Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Jun 232011

Congress to AG Holder: Let States Implement Medical Marijuana Laws without Federal Interference - Americans for Safe Access



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week urging him to re-avow his commitment to an October 2009 memorandum that de-emphasized federal enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

The 2009 memo was drafted by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and sent to all of the U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states. Since then, some of those same U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 states, threatening some of them with criminal prosecution if they implement licensed production and distribution systems.

According to The Hill, Frank and Polis in their June 20th letter pointed to the stark divide between federal policy and practice:
Recent actions by United States Attorneys across the country have prompted states to deny patients safe and reliable access to their medicine.

Further emphasizing this point, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to Oakland, California City Attorney John Russo in February stating that the Justice Department:
will enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

Letters sent to lawmakers in the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington have killed, derailed or suspended the implementation of local medical marijuana laws. Frank and Polis responded to this intimidation by explaining how obstructing medical marijuana laws needlessly expends precious federal resources and “harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.”
There are now hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in states where the medication is legal. These patients will either purchase medical marijuana safely at state-regulated entities or seek it through unregulated channels in the criminal market.

Any day now, Holder is expected to announce a “clarification” to the Ogden memo. Patients and supporters are encouraged to contact his office and let Holder know that the federal government should let local and state governments implement their own medical marijuana laws and to focus on developing a federal policy that recognizes marijuana’s medical efficacy. Anything less would be a disservice to our most vulnerable.
Jun 142011

Oregon Officials: What's in it for us? - Americans for Safe Access

  • June 14, 2011 5:53 AM


On June 3, Oregon officials were told by local US Attorney Dwight Holton & several other law enforcement agencies including District Attorneys and Sheriffs' offices that Medical Cannabis Dispensaries "will not be tolerated."  State officials continue to hide behind the federal government, using the Controlled Substances Act as an explanation for refusing to regulate access and protect patients.  Meanwhile, state legislators looking to close a hole in the budget are looking at patients as a likely source of income. As reported by CNBC, legislators are considering doubling the annual fees for patient ID cards.



It's time for Oregon to to step up and implement regulations allowing safe access to medical cannabis across the state.  In addition, Oregon officials should demand that the federal government end the delay and answer the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis' Petition.  Once federal law changes, state officials will have no way to hide and will be forced to protect patients.  It is incomprehensible that Oregonian patients should be forced to pay the state $200 a year when those same patients are not even granted reliable access to medical cannabis.
Jun 132011

Imperial Beach to Ban Collective Cultivation; City Council Refuses to Implement State’s Medical Marijuana Laws - Americans for Safe Access

By: Eugene Davidovich and Marcus Boyd



Imperial Beach, CA - On June 15, 2011 at 7pm, the Imperial Beach City Council will discuss and vote to enact an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and all collective cultivation efforts in the City of Imperial Beach.

Although the staff report compiled for the June 15th meeting states, “the ordinances would not ban medical marijuana in the city,” the actual wording of the proposed law goes much further than merely banning storefronts. If approved, medical cannabis patients in Imperial Beach would be banned from associating to collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana, an activity explicitly authorized and protected under State Law.

The proposed ban severely limits legal access for seriously injured, sick and dying patients and their caregivers. Those with no space to cultivate, those without the requisite gardening skills to grow their own, and most critically those who face the sudden onset of serious illness, would be forced to ‘plow the fields’ themselves.

“Is that legal?” asked John, a resident of Imperial Beach and supporter of local dispensaries when told about the City’s proposed ban.

“The proposed restrictions are absurd and would serve to undermine the will of the people, not to mention the 2010 Grand Jury recommendations”, commented Terrie Best Board Member of the San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group.

In August of 2009 when the City first enacted it’s moratorium on dispensaries, City officials promised the community that they would be moving towards an ordinance regulating access rather than banning it. In December of 2010 however, after seeing a modern-day Reefer Madness, 'Smear with Fear' eradication show, presented by San Diego County Sheriff and self proclaimed medical marijuana expert, Detective Michael Helms from the Licensing Division, the City began to shift direction.

Recently, at the request of IB City officials Detective Helms once gain presented the County’s eradication show, this time to the Kiwanis Club of Imperial Beach. Following his presentation which was interrupted multiple times with questions and debate, it was clear that out of approximately ten Kiwanis members present at the meeting only one voiced opposition to well regulated dispensaries in the city.

IB residents and supporters of medical cannabis however, have not given up and have been busy writing and mailing letters to their Council members all urging them to adopt reasonable regulations instead of a ban.

“As part of the Imperial Beach Stop the Ban Campaign, volunteers have collected hundreds of letters all stamped and mailed to the attention of the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager” said Marcus Boyd, Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. “If the ordinances are approved as written, they will force sick and dying patients to obtain their medicine from illicit sources rather than from local, safe and regulated dispensing centers”.

