Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Dec 012010

World AIDS Day 2010 - Americans for Safe Access

  • December 01, 2010 3:15 AM
Wednesday, December 1 marks the 23rd annual World AIDS Day. The theme of this important day this year is Universal Access and Human Rights, something we as members of the medical cannabis movement can certainly understand and get behind. ASA's website is going red for the day in recognition of this event.

Despite a lack of coverage of the AIDS pandemic, it is still very real and still very much a threat all over the world. According to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS' (UNAIDS) estimate, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV including 2.5 million children. These 33.3 million people are not just numbers - they are your friends, neighbors, partners, brothers, sisters, parents, children, husbands, wives and co-workers. AIDS is not just someone else's problem - it is a crisis that affects us all, and it is up to us to stand in support of our fellow human beings with HIV/AIDS this World AIDS Day and every day.

So this Wednesday, do something to support those living with HIV/AIDS. Light a candle in remembrance or support, wear a red ribbon, practice safe sex, educate someone on the importance of prevention and early detection. And please, take a moment to honor the commitment and sacrifices of patient advocates past and present. To find out how else you can get involved, visit the World AIDS Day 2010 Events Calendar.
Nov 302010

Congress Critters Seek IRS Clarification - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 30, 2010 6:24 AM

...And the hits just keep coming!

Despite the DOJ memo and our best efforts the federal government continues to engage innovative tactics to continue their campaign of interference with state medical marijuana laws.   The latest tactic is to use an antiquated tax code to prohibit medical marijuana dispensing facilities from taking IRS deductions and credits attributed to amounts paid or incurred during the taxable year. ASA has confirmed that several medical cannabis collectives in California are now being (and have in the past been) targeted by this very law under the guise of federal tax audits.  These “audits” seem to be unfairly applied, especially as they appear to target the largest collectives serving the greatest percentage of the population.

For the patients  who rely on the access to medicine these collectives provide, enforcement of this provision could result in a number of unanticipated consequences.  Without doubt, collectives will be forced to raise the cost of medicine and services in order to compensate for the loss of a deduction/credit.  It’s possible that some collectives may simply stop filing federal tax returns, which may jeopardize the integrity of the collective and put patients in harm’s way.  And, in the worst case, collectives will simply shut their doors, forcing what are otherwise well regulated facilities back to the underground.

To combat this issue ASA has enlisted the leadership of Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), known as one of the nation's foremost advocates of tax reform.  Mr. Stark has championed a “Request for a Revenue Ruling on Allowing Legal Marijuana Dispensaries to Take Trade or Business Deductions.”   Mr. Stark and a handful of Congressional colleagues who also serve as senior members of the relevant oversight committees including Ways & Means, Joint Taxation, Banking, and Judiciary have cosigned a letter requesting that the IRS issue a revenue ruling - or similar pronouncement upon which all taxpayers may rely - concerning deductions for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Revenue Request represents an initial step toward a final solution and ASA will continue our dialogue with Congress and Administration officials about this issue.   These ongoing and indirect tactics underscore a need for Congress to provide a solution to the growing divide between state and federal laws concerning the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  In the meantime, PLEASE visit the following webpages and offer these allies your personal thanks and sincere appreciation for their leadership on this important issue.

Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA/13) Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA/17) Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ/7) Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA/4) Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA/39) Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO/2)
A senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he is currently the Chairman of its Health Subcommittee.
Nov 242010

It's Official... ASA Wins Big! - Americans for Safe Access

Like most of the country we had mixed feelings about the mid-term elections. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, there were gains and concessions, reliefs and disappointments. But, there was one race that changed everything—one election that leveraged our movement so greatly things will never be the same.

If you don’t live in California you may not have heard much about our Attorney General race. Steve Cooley was running for AG with the most blatant anti-patient platform this country has ever seen. Hand picked by the cops and funded by rightwing political strategist Karl Rove, Cooley made no small effort to let voters know that if he were elected he would do everything in his power to eradicate medical marijuana for California.



