Blog Voices from the Frontlines
New Documentary Illustrates the Need for and Benefit of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries - Americans for Safe AccessIn 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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."
"After about an hour of sitting in the car while the police questioned some of the people and ran background checks on the four of us who were there and questioned me as well, the officer issued me a citation, citing me for battery. They informed me that they were not doing this because they had seen anything, but doing it because Mr. Chabot was pressing charges against me. They were very courteous the entire time and I suspect that they felt this was all a crock, but, if I understood them correctly, they had no choice but to arrest me because Mr. Chabot was adamant in filing charges... No matter what happens, the Chabots and their Drug Free Community Coalition better get used to seeing us if they are going to operate in the Inland Empire and continue their attacks on California's medical marijuana laws. Riverside County has made great strides especially in the light of where this county was five years ago. San Bernardino County is somewhat where Riverside County was five years ago but there are two cities, Claremont and Diamond Bar in SB County that allow dispensaries. We have come too far and achieved too much to let anyone stop us now. We will do what we can to see to it that patients in the Inland Empire continue to have access to sources of medicinal marijuana and that laws of the state of California are respected by all. "Read the Lanny Swerdlow's full report on ASA's Forums here. For more information on the event and the work MAPP is doing, contact Lanny at: email@example.com. To sign up to receive this weekly round up by e-mail, click here.
Chabot (the author) spends hundreds of words repeating misinformation about medical marijuana's medical efficacy, arguing that "Marinol is a medicine - smoked marijuana is not," flogging the "gateway drug" theory, and generally championing the party line of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She forgets to use the goofy ONDCP tagline -- "Marijuana: harmless?" -- but otherwise sounds like she's writing a speech for John Walters to deliver to some provincial Rotary Club. The thing she seems to forget is that the train she's riding already left the station a long time ago in California, along with 11 other states.Apparently, even with all of the evidence, some dead-enders continue to deny that marijuana is medicine. So, I guess that's why we're here, to continue to educate so that when writers like Chabot spread misinformation like "Research has not demonstrated that smoked marijuana can be helpful as medicine," a chorus of voices cry out in protest. Letter to the Editor, anyone?
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:
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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- 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.
DEA Gives Schwarzenegger Another Reason to Stand Up for Patients' Rights - Americans for Safe AccessToday, on my way into the office, I got a call alerting me that the DEA was raiding River City Patient Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento. I was immediately outraged by the DEA's continued harassment of patients and providers, but here at ASA, we're used to putting these feelings aside and springing into action. By the time I reached ASA's headquarters, everyone was on the phone, calling media outlets and supporters to urge them to protest at the site of the raid. A text message had been sent out to ASA's Sacramento raid emergency response text messaging group, emails had been sent to local listserves, and alerts had been posted on message boards. Just a couple hours after the raid began, ASA's Sacramento chapter leader informed us that 100 patients and advocates were protesting outside the dispensary with signs and flags. Several reporters had interviewed her and filmed the progress of the raid. Their was some good news - it didn't appear as if Sacramento's police or sheriff's department had been involved in the raid. The feds acted on their own. Also, we just found out that all the employees who had been detained were released. No arrests were made. After two and a half years at ASA, raid response has become a routine part of my work life. Still, DEA actions continue to shake me up. I refuse to get used to them and instead, I use these times to reflect on the important work we're doing and to reinvigorate my activist energy so that one day we will not need emergency responses. If you're a CA resident who's also shaken up, here's something easy you can do to make a difference - call the Governor as part of ASA's Stand Up for Patients' Rights campaign. Here's the info: Call the governor's headquarters today to urge him to stand up for patients' rights by calling on the Bush administration to end the DEA raids on state-sanctioned patients and providers. The Governor's Headquarters in Sacramento: 916-445-2841 Phone Script:
"Hello, my name is __Insert Your Name__ and I live in __Insert Your City__ in California. Thousands of California medical marijuana patients depend on safe access to medicine to treat the chronic and terminal disease symptoms. The federal government has taken serious actions to raid, arrest, and prosecute hundreds of patients and providers, publicly stating that they will not recognize the validity of our law. Today, the DEA raided another medical cannabis provider in Sacramento. On Thursday, October 11, we are gathering at your office in Los Angeles, I urge you to join us on that day to stand up for patients’ rights. I also urge you to defend California's laws and call on the Bush Administration to end the attack on patients and providers. Please let me know what you plan to do."Please let ASA know you've called the governor by e-mailing Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org.