One cannot help but wonder why the council members are favoring a ban at the expense of the City’s most vulnerable residents.

Concerned citizens and residents are urged to attend the June 15th City Council meeting no later than 7:00pm and speak out against the illegal ban. Sick and dying patients in the City of Imperial Beach deserve safe regulated access rather than a continued bias driven effort to overturn state law.

June 15th, 2011 – 7pm - Imperial Beach City Hall 825 Imperial Beach Blvd

Further Information:

Proposed Zoning Ordinance

Imperial Beach Proposed Ordinance Amending Business Licensing and Regulations

Staff Report for June 15th Meeting

Imperial Beach City Council Shifts Course on Dispensaries from Regulation to Eradication
Jun 092011

Another Bad Employment Law Decision - Americans for Safe Access



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an 8-1 decision, a third state supreme court -- in this case, the Washington Supreme Court -- issued a negative decision regarding the employment rights of medical marijuana patients.  In Jane Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Management, LLC, the Washington Supreme Court held that Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) does not provide any civil remedy to a medical patient who is terminated from employment because of testing positive for the off-site use of marijuana.

Following in the footsteps of the California Supreme Court's decision in Ross v. Ragingwire, the court held that Washington's MUMA provides a defense only to criminal sanctions, and does not afford any civil protection against discrimination by private employers.  But, as the dissent points out, MUMA expressly states that:
[a]ny person meeting the requirements appropriate to his or her status under [MUMA] shall be considered to have engaged in activities permitted under this chapter and shall not be penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, for such actions.

Thus, "Roe seems to be exactly the sort of person the people intended to protect."

The dissent concludes by "urg[ing] the legislature to thoughtfully review and improve the act," which is precisely what Americans for Safe Access has been seeking to do in the State of California and will continue to do so in next year's legislative session.  Studies have shown that medical marijuana use does not impair workplace safety.  It is about time that courts recognize this and provide employment protection to medical marijuana patients, as the voters intended.
Jun 092011

B-Real and I talk about the Spring Gathering - Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) volunteers will be screening medical cannabis patients for the designated smoking area at the Spring Gathering Music Festival & Medical Marijuana Exposition this Saturday in San Bernardino. ASA invites members and friends to enjoy the great artists and special guest speakers in the medical cannabis pavilion, including me! ASA and the Spring Gathering have created a safe space for legal patients to possess and use medical cannabis. Get all the details online. Artists include Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, Stephn Marley, Travis Barker, Mix Master Mike, and more!
Jun 062011

Tough year in Sacramento - Americans for Safe Access



This is shaping up as a tough year for medical cannabis in Sacramento. California Senators failed to vote on a bill by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would have protected legal medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is already working to build more support for SB 129 before it comes back to the Senate in January of 2012. Lawmakers also took no action on a proposal by Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) that would have established a statewide task force, including a representative from ASA, to study sales tax and other regulatory issues.



Two undesirable medical cannabis bills are moving forward in the legislature this year. The Senate approved SB 847 on Wednesday. Authored by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), this bill will require that medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens be located at least 600-feet from residential zones and uses statewide. Local governments can opt out of this broad restriction, but ASA fears the 600-foot buffer zone will become a de facto standard for the state. This new restriction would be in addition to the existing state law barring collectives from locating within 600 feet of a school and any local regulations. ASA is calling on members and advocates to oppose SB 847.

A second problematic bill is Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield’s (D-Van Nuys) AB 1300, which was approved in the Assembly on Friday. ASA and other advocates succeeded in securing an amendment to AB 1300 that defined medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives as places where medicine is grown or provided. The word “or” is significant. Some lawmakers and police officers hold that patients can only grow medicine together, not provide it to other members of the collective in exchange for a monetary reimbursement (a position ASA rejects).  Unfortunately, the advocates’ amendment was removed at the last minute, leaving only the provisions in AB 1300 that authorize local government to regulate the location, operation, and establishment of cooperatives and collectives. ASA has withdrawn support for the bill, given concerns it may promote bans and criminal enforcement against patients’ associations.

Growing ambivalence towards medical cannabis is a challenge for advocates, who are eager to see better state and local regulations. But wary lawmakers fear that support for pro-medical cannabis legislation could be used against them – especially given uncertainty about what will be a safe or vulnerable District after this year’s first-ever non-partisan re-districting. We will have to work hard to keep lawmakers focused on the needs of legal patients, instead of reacting to unlicensed dispensaries, lenient doctors, and patients who “don’t look sick.” We may know that these are misperceptions, but we have a lot to do to convince our elected representatives.

