Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Jan 072011

It IS a Chronic Problem - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 07, 2011 5:26 PM
On September 8, 2010, several search warrants were executed at dispensaries across Las Vegas.  Federal agents, assisted by local law enforcement, seized medicine, cash, and closed these dispensaries, proving that the Obama Administration AND the Department of Justice are not agencies of their word. On December 17, 2010, 3 criminal complaints were filed behind closed doors in federal court, and on January 6, 2011, these complaints were unsealed and 15 arrest warrants were issued.  Providers across Las Vegas and the entire state are under attack.  The joint task force is calling this siege Operation Chronic Problem.  Well, at least they've got one thing right.  Federal interference with state implementation of medical marijuana laws has been, and continues to be, a chronic problem. Stay tuned for news about this case, and we'll keep you in the loop about our next action to DEMAND an end to these raids and prosecutions. For the complaints, see here, here, and here. For more information about the arrests, see here and here.
Dec 312010

Happy New Year! - Americans for Safe Access

Happy New Year from Americans for Safe Access (ASA)!

We look forward to working with all of our members and friends to promote safe and affordable access for every patient in 2011. Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment.
Dec 302010

Aggressive Police Actions Taken Against SLO Medical Marijuana Delivery Services - Americans for Safe Access

A Narcotics Task Force (NTF) made up of local and state law enforcement agencies aggressively raided 5 collectively-run San Luis Obispo County medical marijuana delivery services on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, arresting at least 13 people on felony charges and holding them on bails of up to $100,000. Several of those arrested were charged with child endangerment, after Child Protective Services (CPS) removed at least 6 children from the homes of 3 different families. One of the people arrested on Monday suffered a heart attack because of the police raid and was taken to a local emergency room before being arrested. As of Thursday afternoon, at least four people were still in jail unable to raise bail. Read the ASA press release for more information.
Dec 242010

Happy Holidays from ASA! - Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) wishes all of our members and friends a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season! What better way to share the holiday spirit than gifts that promote safe access? Giving ASA gear to your family and friends helps spread the message of change. And all the proceeds go to fight for patients rights and advance safe access for everyone. For gifts that make a difference, checkout ASA's online store today!
Dec 222010

LA Court Rejects Strict Dispensary Ordinance, Officials Respond with Greater Restrictions - Americans for Safe Access

On December 10th, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr ruled in the case Americans for Safe Access v. City of Los Angeles, which involves more than 100 plaintiffs, that the city's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance was too restrictive. Relying on the recent landmark decision in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Mohr held that state law forbids such onerous restrictions on local distribution. However, some LA City Council Members must not have read the decision.



Judge Mohr's 40-page ruling was a shot in the arm for advocates of safe access to medical marijuana. Though unpublished, Judge Mohr's ruling clearly emphasized the need for local distribution and called for a functional regulatory scheme in Los Angeles to implement it.

Specifically, Judge Mohr found that:
"[T]he State of California authorized certain people to operate collectives," and "the [Los Angeles] Ordinance denies without due process of the law the statutorily conferred right to operate a collective."

Going out of his way to make the point, Judge Mohr warned all California cities that wholesale or de facto bans against local medical marijuana dispensaries are in violation of state law:
"[I]n discharging its powers and duties under the police power, the City must not lose sight of the fact that the People of the State of California have conferred on qualified patients the right to obtain marijuana for medical purposes. No local subdivision should be allowed to curtail that right wholesale or regulate it out of existence."

The ruling also weighed in on the issue of "sales," or reimbursements for the cost and expense of running a medical marijuana dispensary. Contrary to the position that "sales" are illegal under state law held by staunch medical marijuana opponents like Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley who recently lost a bid for State Attorney General, Judge Mohr pointed to the 2008 Attorney General Guidelines, stating that:
"[U]nder proper conditions…a storefront dispensary can be a legitimate medical marijuana collective. The Guidelines also suggest that under proper circumstances, an exchange of money for medical marijuana is allowed."

In granting the preliminary injunction against enforcement of the city's ordinance, Judge Mohr also struck down the sunset clause banning dispensaries in two years unless the ordinance is reauthorized, and barred the city from disclosing to police the personal information of patients as a violation of their privacy rights.

[caption id="attachment_1114" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jan Perry"]
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[caption id="attachment_1115" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Bernard Parks"]
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However, instead of embracing Judge Mohr’s order, and his rejection of an overly restrictive ordinance, Los Angeles City Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry introduced a motion to completely ban distribution within the city limits. Completely ignoring Judge Mohr's ruling issued five days before the ban motion was filed, Parks and Perry claimed that it was "in the best interest of the City…to ban medical marijuana dispensaries," pointing to crime as the rationale.

Parks and Perry also apparently ignored the crime data of their own Police Chief, Charlie Beck. In a 2009 study, Chief 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. In response to his report, Chief Beck observed that:
"banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,"

and the claim that dispensaries attract crime:
"doesn’t really bear out."

