Pages tagged "media"


Kal Penn of "Harold & Kumar" off-base for defending Obama attacks in medical marijuana states

Last week, Kal Penn, who plays Kumar in the “stoner” film franchise Harold & Kumar, spoke to Huffington Post Live about President Obama’s marijuana policies. During the April 26th interview, Penn defended recent Justice Department attacks on dispensaries in medical marijuana states like California, citing articles he read from a Google search.

Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on a pliant mainstream media -- that too often quotes Justice Department officials without any counterpoint -- to provide consistently factual information.

Take, for example, the rationale that forms the basis for the Obama Administration’s most sweeping closures of dispensaries in California, Colorado and Washington State: they’re within 1,000 feet of a school. Using threats of asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution, the Justice Department has succeeded in shuttering hundreds of dispensaries in the past couple of years.

However, if Penn had done his homework, he would have found out that in California, where well over 500 dispensaries have closed for fear of retaliation by federal drug enforcement officials, dispensaries are only required to be at least 600 feet from schools:

No medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator establishment, or provider who possesses, cultivates, or distributes medical marijuana pursuant to this article shall be located within a 600-foot radius of a school.


Also glossed over by Penn was the Obama Administration’s callous attitude about the impact of these dispensary closures. Each of the shuttered dispensaries provided medical marijuana to hundreds, often thousands of qualified patients who are now left with little option to find a medicine that’s legal under state law.

And, believe it or not, the dispensary operators and their landlords who are warned with letters of imminent legal action are the lucky ones. The dispensaries that are targeted with aggressive SWAT-style raids stand to lose much more. At minimum, those dispensary operators can expect seized bank accounts, computers, patient records, and other property.

However, if there are arrests, federal defendants can expect 5-10 years in prison. Over the past few months, several state-compliant dispensary operators and cultivators have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including California dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky (10 years), Michigan Cultivators Jeremy and Jerry Duval (5 years and 10 years, respectively), and John Marcinkewciz (5 years), as well as Montana cultivator Chris Williams (5 years). Another Montana cultivator, Richard Flor, died in federal custody last August while serving a 5-year sentence.

Indeed, Penn’s failure to understand the impact of the Obama Administration’s policies on medical marijuana is symptomatic of the lies being told to the American public and the impunity with which it’s being done. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both claimed that they are not targeting those in compliance with state law, but refuse to confront the evidence that belies such pronouncements.

It’s about time that the federal government admits that the devastating and costly effects of its enforcement policies in medical marijuana states are unnecessary and unproductive. All patients are asking for is a compassionate and even-handed policy that treats medical marijuana like a public health issue.


Should Grandma Smoke Pot?

Starting today, television stations in West Palm Beach Fl and Eugene Oregon will begin airing an “edu-mercial” about medical cannabis called, Should Grandma Smoke Pot? The show is the brain child of Robert Platshorn, the man who served the longest prison sentence in America for smuggling marijuana. After the government forced him to halt his live pro-legalization “Silver Tour,” Grandma is his new effort to educate seniors on the benefits of medical marijuana.

With award-winning director Walter J Collins, Robert has produced a thirty minute show that pulls no punches in taking on what he calls “the government’s wasteful and irrational ban on marijuana.” The show will air more than a dozen times over three weeks in West Palm Beach on WTIX the CW and WCTN My TV. In Oregon, it will air more than a dozen times on KEVU-TV.

Summing up his new direction, Robert Platshorn, who served thirty years of a sixty-four year federal prison sentence, said “I must be making an impression on America’s seniors, because the Federal Parole Commission has ordered that I may no longer travel ‘to promote legalization of marijuana.’” Robert exclaims, “If I can’t travel to legalize this important medicine for seniors, I can damn well send Grandma across America on a mission of mercy.”

Robert, who for many years was a national TV pitchman, is raising money to air his show like an infomercial on local and national TV networks. As an experienced infomercial producer, Robert has access to the private auctions where he can buy half hours on good stations for about ten percent of normal rate. As little as $3000 can buy twenty or more airings for Grandma on local stations or one national airing. You can learn more at TheSilverTour.org.

Watch the edu-mercial, and share it with your grandma!

Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director

Medical Marijuana Patient Norman Smith Passes, But Not Without a Fight

Last Saturday, a memorial service was held for Norman Smith, 64. I never met Norman in person, but I feel like I got to know a part of him before he passed. Norman was a fighter, yet he seemed to face the difficulties in life with grace and acceptance. In 2009, Norman was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and spent the rest of his years in treatment.

Norman was also a medical marijuana patient. For nearly two years, Norman took part in a rare clinical trial to combat his liver cancer. During the trial, Norman smoked medical marijuana as an adjunct to his treatment, and was the only patient out of 60 to have a successful remission, earning him the moniker of “Miracle Man.”