ASA is working hard to train an army of medical cannabis advocates to support sensible regulations and oppose misguided proposals. Let’s hope our innovative Online Training Center and new Think Tank and Policy Shop help support the grassroots campaign we need statewide. You can do your part by supporting ASA. Join today and participate in action alerts aimed at protecting safe access and patients’ rights.
Jun 062011

Patient Advocates Urge AG Holder to Clarify Federal Medical Cannabis Policy - Americans for Safe Access

  • June 06, 2011 8:35 AM
Americans for Safe Access is mobilizing its base to seek specific clarification from Holder regarding the Ogden memo and the Department of Justice policy related to medical cannabis. Holder made comments at a press conference in Providence, Rhode Island on June 2, 2011 indicating that he would clarify federal law on this issue.  Patient advocates across the country are urging Holder to listen to them and issue the following simple statement:
The federal government will not arrest and prosecute local and state officials and others who are lawfully complying with medical cannabis laws.
The patient community has been the most directly affected by the ambiguity of the Ogden memo, and want to be included in the conversation to clarify it.  You too can take action, and suggest that Holder issue a policy statement to end federal interference with those who comply with state law.
Jun 052011

First Permitted Medical Marijuana Coop to Open in San Diego County Unincorporated Area - Americans for Safe Access

















By: Eugene Davidovich























Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative Inc, the first medical marijuana dispensing center officially permitted by San Diego County and in full compliance with the County Ordinance adopted almost a year ago, will open its doors in July 2011.

In order to truly grasp the importance and magnitude of the first permitted Coop opening in San Diego County and what this means for the safe access community, it is important to understand the background and history leading up to this day.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is made up of five elected officials all of whom have been in office for almost two decades and have uniformly been opposed to medical marijuana. The Supervisors’ opposition has not been all ideological. In fact, they have continued to ignore and refuse to implement any provisions of the State’s medical marijuana laws for years.

On February 1, 2006 after receiving multiple threats of lawsuits from the San Diego chapter of NORML for refusing to implement the state mandated Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program, the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) filed suit against the State challenging the law requiring them to issue the cards. The BOS claimed federal law prohibiting marijuana, preempted California’s requirement to implement the card program and if the County complied, they would be doing so in violation of Federal law.

In July of 2006, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Drug Reform Law Project (DLRP), and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) intervened in the civil lawsuit.

In the case now titled, County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML, ASA argued State law is not preempted by Federal law and that the County of San Diego was required to comply. Attorneys for ASA and the ACLU presented their arguments in San Diego Superior Court on November 16, 2006. Within a month in December of that year, Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. issued a decision rejecting the County’s challenge, siding with patients, and confirming California’s medical marijuana laws.

Despite the clear decision issued by Judge Nevitt, the BOS pressed on with their attempt to overturn State law and appealed the decision to the Fourth District Appellate Court, which on July 31, 2008 agreed with Judge Nevitt and denied the County’s challenge.

The BOS remained undeterred and County Counsel was directed to press on with the case to the California Supreme Court, which on October 16, 2008 also denied the county’s petition for review.

In a last ditch effort, the BOS filed a final appeal to the US Supreme Court and received their final denial on May 26, 2009. At this point the county had no choice but to start issuing ID cards.

Patients and medical marijuana advocates across the county celebrated this victory and were convinced the US Supreme Court’s decision would bring an end to the Supervisors’ war on the State’s medical marijuana laws.

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision and by this time, the new administration’s promise to stop raiding patients in compliance with State law, dispensaries began to open in the County.

True to their track record, the Supervisors did not give up on their bias driven fight. They shifted gears from focusing on the ID card program to targeting patients and their access directly.

On August 5, 2009 less than three months after the Supreme Court Decision, the BOS adopted an interim urgency ordinance enacting a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana facilities in the unincorporated areas of the County. This moratorium wrote into law a temporary prohibition on dispensaries in the County’s unincorporated areas.

In the meantime the BOS decided to deal with the already open dispensaries by allowing San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and the Narcotics Task Force on September 9, 2009 to conduct swat style raids on over 14 facilities operating within the County.

During the year long moratorium the BOS was intent on adopting an outright ban until their own legal counsel told them a ban may not be constitutional. To avoid another embarrassing loss in court, the BOS instead of enacting an outright ban, directed staff to craft a severely restrictive land use and public safety ordinance that would serve to accomplish the same goal.

On June 23, 2010 the BOS adopted their restrictive ordinance against the pleas of patients and advocates as well as a threatening letter from the ACLU.

The new ordinance allows Coops to open only if they are located in an industrial zone and are 1,000 feet away from the most comprehensive laundry list of sensitive uses ever created in the history of San Diego County zoning. The list includes: parks, churches, residences, schools, libraries, youth service facilities, other dispensaries, etc.

