijuana” during his speech, the goals and themes he called for in his second term are irreconcilable with certain actions (and inactions) taken by his administration related to safe access.

 “Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.”


Here, Obama has stated a goal, having a treatment available that kills cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells. The potential for reaching this goal through medical marijuana has been known for at least several years, and even the National Institutes of Health has recognized this potential with the Physician Data Query issued by the National Cancer Institute last March. Although the government retracted certain parts of the PDQ in a politically motivated move, the post-retraction version still makes a compelling case for marijuana’s cancer-killing/healthy-cell-preserving potential by reporting that, “[c]annabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not only ignored pursuing medical marijuana to achieve this goal, it has done nothing to make use of its own agency’s findings. This is not only irreconcilable with the goal he laid out in the SOTU, at best it is willful ignorance on the part of the Obama administration to let patients suffer without safe access to the best cancer treatments known.

 “There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.”


One federal regulation Obama ought to reconsider as being outdated, lacking necessity, and being too costly is 21 CFR 1308.11. This regulation is the manifestation of the Controlled Substances Act in the Federal Record. The necessity of keeping marijuana under Schedule I was only to permit the Attorney General sufficient time to gain more complete scientific information about marijuana. That was four decades and several studies ago (the government’s own PDQ refers to several dozen of these studies), so this is clearly outdated and unnecessary. In terms of costliness, the toll of human suffering of cancer patients should be enough, but the economic drain related to cancer suffering is staggering as well.  The best way for Obama to revisit this regulation would be direct Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate the rescheduling process.

“Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same.”


Among the millions of Americans who work hard and wish to play by the rules are the thousands of providers of medical marijuana located in states that have approved the use and distribution of this medical treatment. Perhaps more than any community, these American entrepreneurs are quite willing to pay their share of business taxes that result from their work to provide safe access to medical marijuana patients who are unable to cultivate to their own medicine. However, in providing medical marijuana in accordance with state law to patients, dispensary operators must deal with a burden that no other legitimately run business have to face, Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code. This provision, which bars anyone from taking tax deductions for business expenses related to Schedule I and II substances, was originally intended to prevent cocaine kingpins from manipulating the tax code to launder their completely illicit profits, but instead the IRS is now manipulating the provision to attack state-approved businesses that provide safe access.

President Obama should not only order Holder to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana, he should also instruct Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to promulgate a comment in the Treasury Regulations that excludes medical marijuana providers operating in good faith compliance with state law. This would be particularly helpful in the event that marijuana is rescheduled into Schedule II, which would still mean safe access would be in peril related to 280E.

President Obama’s speech last night described the kind of America where safe access to medical marijuana should be readily available, but unfortunately his administration’s actions have been at odds with this goal. Rescheduling marijuana and removing unfair tax burdens on dispensary owners would go a long way in reconciling his goal of an America where patients have safe access to best the cancer treatments available.

CA Supreme Court Grants Review to Pack and Riverside, Local Lawmakers Should Take Note

The California Supreme Court has made a move that should improve safe access by granting review for two controversial medical marijuana cases decided by lower appellate courts in 2011. As a result of this move, both Pack v. City of Long Beach (link to ASA blog on Pack), and Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, are effectively decertified until the court reaches its final decision, a process which some expect to go on for two years, as Ross v. RagingWire took two years to decide.

The decisions by the lower appellate court in both of these cases have been harmful for patient access to medicine, but the Pack fallout has been particular damaging. The Pack ruling in October set off a firestorm of cities and counties moving to ban dispensaries throughout the state, even beyond the Second District of the CA Court of Appeals where the case was decided. These panicked reactions by lawmakers have resulted in weakened availability to medicine for Californian patients. As is stands now, Pack and Riverside are now dead letters.

California Cityand County legislators should take note of the impact of this move by the state high court before moving forward with any further legislation as a result of lower court’s Pack ruling. A city or county presently considering a dispensary ban based upon Pack, such as the largest city in the state, ought to recognize that they would be undermining patients’ ability to obtain medicine they need, all in reaction to a case that no longer has legal authority. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Pack and Riverside decisions, making rash policy changes that are harmful to the health of Californians following the decertification of Pack seems like an unnecessary proposition at best.

CA Court of Appeals Pack decision: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Pack_v_Long_Beach.pdf

CA Court of Appeals Riverside decision: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E052400.PDF

Gov. Brewer Orders Arizona to Start Processing Dispensary Applications

The good news that came out last week for Arizona medical cannabis patients got even better today. Having a week to digest the impact of having her lawsuit thrown out of federal court on Jan. 4th, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer has announced she will not re-file. More significant (and quite a pleasant surprise) was the following statement by Brewer:

“I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."