Parks, Perry and the rest of the Los Angeles City Council ought to reconsider what’s in the best interest of the City and heed Judge Mohr's order. Furthermore, the Council should work better with the patient community to craft an ordinance that will meet their needs and one that is not overly restrictive or simply a sweeping reaction to sensationalized safety concerns.

The case will now proceed to trial as long as Judge Mohr’s decision isn't appealed by the City of Los Angeles, an action that is unwarranted but likely.
Dec 172010

San Diego Dispensary Operator Sentenced, Advocates Vow to Appeal - Americans for Safe Access

On Wednesday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore told a crowded courtroom of patient advocates:
“Medical marijuana is a scam.”

[caption id="attachment_1101" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Jovan Jackson (right) and attorney Lance Rogers at Jackson's sentencing"]
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During his vitriolic rants, Judge Shore found time to sentence Jovan Jackson, a dispensary operator who was recently convicted after being denied a defense at trial. Judge Shore harshly sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail, and imposed a $5,000 fine and three years of probation, during which time Jackson is prohibited from using marijuana to legally treat his medical condition.

Unsurprisingly, Judge Shore also denied ASA’s motion for a new trial, based on double jeopardy and the denial of Jackson’s defense. This was the second time Jackson had been tried on the same charges-- the first time he was acquitted. Not satisfied with just skirting double jeopardy laws, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis fought to exclude Jackson’s defense on the most dubious grounds. Though not written into law, nor part of the 2008 California Attorney General guidelines on medical marijuana, the court held that most or all of Jackson’s patient membership must participate in the cultivation to be afforded a defense.

Judge Shore’s contempt for medical marijuana could also be seen in other ways than just his bombastic statements from the bench. For example, patients were required to pass through a second metal detector placed directly outside the courtroom, a requirement unique to Jackson’s hearing. And, although there was no jury to influence at Jackson’s sentencing hearing, his supporters were once again prevented from brandishing Americans for Safe Access (ASA) logos on their shirts or bags, as if doing so would injure the court’s sensibilities. Judge Shore had imposed similar restrictions during Jackson’s trial.

Judge Shore also ignored -- at his own peril -- the recent Los Angeles Superior Court decision and its affirmation of dispensaries’ right to operate in accordance with local and state laws. To make the laws less ambiguous, the LA court recommended more decisive regulations, rather than impeding the efforts of the patient community. Contradicting Judge Shore’s interpretation of state law, the LA court ruled in its unpublished decision that the Medical Marijuana Program Act,
“does not deal with issues like who must be involved in the cultivation…”

The irony of San Diego’s failed efforts to adopt a meaningful regulatory ordinance is not lost on the city’s patients. The San Diego City Council has been trying unsuccessfully to pass a local law for months, a law that would license the same activity for which Jackson was just convicted and sentenced. Coincidence? Whether or not foul play can be attributed, the patient community is demanding reasonable regulations to set a standard for the area’s dozens of dispensaries to meet.

In the meantime, ASA will be appealing Jackson’s conviction and sentencing well before he is scheduled to surrender to authorities on February 1st. ASA will also argue for Jackson’s release on bail pending appeal. Stay tuned for more from San Diego in the fight for safe access.
Dec 132010

With Great Hope - Americans for Safe Access

Another year is winding down and our movement has added more amazing victories to our impressive list. From taking down anti-medical marijuana AG candidate Steve Cooley to passing access regulations in Washington DC, ASA has shown the power of grassroots patient advocacy. With a new year looming, this is a great time to reflect and to think about what the future will bring. As a patient advocate, this is the time that I think about how I personally contributed to creating safe and legal access and what that commitment will look like next year. As Executive Director of ASA, it is my job and commitment to our members to look at the national landscape and to prepare our movement for the challenges and opportunities coming.  Part of that preparation this year was traveling across the country, taking the pulse of our movement by hosting five and six hour-long strategic planning meetings with our community.  In every city, I met individuals with medical conditions that made every moment of their life a struggle as well as individuals at the end of their lives - MS patients with months to live, women whose cancer had progressed passed treatment, a forty year old with ALS so severe he needed specialized equipment to communicate. Over and over again I was moved to tears by the passion and commitment of our members. Members who may not be around to see the results of their organizing but still want to be a part of change. Members who, despite great discomfort, are advocating so that YOU and I can have safe access. As a member of ASA, you are connecting these individuals into a movement. As a member of ASA, you are making sure that our patient advocates have the resources they need to be effective and strategic. We held meetings with our communities this year because we thought that was the right way to win; now we know that it’s the only way to win. Safe and legal access will only happen if WE, the movement, make it happen. We’re in a unique position this year to take your voice to the top. We have political capital built up and we’re ready to spend it. Because of our wins last year, your contribution today will go further than it ever has before. Help us take your voice to DC. We all have a role in this movement. I’ve told you about the passion and commitment of those at the end of their lives, those with the very least to gain and the invaluable role they’re playing. I believe one of my roles is to create a world where our terminally ill do not spend the last months of their lives in six-hour policy meetings and we need your contribution to make that happen. So the question now is, can you fulfill that role? Can you sacrifice a fraction of what they have given so that we can build a safer, fairer world? Thank you, as always, for your generous support. I wish for your happiness in the new year.
Dec 072010

LA Patients Protest County Ban - Americans for Safe Access



Fifty medical cannabis patients and advocates protested in front of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ meeting this morning in response to the Board’s 4-1 vote to ban medical cannabis collectives in unincorporated communities. Protesters cheered as motorists honked in support, including one Los Angeles Police Department squad car. Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed the ban earlier this year, in response to concerns over public safety and a handful of non-permitted collectives in the county.