Knowing how important the success of California’s safe access program is in directing the rest of the country, we threw the full weight of ASA into this race; galvanizing our community, educating Californians and mobilizing voters. We built coalitions, created strategic marketing videos and fervently developed our field.

We watched the results pour in November 2nd, excited when he was down and nervous as his numbers went back up. Our office held our breath as the outcome seemed to change every hour. At around mid-night it was clear we weren’t going to have an answer, and we went to bed crossing our fingers that we would wake up to good news.

Well, as you may know we didn’t get that good news for another three weeks. Today, we found out—patients won! Steve Cooley was defeated, and California’s safe access is protected.

And, while this is great news for the west coast it’s even better news for us nationally, because ASA has established medical cannabis patients as a real player in the electoral landscape. This election was won by only the smallest margin of votes. It is clear to every political expert in the country that it was the patient community that swung this election, and it will be ASA that will continue to swing elections as long as our patients’ rights are in jeopardy. You saw us win in California, now help us win nation-wide.

Every ounce of weight and leverage we have is because of our members. YOU are ASA! It is our members that supported this effort, and a special thanks to members David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and to the American Cannabis Research Institute’s Ben Bronfman and Matt Atwood for their generous support.

We need your support, too. You are protecting your rights when you help us fight back and win big victories like this. ASA will be there for the next battle, if you help us do it.
Join ASA today and make sure this win is heard across the country—make sure that when you need help, we’ll be there too.

 

 

 
Nov 242010

Set your DVR...'Waiting to Inhale' premiers on TV!! - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 24, 2010 3:47 AM
Americans for Safe Access in partnership with Jed Riffe Films is pleased to inform you that the award winning documentary, WAITING TO INHALE,  will have its national broadcast TV premiere on two cable networks in the coming weeks. The first airing of "Waiting to Inhale" is taking place today, Wednesday the 24th at 10:30pm pacific/1:30am eastern with several encore airings throughout the week.  The LINKTV premiere is part of their pledge week activities -- so give 'em a little love!  You can find LINKTV on channel 375 on both Dish TV and Direct TV. The premiere on Free Speech TV is set for Sunday, December 19, 9pm EST/6PM PST which is now airing on Direct TV channel 348, and DISH Network channel 9415. These broadcasts provide advocates an excellent opportunity to reach audiences who have not yet seen the film, especially in non-medical marijuana states where education is desperately needed.  Set your DVR so that you can share this documentary with your friends and loved ones whenever you want.
Nov 232010

LA Supervisors Fumble - Americans for Safe Access

[caption id="attachment_1019" align="alignleft" width="106" caption="Supervisor Antonovich"]
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Los Angeles County Supervisors voted 4-1 today to ban medical cannabis collectives in the unincorporated communities of the county, overturning a 2006 ordinance regulating safe access. The vote was in response to concerns about public safety following high-profile violence in the City of Los Angeles and the proliferation of un-permitted collectives in the county. Today’s vote should be a wakeup call for patients and advocates all over California. Bad press and public perception can roll back progress on medical cannabis.



Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a long-time medical cannabis opponent, started the push to ban collectives in June, after media coverage about multiple shootings at collectives in the City of Los Angeles stoked community concerns about safety. It should have been a short debate. Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina, and Don Knabe all supported the regulations in 2006; and newly-elected Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas voted to support patients’ rights as a state Assemblymember in 2008. But much of that goodwill evaporated as Supervisors watched neighborhood concerns(and media coverage) rise along with the number of illegal collectives in cities and unincorporated areas.

Patients and advocates must be vigilant for turning tides of public opinion. Long term trends are towards greater acceptance and support for medical cannabis. But opponents like Supervisor Antonovich will continue to seize on short comings and neighborhood ambivalence to push back whenever they can. Antonovich did not have to prove a correlation between collectives and violence. He only had to raise the issue and let the media zeitgeist carry the day.