This is fantastic news, although any credit given to Brewer needs to be put in context. The AZ Governor has actively worked to prevent the program, and even qualified her encouraging statement above by saying, “[i]t is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203.” With that in mind, it will be important to keep an eye on the response Brewer gets back from U.S. Attorney forArizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, asking for federal government’s position on state employees regulating dispensaries. However, last week’s resounding dismissal of Brewer’s case should be indicative that regardless of Scheel’s response, the program must still move forward.

Medical cannabis dispensaries will finally be coming to Arizona. It’s still a question of when, but it looks like they’ll be arriving much sooner than anyone previously expected.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this entry stated that AZ would begin processing applications prior to completion of the state-level lawsuit. Applications will not be processed until completion of this lawsuit. Thank you to those who pointed out the error.

Proposition 203 and Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/prop203/

Pending Lawsuit: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/CompassionFirst-v-Arizona.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Judge Tosses AZ Governor Brewer's Attempt at Blocking Voter Initiative

In a major victory for safe access in the Grand Canyon state, a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who must now implement the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).


Brewer’s lawsuit was technically filed under the guise of protecting state workers from federal prosecution, but in reality was a thinly veiled attempt to thwart the will of the majority of Arizona voters who passed the AMMA in 2010. In fact, the lawsuit bordered on the absurd, as it attempted to utilize 20 fictitious defendants as part of the basis for the case.  However, Brewer’s refusal to fully implement AMMA has not stopped her from collecting nearly $3 million in fees from the approximately 19,000 Arizonans who have registered as patients. What’s more is Brewer’s own lawsuit admits that she, along with “employees and officers of the State of Arizona have a mandatory duty to implement and oversee the administration of the AMMA,” (emphasis added).

Not only does Americans for Safe Access agree with the Governor’s assertion that the Arizona government has a mandatory obligation to implement the AMMA, but on behalf of patients and caregivers, we demand the swift implementation of the program. For some Arizonans, yesterday’s victory came years, months, weeks, or perhaps even mere days too late. Now is the time for Governor Brewer to act so that no more patients in Arizona suffer needlessly as the expense of political posturing.

Ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton (contains the text quoted above from Brewer's lawsuit): http://www.scribd.com/doc/77175415/Mmj-Lawsuit-Dismissed

Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/rules/index.htm#statutes

Attorney General Holder Says One Thing While His U.S. Attorneys Do Another



 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder answered questions before the House Judiciary Committee on his Justice Department’s handling of the now-famous federal ATF operation, “Fast and Furious.” During the hearing, Rep. Polis (D-CO) asked a series of questions on medical marijuana. Holder responded that the October 2009 Ogden memo de-emphasizing marijuana enforcement in medical marijuana states was still in effect. Specifically, Holder said that, “we will not use our limited resources,” to target people who “are acting in conformity with [state] law.” This seems to equate with the Ogden memo and the pledge that President Obama made before and after taking office. There’s only one (big) problem…the Justice Department is currently on a rampage in medical marijuana states, spending tax dollars like there was no fiscal crisis.

Over the past year, Obama’s Justice Department has spent millions of dollars raiding more than one hundred dispensaries in at least 7 states. Holder’s U.S. Attorneys have also sent threatening letters to public officials in 10 medical marijuana states, attempting to undermine the same laws that Holder purports to respect. In California, U.S. Attorneys are not only using raids to spread fear and intimidation, they are also threatening landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue leasing to medical marijuana dispensaries.

In March, the Obama Administration conducted the largest set of coordinated raids on medical marijuana facilities yet. No less than 8 federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, EPA, ATF, OSHA, IRS, and ICE, worked with 22 local law enforcement agencies to execute 26 search warrants in 13 cities across Montana. A number of people were later indicted and are now dealing with federal prosecutions. At the time of the raids, the Justice Department complained of state law violations, but cases currently under way indicate the opposite.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard is trying to prevent several defendants from using a state law defense at their federal trial. To be robbed of a defense is a travesty, but unfortunately all too common in federal medical marijuana cases. Thaggard’s comments in an August court filing, however, underscore the hypocrisy of the Justice Department’s policy on medical marijuana:
Montana’s medical marijuana laws have no relevance to the present prosecution…

So, how long will President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and the U.S. Attorneys on a rabid attack against medical marijuana be able to prop up their Orwellian policy of saying one thing and doing another? Only time and a whole lot of pressure will tell.

