Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Jul 302010

Dr. Andrew Weil Applauds New Documentary Film “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” - Americans for Safe Access

A new documentary by Len Richmond, “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer,” is starting to turn heads. Dr. Andrew Weil recently reviewed Richmond’s film, calling it “excellent,” and last week answered a question about medical cannabis on his web site.
[E]xciting new research suggests that the cannabinoids found in marijuana may have a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. A number of studies have shown that these compounds can inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. In part, this is achieved by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow. What's more, cannabinoids seem to kill tumor cells without affecting surrounding normal cells. If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.
Though not referenced in Dr. Weil’s answer, much of the recent investigation into inhibiting cancer growth using cannabis comes from Dr. Sean D. McAllister, of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and medical cannabis researcher Jahan Marcu, who is also on the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Richmond’s film is narrated by Emmy-winning actor Peter Coyote and has a host of medical cannabis experts, including Dr. McAllister, Dr. Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Integrative Oncology at UCSF, Dr. Robert Melamede, University of Colorado Biology Chairman and ASA Advisory Board member, as well as researchers from Spain and Israel. Richmond’s film asks:
Could the chemicals found in marijuana prevent and even heal several deadly cancers? Could the tumor-regulating properties of “cannabinoids” someday replace the debilitating drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation that harms as often as it heals?
The film also includes a bonus comedy puppet short, “Kurt Cannabis Meets Connie Cancer,” with the voices of Roseanne Barr and Malcolm McDowell. Drawing attention to the federal government’s outdated position that “marijuana has no currently accepted medical use,” Dr. Weil concluded in his review of Richmond’s film:
If we need more evidence that our current policy on cannabis is counterproductive and foolish, here it is.
Richmond’s film will be screening at the Sausalito Film Festival on Sunday, August 15th, at 1:30 pm, followed by a panel discussion on cannabis and cancer with Richmond, Dr. Donald Abrams, Dr. Jeffery Hergenrather, Dr. Sean McAllister. For additional information, go to Len Richmond’s web site: http://LenRichmondFilms.com.
Jul 242010

Victory for Veterans! - Americans for Safe Access

  • July 24, 2010 11:15 AM
Late last week, ASA received word from Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access , of a significant victory for veterans who utilize medical marijuana in the states that have adopted such laws. According to a letter to Mr. Krawitz from Robert A. Petzel, MD, Under Secretary for Health of the Department of Veterans Affairs, “If a Veteran obtains and uses medical marijuana in a manner consistent with state law, testing positive for marijuana would not preclude the Veteran from receiving opioids for pain management in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.” THIS IS A VICTORY FOR VETERANS! ASA applauds the tenacity and hard work of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access that led to this victory. Also, we extend our appreciation to the VA for providing some much needed clarity on this matter. If you’re a vet and have encountered this issue, please print a copy of the letter and bring it with you on your next visit to your local VA clinic.
Jul 142010

The AIDS Beacon Runs 2-Part Series - Americans for Safe Access

  • July 14, 2010 5:57 AM
This month, The AIDS Beacon, ran a two-part series about the therapeutic use of marijuana for the treatment of symptoms related to HIV and the pharmaceutical drugs designed to keep the disease in check.  The Beacon is an independent news and information resource for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Part 1: Legal Support For Medical Marijuana Use Gains Steam, provides a broad review of the current legal environment, and, Part 2: Science Is Mostly Positive On Medical Marijuana For People With HIV, reviews some of the current scientific literature. Read the articles, share with friends, and, if you are so inclined, provide a comment on the pages to let the editors know you appreciate an honest reporting of the facts.
Jul 142010

Stacy Ruling Requires Action for Truth - Americans for Safe Access

  • July 14, 2010 5:02 AM
Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz denied a defense for James Stacy, a San Diego-area medical marijuana provider raided in September 2009 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),  just one month before the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a new policy concerning medical marijuana enforcement.  Tell your Member of Congress to support important legislation that would permit Truth in Trials!



[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="432" caption="James Stacy with San Diego ASA "]

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Despite the DOJ's new policy, medical marijuana patients and providers in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws are still vulnerable to federal arrest and prosecution.  Worse yet, these patients and providers are denied the opportunity present evidence during federal court proceedings that might demonstrate medical need and/or compliance with state and local laws.