The Board voted unanimously to adopt regulations in 2006, but the Regional Planning Commission has never issued a Conditional Use Permit for medical cannabis. Today’s ban is part of a statewide effort by law enforcement and medical cannabis opponents to push back on safe access. Orange County banned collectives at the same time as Los Angeles County, and Supervisors in Riverside County have abandoned plans to repeal the county’s ban. Fresno and Santa Barbara counties may not be far behind.

Today’s protest in Los Angeles is the first step in what may be a long campaign to change Supervisors’ minds. Americans for safe Access (ASA) and advocates are planning to counter opposition to medical cannabis by keeping the need for regulations on the front burner. They will be speaking at Board meetings, writing elected officials, and visiting county offices to keep the pressure on.  Advocates who wish to help should attend the LA-ASA chapter meeting on Saturday, December 18.

Read the ASA Press Release for today's protest on the ASA website.
Dec 062010

CA Supreme Court Denies Law Enforcement Request to Review Landmark Case - Americans for Safe Access

After years of wrangling in the Court of Appeal, medical marijuana patients, on August 18, 2010, obtained a published decision affirming that federal law does not preempt California law regarding medical marijuana collectives.  Dissatisfied with this outcome, numerous law enforcement organizations, including:  five former DEA Administrators, the Drug Free America Foundation, and the California State Sheriff’s Association, along with numerous cities and counties, filed requests for the California Supreme Court grant review and reach an opposite conclusion.  On Thursday, this came to and end, as six of the seven Justices of the California Supreme Court voted to decline review. This denial of review bodes well for medical marijuana patients, as there are now at least four published decisions affirming that federal law does not preempt California’s medical marijuana laws.  This has been an argument made by numerous localities to avoid abiding by California’s medical marijuana laws.  Although this latest decision does not officially put the matter to rest, it signals that the California Supreme Court does not seem to buy the federal preemption argument.  Chalk one up for the patients.
Dec 022010

"Driven to the back alleys" - Americans for Safe Access

LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and his colleagues on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission just overturned a ban on raves at the LA Coliseum. The Commission enacted a ban this summer after a 15-year old girl died of a drug overdose at a dance party with over 185,000 attendees. The LA Times reported Supervisor Knabe’s rationale for lifting the ban:
"There's a way to do it right where we protect the public and allow this opportunity to take place," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who serves on the commission and said he preferred regulating raves at the publicly owned venue rather than see them "driven to the back alleys."
Supervisor Knabe’s logic is sound, but his actions are inconsistent. Just nine days earlier, the Supervisor voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ collectives in the unincorporated communities of the county. He and his colleagues adopted the ban despite overwhelming opposition from community members, who asked instead for tighter regulations (the same kind the Commission will impose on raves). The advocates’ rationale was the same as the Supervisor’s. A ban just pushes medical cannabis back into the shadows, and that is bad for legal patients and their communities. So what is going on? Massive dance parties, where dangerous drug use is commonplace, are better regulated than banned. But legal medical cannabis patients’ collectives are too dangerous to regulate? That does not make sense. Research conducted by ASA and our experience over the last fourteen years tell us that sensible regulations for collectives reduce crime and complaints.  In fact, collectives can make a neighborhood safer. Oakland City Administrator Barbara Killey says the neighborhoods around her city’s regulated collectives are “some of the safest areas of Oakland now… since the ordinance passed." So why should legal collectives be “driven to the back alleys,” as Supervisor Knabe says? They should not. If Supervisors are worried about public safety, they can do what the Commission did – improve regulations. If they are worried about the small number of non-permitted collectives now operating in the county’s jurisdiction, they can take appropriate enforcement action. An outright ban, however, does nothing to protect public safety of stop non-permitted facilities. It only prevents legal patients’ collectives from obeying the law. The City of Los Angeles is slowing winnowing the number of collectives inside city limits, and many other cities in the county have bans or protracted moratoria on new collectives. There has never been a better time for the county to issue permits for qualified and well-vetted applicants pursuant to the sensible regulations adopted in 2006. Unfortunately, the decision to ban collectives raises doubt about whether or not legal patients and unincorporated communities will ever realize the proven benefits of regulations. That is a shame. At the end of the day, it will be legal patients who are “driven back to the alleys,” and that is not what LA County voters want. Los Angeles County patients and advocates will protest in front of the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 7, when the Supervisors will vote on final approval of the ban.