Riverside Court Allows Localities to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Through Zoning Laws

Notwithstanding the fact that the California Legislature expressly enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act ("the MMPA" or "SB420") to "[e]nhance the access of patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through collective, cooperative cultivation projects," some localities are seeking to eradicate them through the use of their zoning laws. The most recent example of this, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, Inc., involves Riverside's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries ("MMDs") through its Zoning Code.  In a published decision released on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal held this was a valid exercise of the City's zoning authority that does not conflict with, or is "inimical to," the MMPA.  While ASA believes this holding is incorrect, as is more fully explained in ASA's amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, the Riverside case does not forbid localities from regulating dispensaries, as some have said. First, the Riverside decision expressly rejects the proposition that federal law preempts local regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries:
[T]he city cannot rely on the proposition that federal law, which criminalizes the possession of marijuana, preempts state law allowing limiting the medical use of marijuana and MMD's.
Although the court held that the City may use its zoning authority to ban MMDs, it also allows localities to regulate them in a responsible manner, as many localities have, and will continue to do.

We're Making a Difference… Help ASA Keep the Momentum!



Last week, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's attempt to subvert local and state medical cannabis laws. Our lawsuit argues that the Tenth Amendment forbids the federal government from using coercive tactics to commandeer the law-making functions of the states. The public and media response has been impressive. We have received hundreds of messages of support, new members have joined ASA, and the national media coverage has been positive. Thank you to everyone who already spoke up and helped out!

But we can’t stop there! ASA still needs your support to keep the momentum going in the right direction. Can you make a one-time or recurring donation to help us keep pushing back?


Earlier this year, ASA filed another lawsuit in federal court challenging the unreasonable delay in the federal response to the nine-year old cannabis rescheduling petition. Rescheduling cannabis under federal law is an important step towards making it legally available for research and therapeutic use. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) promptly responded by denying the petition. ASA already filed a notice of appeal in this case, and will file the appeal brief challenging the DEA’s rescheduling decision very soon. Our appeal could lead to the first evidentiary hearings on the medical value of cannabis in federal court since 1994.

We are also working to put direct political pressure on the Obama Administration. Federal and state lawmakers are already responding to ASA’s call for opposition to the federal crackdown and a change in federal law. US Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) spoke up early in the crackdown, and more recently, seven other Members of Congress joined them in signing an ASA-inspired letter to President Obama calling for rescheduling. In California, Senators Mark Leno (D-SF) and Leland Yee (D-SF), Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-SF), California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and several local elected officials have already spoken publicly in opposition to the crackdown. You can expect to see even more support like this, as ASA mobilizes our national grassroots base to visit state and federal representatives in their district offices nationwide.

We need your help to keep up this campaign. Can you make a special contribution to help right now? You can make your support more affordable by making smaller monthly contributions!

We can fight back against federal attacks on safe access. With your help, we can fight in federal court, galvanize support among state and federal representatives, and be sure the national media is telling the patients’ side of the story. Thank you to everyone who has joined ASA and contributed already. If you have not, now is the time.

Be sure to read more about ASA’s rescheduling letter signed by nine Members of Congress and elected officials opposing the federal crackdown on ASA’s blog. And check out some of the great media coverage… here, here, and here.

California State, Local Elected Officials Blast Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, in response to federal attacks by California’s U.S. Attorneys, several local and state officials spoke out against the aggressive interference in their medical marijuana laws. State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) held a press conference with patients and advocacy groups, including Americans for Safe Access. The message was clear: the federal government must “stand down.”

On October 19th, Senator Leno stated the following:
I urge the federal government to stand down in its massive attack on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will have devastating impacts for the state of California. At a time when resources are precious and few, federal officials have chosen to waste time and money in an ambush that will harm countless patients who will no longer be able to safely access doctor-prescribed treatments. Our federal dollars, especially during a down economy, would be better spent on activities and programs that save jobs and help people in need. Instead, this ill-timed offensive would have no positive impacts on our state and would only force more Californians into unemployment.

Assembly member Ammiano also declared that:
Instead of supporting state efforts to effectively regulate medical marijuana in accordance with Prop 215, the Obama administration seems committed to re-criminalizing it. This destructive attack on medical marijuana patients is a waste of limited law enforcement resources and will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. I urge President Obama to reconsider this bad policy decision and respect California's right to provide medicine to its residents.