The facts are on our side. Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience of the last fourteen years prove that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints. In fact, collectives can make a neighborhood safer. Even Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters in January that the idea that collectives attract crime “doesn’t really bear out.” It is too bad for patients in Los Angeles County that Supervisors just were not listening.

Los Angeles County Supervisors fumbled today when they banned medical cannabis collectives. The ban will prevent law-abiding patients from operating collectives, but do little to close the un-permitted collectives causing so much hand-wringing in the county. In casting this unfortunate vote, the majority ignored input from a small, but dedicated, segment of community that fought the ban for the last five months. We can only hope cooler heads prevail after headlines celebrating the crackdown have faded, Supervisors claim victory, and advocates start the hard work of changing this bad policy.
Nov 222010

Leonhart Gets a Pass - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 22, 2010 5:46 AM
On Wednesday, November 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened for the nomination hearing of Michele Leonhart for the position of Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In preparation, ASA had submitted questions for the committee members to ask Ms. Leonhart, hoping that she would finally be taken to task for ignoring statements issued by the President, Attorney General, and Assistant Attorney General regarding ceasing raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. As both Deputy Administrator and Administrator, Ms. Leonhart has been behind an extremely large number of these paramilitary type raids on dispensaries, and ASA implored committee members to ask her why these raids were continuing, why she was continuing to prosecute those who were "in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law." Instead, Ms. Leonhart was praised for her work. Senators Franken and Klobuchar were both proud to claim the native Minnesotan as one of their own and Senator Feinstein was pleased to note that Ms. Leonhart and her family currently reside in California. The only real questioning on marijuana came that afternoon from Senator Jeff Sessions of Georgia (seemingly the only Republican Senator present and definitely the only one who asked any questions of Ms. Leonhart), and that was in regard to legalization. Senator Sessions believes legalizing is dangerous and the wrong thing to do and praised Ms. Leonhart agreed with him. This led to Ms. Leonhart's only comment of the day that was truly pertinent to medical marijuana when she said that she and the DEA would continue to enforce federal drug laws regardless of state law. It looks like we can expect more of the same old from the DEA in the near future.
Nov 152010

Call the Senate Judiciary Committee Today! - Americans for Safe Access

  • November 15, 2010 3:20 AM
The elections are over and it's time to get back to work! Michele Leonhart, President Obama's nominee to head the Drug Enforcement Administration, is scheduled to be confirmed by the US Senate Judiciary Committee the afternoon of Wednesday, November 17. As the deputy director of the DEA, Ms. Leonhart supervised an unprecedented level of   raids on medical marijuana dispensaries designed to undermine safe access and the implementation of state medical marijuana programs. Take Action Now! Demand Senators Ask the DEA Nominee Some Tough Questions! In October of 2009, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys discouraging the use of federal resources to prosecute individuals who are in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with their state compassionate use laws. Since then, ASA has tracked more than 30 federal enforcement raids in California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada. Despite these tactics, more states are adopting regulations to authorize safe access to marijuana for medical purposes. Negotiating the growing divide between state and federal medical marijuana laws will be among the toughest domestic policy challenges facing the next DEA Administrator. The DEA should do more to reconcile the conflict between state and federal laws, but ASA questions whether Ms. Leonhart possesses the leadership necessary to facilitate this change. Tell Senators that More Must be Done to Resolve the Conflict ASA is leading the call for compassionate and responsible leadership at the highest levels of government and we need your help. Call Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them to examine Ms. Leonhart's record closely. Urge them to use the hearing to determine whether Ms. Leonhart is committed to working with Congress and state officials to develop a comprehensive medical marijuana strategy that respects state law and facilitates safe access to marijuana for therapeutic use and research. Phone calls make a difference! Tell Senators on the Judiciary Committee that more should be done to reconcile the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws. Demand that these Senators ask Michele Leonhart the tough questions. PHONE SCRIPT Hello.  My name is ______________.  I am calling to urge Senators on the Judiciary committee to ask Michele Leonhart some tough questions during her confirmation hearing this week.  President Obama’s pick to head the DEA authorized hundreds of paramilitary-style enforcement raids on patients and providers who were in clear compliance with their state medical marijuana laws. These raids are a waste of resources and I think more needs to be done to resolve the growing conflict between state and federal law.  Please ensure that the next DEA Administrator possesses the leadership necessary to create a national strategy that supports safe and legal access to marijuana for medical purposes.   Members of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary                     Democrats    
Senator Leahy VT (202) 224-4242
Senator Kohl WI (202) 224-5653
Senator Feinstein CA (202) 224-3841
Senator Feingold WI (202) 224-5323
Senator Specter PA (202) 224-4254
Senator Schumer NY (202) 224-6542
Senator Durbin IL (202) 224-2152
Senator Cardin MD (202) 224-4524
Senator Whitehouse RI (202) 224-2921
Senator Klobuchar MN (202) 224-3244
Senator Franken MN (202) 224-5641
     