The denial of medical marijuana defenses in federal court has attracted the attention of some Members of Congress who are working to end this unfair practice. "Despite a new Justice Department policy on medical marijuana enforcement, James Stacy was still denied a defense in federal court," said Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), author of HR3939, the Truth in Trials Act, legislation that would allow defendants like Stacy to use evidence of state law compliance in federal court. "The Truth in Trials Act would correct this aberration of justice and ensure that no one else will needlessly face years in prison without the means to defend themselves."

Now is the time for change!  Please urge your Member of Congress to support this very important legislation.
Jun 302010

CA Senate Committees Approve AB 2650 - Americans for Safe Access

Two California Senate committees approved a bill this week that will require a 600-foot buffer zone between medical cannabis collectives and schools statewide. AB 2650 was approved by the Senate Health Committee and the Local Government Committee over the objection of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other medical cannabis advocates. However, ASA and allies can claim a victory in the bills march towards final approval by the Senate. The initial draft would have required a 1,000-foot buffer zone around a laundry list of sensitive uses. Pressure from the medical cannabis community forced the author, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), to retreat to the less onerous provision. AB 2650 is expected to win final approval in the Senate this session. Cities and counties can adopt smaller buffer zones before January 1, 2011, when the new legislation takes effect. Local governemnt retains the right to adopt larger buffer zones at any time. The bill is sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), a law enforcement lobbyist group that opposes medical cannabis.
Jun 262010

City Attorney Joins Vigil for LA Victims - Americans for Safe Access

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was one of more than sixty people who gathered last night for a candlelight vigil for the victims of two violent attacks at medical cannabis collectives this week.  Two people were killed and one was seriously injured in two separate incidents on Thursday. The tragedies occurred in the midst of ongoing controversy about the city’s tough new medical cannabis ordinance. Trutanich told a reporter from West Coast Cannabis Magazine that he understood this was “not something [the victims] brought on themselves,” and said the police department would not rest until the murderers were brought to justice. Trutanich’s words are reassuring for patients and the victims’ loved ones, who fear this human tragedy may be politicized by medical cannabis opponents in the often emotional debate about regulating safe access in Los Angeles.  Fear of crime around medical cannabis facilities fueled efforts to adopt the state’s toughest medical cannabis ordinance earlier this year, but Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told City Councilmembers and the media that reports of increased crime around collectives did not bear out. Unfortunately, Thursday’s tragedies differ little from similar crimes that occur at convenience stores, gas stations, or grocery stores in Los Angeles. These murders are not medical cannabis crimes. Trutanich is correct to keep the blame on the perpetrators, instead of the victims. His presence at last night’s vigil and sensible comments speak volumes to patients and advocates, most of whom take issue with his adversarial posture towards medical cannabis. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) would like to commend the City Attorney on his presence, and extend our heart-felt sympathies to the families of the victims. We call on the Los Angeles Police Department and City Council to do everything in their power to bring the murderers to justice, and ask that anyone who can help in their arrest or prosecution cooperate fully in that effort.
Jun 192010

ASA Rejects Unfair Taxes - No on SBX6 16 (CA) - Americans for Safe Access

Update June 23 - Sen. Calderon has withdrawn SBX6 16. Thanks to everyone who helped get this done! California Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) wants to add a new tax medical cannabis in California. If adopted, SBX6 16 would tax legal medicine at the same rate as tobacco – forty one percent!  ASA opposes this unreasonable burden on legal patients, who already pay sales tax on their medicine. Medical cannabis is expensive and usually not covered by insurance. ASA is calling on Senator Calderon’s colleagues on the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee to reject SBX6 16 at a hearing on Wednesday, June 23. ASA appreciates the state’s need for additional tax revenue during these tough economic times. A more reasonable approach would be to seek wider compliance with the Board of Equalization (BOE) ruling from October of 2005, which requires patients’ collectives and cooperatives to pay sales tax at the normal rate. This could bring large sums of money into state coffers without creating additional economic hardships for sick and dying Californians who lawfully use medical cannabis. (ASA opposes the application of sales tax to medical cannabis, but supports compliance with the BOE ruling until the law changes.) Research conducted by ASA shows that regulating medical cannabis is beneficial for communities, and revenue issues should be a part of a comprehensive regulatory strategy. However, SBX6 16 is a premature effort. Revenue issues must be addressed along with other crucial issues – (1) inconsistencies in local policies on sales of cannabis, (2) clarity on the scope and nature of conduct permitted under the law, (3) licensing and legal protection for cannabis growers, and (4) protection for patients’ civil rights. ASA is willing to work with lawmakers on sensible and comprehensive legislation in the future. Please join ASA in opposing SBX6 16 before Wednesday’s hearing. You can contact members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee from the committee web page. Tell them to vote no on SBX6 16.
Jun 142010