In September 2010, Norman became eligible for a liver transplant at Cedars-Sinai, where he was receiving treatment and where he obtained a recommendation for medical marijuana from his oncologist. However, Norman was removed from the transplant list by Cedars in February 2011 after testing positive for marijuana.

In August 2011, Norman stopped smoking medical marijuana in order to adhere to Cedars’ requirements, which were remarkably stringent: 6 months of drug abuse counseling and random drug testing. Americans for Safe Access tried to intervene by urging Cedars to change its policy and by bringing attention to Norman’s plight. Tragically, despite compelling publicity from media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and Reason TV, and Norman’s compliance with the hospital’s 6-month requirement, Cedars refused to put him back on the transplant list.

After he stopped smoking marijuana, Norman’s cancer returned and he was subjected to further chemotherapy instead of being given a transplant for which he should have been eligible, but for his medical marijuana consumption. Norman fought as long as he could and eventually passed this July.

One of the many redeeming qualities about Norman was his selfless interest in helping others forgo what he had to go through. Unfortunately, Norman was not alone in being denied organ transplants at Cedars and many other hospitals across the country. Most recently, Toni Trujillo was kicked off the kidney transplant list at Cedars-Sinai for her medical marijuana use.

Notably, over the past four years, there have been numerous reports of patients being purged from transplant lists across California, as well as in other medical marijuana states like Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. In 2008, Seattle resident and medical marijuana patient Timothy Garon died after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center. A year later, in 2009, Big Island resident and medical marijuana patient Kimberly Reyes died at Hilo Hospital after being denied a liver transplant.

Norman, Timothy, Kimberly, Toni and all of the other patients who have benefited from medical marijuana deserve better from our health care system. Norman knew best how politics have trumped science and medicine, and he paid for it with his life.

Norman will not be forgotten, and his wish that no one else follow in his footsteps is a rallying cry for the rest of us to change harmful policies such as those indefensibly upheld by Cedars and hospitals like it.

SF patients get creative to protest feds



Hundreds of ASA members and allies staged a funeral procession through the streets of San Francisco yesterday to protest the closing of the Vapor Room, one of the city’s venerable and legally-permitted medical cannabis patients’ collectives. Protesters with full funeral regalia marched from Vapor Room in the Lower Haight-Ashbury District to Federal Building downtown. But they made a special stop along the way.

The march stopped briefly at an alley for a little creative street theatre. Activists produced a giant puppet depicting US Attorney Melinda Haag, who orchestrated the current federal crackdown in the San Francisco Bay Area, and performed a satirical ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new “dispensary” for patients: the alley! The oversized action – complete with a long red ribbon, big ceremonial scissors, and the larger-than-life puppet – sent an unmistakable message to the crowd and the media. Closing legally-permitted patients’ associations sends legal patients back to the alleys to find the medicine they need. (More pictures after the jump...)





The Vapor Room was forced to close after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) threatened the landlord with civil asset forfeiture charges. Civil asset forfeiture is a procedure by which the federal government can confiscate property used to commit a crime. The law was intended to fight large-scale drug trafficking operations; but in this case, the “crime” is providing medical cannabis in accordance with state law! Threats of civil asset forfeiture are a central component of the latest federal crackdown on medical cannabis, which started with a press conference with Ms. Haag and her colleagues last October.

Unfortunately, they are not just making threats. The DOJ filed civil asset forfeiture actions against another model Bay Area patients’ association last month. Harborside Health Center, the largest medical cannabis facility in the state, is facing a tough fight in federal court now that their property owner is in the federal crosshairs. Federal pressure on Harborside Health Center and other kinds of federal intimidation drew hundreds of protesters to a rally in front of Oakland City Hall during a recent fundraising visit by President Obama.



San Francisco ASA members and their allies are to be commended for staging a creative and effective action. Events like this one dramatize the issues surrounding the federal crackdown for the community and the media, and that is important to getting the message out. A funeral march, coffins with flowers, a giant puppet, over-sized scissors, and the rest also make great photo opportunities for image-hungry reporters.

It behooves all of us fighting the federal attack on medical cannabis to be creative in how we tell our story. We are going to need the most effective messages and vehicles for messages that we can get. Do not underestimate the power of one good image in the public eye. Keep up that good work, and we will keep changing minds and winning allies in the fight for safe access!

Thanks to ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer for coming all the way from Washington, DC, for this event. ASA staff members Courtney Sheats, Tony Bowles, and Hunter Holliman were also present.

Lynching Charlie Lynch - A New Medical Marijuana Documentary



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we find ourselves, yet again, under attack by the federal government, a new medical marijuana documentary tells the story of a dispensary operator arrested in 2007 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Five years later, the story of Charles C. Lynch has not died out and, in fact, is more relevant than ever.

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rick Ray teamed up with Brainstorm Media to release "Lynching Charlie Lynch" this past Friday. A press release issued at the time described the film this way:
Controversial and provocative, Lynching Charlie Lynch explores the conflict between the state-permitted medical marijuana business and Federal drug law in America, and the human cost of the arbitrary and inconsistent application of the law. Through in-depth interviews with experts and advocates across the country and on all sides of the issue, Lynching Charlie Lynch finds many answers, and raises even more questions.