For ideas on questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask Ms. Leonhart, see ASA's confirmation questions here. For background on Ms. Leonhart and her anti-medical marijuana career with the DEA, check out ASA's Memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Nov 152010

Medical Marijuana Advocates Bring Attention to DEA Confirmation Hearings - Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access is urging Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) members to ask Acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head Michele Leonhart difficult and pointed questions on Wednesday, during her confirmation hearing, about her plan to address the growing divide between federal and state medical marijuana laws. Leonhart, a Bush-holdover, led aggressive attacks for many years against medical marijuana patients and their providers, and has obstructed meaningful research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. Read more about Leonhart’s confirmation hearing, her background as Deputy DEA Administrator, the questions ASA has submitted to the SJC, and the action patients are taking to hold Leonhart accountable for her actions.

[caption id="attachment_993" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart"]
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Nov 152010

DC Medical Marijuana Law Advances Toward Implementation with New Revised Regulations - Americans for Safe Access

D.C. medical marijuana patient advocates claimed partial victory, as a new set of revised rules and regulations were published by the District on Friday. The biggest achievement for patients, which was recently underscored by DCist.com, was wresting the licensing control from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) and placing it into the hands of more experienced healthcare providers. Although Americans for Safe Access (ASA) takes issue with other aspects of the regulations, such as the prohibition on patients cultivating their own medical marijuana, ASA intends to work with Mayor-elect Gray on reversing counter-productive and harmful provisions, building a strong and representative licensing board, and effectively meeting patients' needs. After voting for Initiative 59, the “Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998,” more than 12 years ago, D.C. patients are ready to implement the law.
Nov 132010

Victory in Arizona! - Americans for Safe Access

Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, making that state the 15th to legalize medical cannabis. Supporters are celebrating the results after ten days of uncertainty during which victory seemed to be slipping away. Patients and advocates deserve congratulations. Proposition 203 is an important step forward for Arizona and in the state-by-state march to bring safe access to patients nationwide. Adopting state initiatives and passing legislation is a crucial step, but we can see from our experience that state medical cannabis laws do not necessarily translate into support from the state’s Congressional delegation. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal since 1996, long-time Senators Feinstein and Boxer have yet to pick up the mantle of safe access. Control of the US House of Representatives has shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans. This will test the Obama Administration’s evolving policy on state-based answers for medical cannabis. It is more important than ever that Americans for Safe Access (ASA) bring an educated and empowered constituency with real solutions to the table. We have to show policymakers how to bridge the divide between federal and state laws regarding medical cannabis – and prove that there is a safe political space to make it happen. Let’s celebrate our victory in Arizona; and then get down to the hard work of moving Congress and changing federal law. We still have a lot of work to do in ending the arrests and prosecutions of patients, ending the ban on research, and creating an access plan for the entire nation. Suggested Action: Email the US Senate Judiciary Committee about confirmation hearings for DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.