In a separate statement, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) also blasted the decision to shut down licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city:
Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients. There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney’s Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Like S-Comm, our law enforcement agencies – both state and local – should not assist in this unnecessary action. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives.

Most recently, California Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke out against the recent federal crackdown:
Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. … While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.

Even local officials are speaking up. Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen called the federal raid on a medical marijuana collective licensed by the county, “outrageous.” Supervisor McCowen said in a written statement, “if the federal government truly wants to protect public safety,” it should change its strategy of:
[R]aiding medical marijuana growers who are doing everything they can to operate in full compliance with state and local law.

Perhaps the feds should take heed, lest more officials from across the state speak up in defense of patients and state law.

Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Reschedule Cannabis



Today, in a joint effort between Congressional Representatives and Americans for Safe Access, several members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The letter, headlined by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and signed by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA), noted that California was only the latest state hit in the federal government's campaign against medical marijuana.
This year alone has seen aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven medical marijuana states, as well as threats of criminal prosecution by U.S. attorneys against local and state public officials. It is our strong position that local and state governments must be allowed to develop, implement and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis.

The members of Congress further stated that:
[I]t is more urgent now than ever to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.

Specifically, they requested that the Obama administration either reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug or that they publicly support the adoption of legislation that would remove cannabis from its current place in Schedule I. The letter comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's most recent attempt to circumvent California's 15 year old medical cannabis law.

In the beginning of October, California's four U.S. attorneys sent letters to at least 16 landlords and property owners who rent buildings or own land where dispensaries provide safe access to medical cannabis, notifying them that they were violating federal drug law. The letters warned that the dispensaries must shut down within 45 days or the landlords and property owners will face criminal charges and confiscation of their property - both real and personal - even if they are operating legally under the state's medical cannabis law.

This latest instance of federal interference is in stark contrast to the spirit if not the precise letter of the Obama Administration's policy on medical cannabis and though the DOJ is now claiming that President Obama had no prior knowledge of these latest enforcement tactics, the signers of the Farr-Rohrabacher letter urge the President to show respect for patients and their providers by changing federal policy and providing them with safe access to their medicine rather than pushing them back into the illicit market. Whether or not their pleas fall on deaf ears remains to be seen.

The Ongoing Saga of Federal Interference in Washington State & Push Back from Congress



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year, on April 21st, the Washington State legislature passed SB 5073, a bill that would have established a licensing system for the dozens of medical marijuana distribution centers that existed to provide much-needed medication to thousands of patients throughout the state. Notably, the legislature passed the bill after Governor Christine Gregoire sought and received feedback from the Obama Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby wrote that growing facilities, dispensaries, landlords, financiers, and even state employees “would not be immune from liability under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).” In other words, anyone remotely connected to the production and distribution of medical marijuana could be criminally prosecuted under federal law. Yet, the legislature must have seen through these threats of intimidation because it passed SB 5073 anyway.

Less than a week after SB 5073 was passed, on April 27th, U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking “further clarification” on the Justice Department’s position on “federal prosecution in states that have enacted laws authorizing medical use of marijuana.” Specifically, Congressman Inslee sought clarification on whether the Justice Department would really “prosecute a state employee who is operating in full compliance with SB 5073.” Unfortunately, nearly 6 moths later, Congressman Inslee is still waiting for a response.

Not-so-coincidentally, a day after the congressman sent his request for clarification, the federal government conducted several aggressive law enforcement raids in Spokane, Washington and later indicted multiple dispensary operators under federal law. A day after that, Governor Gregoire vetoed the parts of SB 5073 that included the establishment of medical marijuana production and distribution regulations.

Apparently, this was a thought-out, well-conducted strategy by the Obama Administration to undermine the efforts of Washington State legislators to establish sensible public health policy with regard to medical marijuana. And Washington is not alone. Similar derailments of public health policy happened in Arizona, California, Montana, and Rhode Island, to name a few.

Thursday, Congressman Jay Inslee sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Holder, reminding him that the Justice Department has:
[F]ar more critical functions than preventing some of our Nation’s most vulnerable residents from getting the relief they need.

Once again, Congressman Inslee asked for:
[A] detailed justification as to why the Justice Department is focusing such a substantial portion of its limited resources in this area.

This is yet another example of the push back from federal legislators on President Obama’s confusing war against medical marijuana. He would do well to respond and, better yet, President Obama should reconsider his harmful and indefensible policy.