Troubling Trend of $1 Million Bails in Medical Marijuana Cases - Americans for Safe Access

A troubling trend of excessive bails in medical marijuana cases has begun to occur over the past month. The operators of a long-standing Santa Barbara dispensary, currently held on $1 million bail each, are the latest victims of this unprovoked attack on medical marijuana providers. On Friday, the Santa Barbara Police Department and Sheriff’s Department raided HortiPharm, a medical marijuana dispensary operated by Joshua and Dayli Braun. Police also raided a restaurant owned by Dayli Braun, and several other locations, seizing large amounts of medical marijuana and growing equipment, and arresting a total of 7 people. According to reports received today by Americans for Safe Access, the District Attorney has issued a warrant for HortiPharm’s bookkeeper and also intends to hold him on $1 million bail. Less than three weeks ago, on May 26th, a San Fernando Valley dispensary operator was held on $1 million bail after Sheriffs from Los Angeles and Ventura raided two of his distribution facilities and Ventura County home. Needless to say, holding people on $1 million bail is rare and typically reserved for people accused of seriously violent acts, not for those simply providing medicine to patients. In theory, we are supposed to be protected from unreasonable bail under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Arguably, the excessive bails we are seeing in recent medical marijuana cases are a violation of those rights. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office claims that HortiPharm violated the terms of the Compassionate Use Act, but has failed to provide any evidence. And, do such claims even justify holding people on million dollar bails? Two recent acquittals of dispensary operators by jury trial in San Diego have shown that criminal prosecution may not be the best way to address the issue of medical marijuana distribution. Local officials in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura and elsewhere would do better to approach alleged local or state law violations with civil, not criminal, actions. Keeping people needlessly locked up using excessive bail is not the right approach for a public health issue like medical marijuana.
Jun 112010

Calaveras Sheriff Brazenly Engages in Identity Theft to Entrap Medical Marijuana Provider - Americans for Safe Access

Stooping to a new low, local law enforcement in California has resorted to identity theft in order to entrap, arrest and prosecute law-abiding medical marijuana providers. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department has admitted to using the physician’s recommendation and identity of legal medical marijuana patient Robert Shaffer in order to entrap and arrest Jay Smith, operator of the local “K Care Alternative Collective” dispensary. The Sheriff’s Department was in possession of Shaffer’s documentation as a result of an unrelated arrest. Despite complying with state law by refusing to sell Deputy Sheriff Steve Avila any medical marijuana before verifying the recommendation that he fraudulently used, Smith is still being prosecuted for felony marijuana sales and transportation. Surprisingly, at a recent hearing, Calaveras County Superior Court Judge Douglas Mewhinney overlooked Smith’s compliance with the law and said there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Shaffer’s physician, Dr. Philip A. Denney of Carmichael, verified that Shaffer was indeed a patient when K Care contacted Dr. Denney’s office after Deputy Avila deceptively used Shaffer’s valid medical marijuana recommendation. Dr. Denney, upset that his patient, Robert Shaffer, did not authorize such use of his medical records, told The Record that the investigation against Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
Dr. Philip Denney: The prosecution of Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
Calaveras Sheriff Dennis Downum defended the actions of Deputy Avila, but seemed confused about the letter of the law. In an appearance before the Calaveras Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Downum claimed erroneously that, “to provide medical marijuana to someone, there has to be a caregiver relationship.” In fact, if Sheriff Downum had brushed up on the law, he would have realized that for Smith to be in compliance with state law, he must operate as a collective or cooperative, not as a “caregiver.” While Sheriff Downum has no excuse to be ignorant of the law he’s upheld to enforce, Calaveras District Attorney Jeff Tuttle has no excuse to falsely prosecute Smith based on the same flawed interpretation of state law. In an interview with the Calaveras Enterprise, Tuttle echoed Sheriff Downum and said that his “understanding of the law is that…you have to be a primary caregiver to provide [patients] with marijuana.” In response to accusations of impropriety, District Attorney Tuttle said:
Law enforcement officers and investigations are allowed to do many things that as citizens we would be penalized criminally for, but the reason they are is that they are doing it as part of an investigation. They can mislead people, they can lie they can try to trick people.
Smith’s attorney, Ean Vizzi, called Tuttle’s assertions “absolutely incorrect,” not knowing whether Tuttle was just “mistaken or [if] he’s purposefully ignoring the law.” Sheriff Downum and Distriact Attorney Tuttle should not be let off the hook so easily. At best, they have seriously misinterpreted California’s medical marijuana law, and at worst the Sheriff could be responsible for “investigatorial misconduct” against Smith and Shaffer. If it’s determined that the Sheriff’s Department has violated any ethical or legal standards by assuming Shaffer’s identity to entrap Smith, the case against Smith should be promptly dismissed and Sheriff Downum should have to face the legal consequences.
Feb 042009