Leading up to the vote, a number of land use experts conducted an analysis of the zoning requirements in the ordinance and all reached the same conclusion; the majority of the ‘compliant’ properties were undeveloped and the remaining few made it practically impossible for facilities to quickly open. The chances of someone actually finding a property that met all the requirements were slim to none.

Patients and advocates were convinced the ordinance would ultimately result in no access in the County and following the passage of the new ordinance, San Diego ASA announced it as a de-facto ban.

Although the overly restrictive ordinance passed, patients still did not give up their struggle for safe access and many attempted to comply with the new rules.

A year later, only one Coop has been able to meet all the requirements. Situated in a 15,000 sq. ft. commercial building in an industrial zone next to Gillespie Field, once all construction is completed, the coop will include a small on-site cultivation area, a dispensing center, as well as a state of the art testing facility where all medicine prior to being dispensed to patients will go through on-site gas chromatography and mold/pesticide testing.

While some of the medicine will come from on-site cultivation, the majority as required by law will be cultivated by members at their homes and may go through an inspection by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Detective Helms, one of the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs in charge of licensing will conduct inspections, the purpose of which will be to insure patient cultivators are growing in a safe manner and with proper safeguards. If a problem is found during the inspection, Detective Helms will issue a notice to correct the violations and will re-inspect within 30 days.

Member cultivators may have no more than 6 mature and 12 immature plants per patient. If two patients are living together (i.e. married couple) and both have their recommendations and county cards, then they may posses 12 mature and 24 immature plants.

For those member cultivators whose conditions or the way they consume their medication require more than six and twelve plants, their physician recommendations will need to specify the amount of plants reasonable for their condition.

Source agreements issued by the coop will be kept with the plants as well as at the coop. The agreement will contain a phone number for a contact at the Sheriff’s Department in case any law enforcement encounter the cultivation effort and need to verify the legality of the source agreement.

“We have seen nothing but support and help from Detective Helms, Detective Hunting and others in licensing. While going through this process everyone has been focused on finally bringing safe access to San Diego County” said Bob Riedel, official spokesperson for the coop.

According to Bob, aside from creating a safe place for patients to obtain their medicine, the coop will be politically active in the community through support of Americans for Safe Access including providing a space for East County ASA meetings, financial support for the national organization, as well as support for other charities and local political efforts.

For more information or questions contact Bob Riedel at: motherearth434@live.com
Jun 032011

Delay on SB 129 means more time to build support - Americans for Safe Access

[caption id="attachment_1540" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="CA Senator Mark Leno"]
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Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has been working since 2006 to protect medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination. We represented medical cannabis patient Gary Ross in his appeal to the California Supreme Court in Ross v. Rangingwire Telecommunications. When the court failed to protect patients like Gary Ross from discrimination, we sponsored then-Assemblymember Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) AB 2279 to establish employment rights for legal patients. That bill passed the state legislature, but was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggr.

California Senator Mark Leno re-introduced this important legislation this year as SB 129. Many of you have already helped promote this important bill in the Senate, and we have a lot more work to do. Unfortunately, the bill will not come for a vote before the full Senate during this crowded legislative session. The upside is that we will have until January of 2013 to build support among voters, labor, employers, and patient advocates. Between now and the next session, I hope we can count on your continued support.

In the meantime, we need to focus on opposing Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847. Find out more about this misguided legislation and what you can do to help stop it today.
Jun 022011

AG Holder: DOJ is Working to “Clarify” Federal Position on Medical Marijuana - Americans for Safe Access



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a press conference earlier today in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was peppered with questions about medical marijuana. This is understandable, given that a month ago U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha sent a letter to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and other state officials threatening:
[C]ivil or criminal remedies against those individuals and entities who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries.

Holder responded that the White House policy outlined in the Ogden memo, which de-emphasized federal interference, “made sense given…the limited resources that we have.” Addressing the obvious discord between policy and practice, Holder said he was working in Rhode Island and other parts of the country to “clarify what this policy means and how the policy can be implemented.”

Holder further stated that:
What we have to do is try to effectuate that policy in a way that we give comfort to somebody who is using it appropriately.

Patient advocates are pleased that Holder wants to clarify this glaring contradiction in Justice Department policy. Rhode Island was not the only state to endure threats from U.S. Attorneys. The Justice Department sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 different states. These letters and the ongoing federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids occurring across the country have had a devastating impact on patients’ rights and safe access. Programs have been suspended not only in Rhode Island, but in Arizona and New Jersey as well. State and local laws were arguably curtailed by federal interference in California, Montana and Washington.

Holder did say that he wants the process of clarifying federal policy to involve “dialog” and “communication.” We certainly hope he includes patients -- the ones directly affected by these policies -- in the dialog. But, we’re not waiting for his invitation so stay tuned for ways to make your voice heard.