Lynch was one of more than 200 Californians raided by the DEA during President Bush's 8 years in office. Yet, the Obama Justice Department has conducted more than 200 raids in at least 9 medical marijuana states in just 3 1/2 years, far surpassing his predecessor. Despite President Obama's pledge to do otherwise, he's waged an all-out assault on medical marijuana patients, the breadth and intensity of which is unprecedented in this country's history.

President Obama must be made to answer for the stark and harmful contradiction between his medical marijuana policy and his law enforcement practices. Please help keep President Obama accountable and help us pursue a sensible public health policy for medical marijuana.

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.

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.

RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
[RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.

Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, President Obama’s Justice Department (DOJ) made clear its motivations to disrupt and undermine California’s medical marijuana laws. However, advocates argue that last week’s announcement by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys, which included threats against property owners, comes after months of aggressive DOJ attacks in several medical marijuana states. SWAT-style raids and threats of criminal prosecution against local and state officials has become emblematic of Obama’s policy on medical marijuana, a far cry from his pledge on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

Yet, just as Obama’s confusing war on medical marijuana has reached a fever pitch, condemnation could be heard from several state and federal officials in California. Some state legislators and members of Congress are refusing to be intimidated by this latest round of threats from the federal government. Congressional members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), as well as State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) all decried the recent DOJ announcement in California.

In a statement issued to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Congressman Rohrabacher called the DOJ effort “a waste of scarce federal resources.” In a separate statement issued to ASA, Congressman Farr had this to say:
Medical cannabis continues to be prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses, as a means to minimize their pain and support their recovery. For that reason it is important that patients continue to have safe access to the medication they need. California has adopted clear regulations that allow patients to do just that, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing those resources on those who sell illicit drugs.

State Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ strategy was a waste of precious resources at a time of fiscal crisis:
They’re wasting money they don’t have. This is not the issue of the day. This doesn’t create jobs. This does not keep the security of the nation intact. It doesn’t clean the environment. If anything, they should be demonstrating leadership in resolving the conflict between federal and state laws. Until we deal with that, we’re going to be going around in circles here.

Assembly member Tom Ammiano had perhaps the strongest words of condemnation in a press release issued shortly after the DOJ press conference on Friday. Ammiano said that the attack on medical marijuana would cost the state “millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives.”
I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine.  [Friday’s] announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton.  It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws -- whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted?  Change we can believe in?  Instead we get more of the same.

Notably, Congressman Rohrabacher’s statement had a prescriptive solution:
[The DOJ announcement] underscores the need for Congress to pass H.R. 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.

He’s right. People across the country should contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 1983, a bill that would reclassify medical marijuana and allow states to develop, implement and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.

RAND Corporation says dispensaries don't cause crime



UPDATE October 11 - The RAND Corporation bowed to politcal pressure for the LA City Attorney's Office and removed this study "until the review is complete." Ironically, the RAND Corporation's wen site says that "RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures." Apparently not in every case!

The RAND Corporation, an influential public policy think tank, issued a report today debunking the commonly-held misperception that medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) attract crime to the neighborhoods in which they are located. In what the authors call “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” the right-leaning RAND Corporation found no evidence that hundreds of MCDCs in Los Angeles caused an increase in crime. The report echoes research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience in communities nationwide. Policy makers should see this groundbreaking report as a green light to adopt sensible regulations to protect legal patients and communities – while preserving safe access to medicine.



The RAND Corporation report surveyed crime statistics around six hundred MCDCs in Los Angeles County, but failed to find any correlation between the facilities and an increase in crime. In fact, the report showed an increase in crime in some communities only after MCDCs closed. This would not be a surprise for Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who told Los Angeles City Council Members in 2010 that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that MCDCs attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

The misperception that MCDCs attract crime has serious consequences for patients. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal for fifteen years, lawmakers recently voted to bar legal MCDCs from locating within six hundred feet of residential uses or zones - on top of an existing statute that bars the facilities from being the same distance from schools. The rationale? Public safety. Onerous regulations in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, and other states stem from the same bias. The RAND Corporation report is a welcome answer to this pervasive misconception.

Medical cannabis is legal in sixteen sates and the District of Columbia, but stigma and disinformation too often stymie regulations that could make the good intentions of voters and lawmakers a reality for patients. Policy makers should listen to what the RAND Corporation has to say today about crime and MCDCs, and to what ASA has been saying about the necessity of well-regulated community-based access to medical cannabis since 2002. We must put aside the groundless assertion that MCDCs attract crime, and move quickly to fully implement state medical cannabis laws.

Download a copy of the RAND Corporation report, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with a Case Study of Los Angeles Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime.”

Download a copy of ASA’s report, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation.”