VICS Constitutional Challenge of Health Canada Medical Cannabis Program Successful! - Americans for Safe Access

  • February 04, 2009 10:58 AM
This post was written by Philippe Lucas, founder & executive director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS), founder of Canadians for Safe Access, and member of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. It is with great pleasure that I announce the successful outcome of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS) Constitutional challenge of Health Canada's medical cannabis program and practice.  On Monday, February 2nd 2009 Justice Koenigsberg ruled that the federal regulations limiting the number of people who could grow cannabis in one location, and the rules limiting the number of patients that a producer could grow for were arbitrary, served no public interest, and were therefore unconstitutional. She stayed her decision for one year in order to allow the federal government to amend their medical cannabis regulations to reflect her ruling. Although Justice Koenigsberg went on to find the defendant, Mr. Mat Beren - who was in charge of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society's production and research facility - guilty of cannabis possession and cultivation for the purpose of trafficking, she then immediately granted him an absolute discharge, essentially exonerating him of all charges.   In granting Mr. Beren the discharge, the judge stated that "In my view, it would be contrary to public interest for Mr. Beren to have criminal record.  If ever there was a case where an absolute discharge is appropriate, it's this one."  She also urged Health Canada to establish regulations that would legally authorize organizations like the Vancouver Island Compassion Society that are legitimately helping medical cannabis patients through research and distribution to continue their good work without the ongoing threat of arrest and prosecution. This important legal decision came about as result of a nearly five year Charter challenge which stemmed from a 2004 police raid on the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Cannabis Research Institute (VITCRI), a cannabis production, research and breeding facility owned and operated by the Vancouver Island Compassion Society.  The judge has yet to issue a written decision, and we will make it available as soon as it becomes available. This marks the fifth time that this program has been found unconstitutional since 2001, and although it is a major victory for Canadian medical cannabis patients and those working to help them, the decision didn't address and remedy ongoing access problems.   Judge Koenigsberg noted that Health Canada has only granted legal access to medical cannabis to about 2600 people so far, despite there being between 400,000 and 1 million medical cannabis patients in Canada, but failed to find the access regulations unconstitutional.  However, as a result of her ruling patients will be able to benefit from the economies of scale in regards to the production of their medicine, and experienced cultivators will have more freedom and motivation to assist authorized patients. The VICS and its 850 members would like to thank our amazing legal team for this historic victory.  Lawyers Kirk Tousaw and John Conroy QC both worked tirelessly on this challenge at greatly reduced legal rates, and they deserve much of the credit for this win.  We'd also like to thank our lay and expert witnesses, who gave so much of themselves and whose testimony formed the foundation for Justice Koenigsberg's historic decision.  Lastly, a huge thanks to our supporters in both Canada and the U.S., particularly the Marijuana Policy Project, Robert Field, and the Drug Policy Alliance, without whose financial support this challenge would not have been possible.