Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Yesterday was a historic day for the medical marijuana movement. SJR 20, a resolution that calls for an end to DEA attacks on California’s medical cannabis patients and providers, cleared the California Senate Health Committee.
Unsurprisingly, the votes came down on party lines. One Republican Senator stated that there is a pill that patients could use instead of smoking marijuana. Committee Chairwoman Sheila Kuehl responded that a pill did exist (Marinol), but that it is too strong for many patients. It's good to know that many of our state representatives are well educated on this issue and willing to stand up for patients and providers.
Californians have good reason to rejoice about this win. The resolution, authored by Senator Carole Migden, not only calls on the DEA to leave patients and providers alone, but further calls on the President and Congress to enact federal legislation to end the raids. If passed, this will be the first time in U.S. history that a state legislature has denounced the DEA’s interference in state laws and tactics used against medical cannabis patients and providers.
Unfortunately, even as our legislators consider this resolution, the raids and prosecutions continue. Just hours before the SJR 20 hearing occurred, Michael Martin plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to manufacture a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. Martin now faces up to 5 years imprisonment, a $250K fine, and several years of supervised release.
Martin was arrested and charged in conjunction with the September 26, 2007 DEA raids of the Tainted, Inc. facilities that produced clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles for medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. The products made by Tainted were available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carried prominent warning labels.
Despite these precautions, the DEA attempted to paint Martin and Tainted as criminals who were pedaling marijuana-laced candy to children. Martin feels he has done nothing wrong, and the medical cannabis community showed up in force yesterday to support this assertion at his hearing yesterday. Fifty supporters packed the court room, sending a clear message to the judge.
The words that Martin wrote just before turning himself in will hopefully be heard by the California Senate and Assembly, as they consider passing SJR 20 to send a clear message to the federal government:
I encourage community leaders, government officials, patriotic citizens, and anyone who has the common sense to realize the failed policies of this war on medical cannabis, to rise up and be heard. Let your elected officials know that we demand a stop to these senseless acts of violence and the needless wasting of resources in states where citizens support the use of medical cannabis. The choice to use medical cannabis is a decision that should be made by a patient and a doctor... It is a fundamental right of the sick and dying to find relief for their pain and suffering through sound research and advice from their personal physician. The issue here is not a matter of whether a law has been broken. The issue is whether those laws are just and moral.
While a future change in law may not end the persecution Martin and his family are experiencing, it would prevent more tragedies like this from occurring.
Obama: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws." - Americans for Safe AccessI was heartened to hear last Saturday words that cut right through the federal war on medical marijuana patients by one of the likeliest candidates to be our next U.S. President. In an interview with Mail Tribune of Oregon, Barack Obama stated, in answer to a question on medical marijuana, “…I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate.” Obama then uttered the following decisive and sensible phrase, giving hope to medical marijuana patients and advocates throughout the country:
I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.Ideally, Obama would commit to changing federal policy around medical marijuana and allow legal access to those who benefit from it. Unfortunately, the federal government continues to ignore the mountain of evidence that marijuana has medical efficacy for a number of health conditions. Eventually, the federal government will align with the vast majority of U.S. citizens that support medical marijuana, and maybe that day will come with Obama in the White House. In the meantime, however, we can at least get the Bush Administration to end its harmful medical marijuana raids. While Obama’s words may not be strong enough to pierce the flak jackets of this Administration’s DEA agents, they may eventually resonate with the new DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart or Attorney General Michael Mukasey (and maybe they need to hear from more of us too). What Obama’s words do give us is hope for the future; that, at the least, the federal government will not hinder states that choose to establish medical marijuana laws. No need to sit around for that day to come, though. There’s something that we can do right now to ensure that outcome and more quickly. Americans for Safe Access has been urging the top candidates to pledge that they will introduce an Executive Order to end DEA activity in states that have passed medical marijuana laws. Sound familiar? Maybe he lifted the idea from our Executive Order campaign. Regardless, he has not formally pledged yet. Here’s your chance to urge Obama and Clinton to officially pledge to introduce an Executive Order, if elected President, that cuts off funding to the Department of Justice for enforcement against medical marijuana in states that have adopted such laws. Please consider emailing either or both of them from our Executive Order campaign page, or write to them at the following addresses: Senator Hillary Clinton Hillary for President 4420 North Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22203 Senator Barack Obama Obama for America P.O. Box 8102 Chicago, IL 60680 Just last week, six dispensaries were raided by the DEA in the Los Angeles area, aptly illustrating how this issue could not be more timely and important for our next President. Act now!
California Supreme Court Affirms ASA Win in Return of Property Case From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan
On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court declined to review or "de-publish" the landmark ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County (Felix Kha case) that upheld the right to return of wrongfully confiscated medical cannabis, despite federal law! The decision in Felix Kha's case was a huge victory for patients, but we feared the worst after the City of Corona asked the Supreme Court to review the case. The Court might have "de-published" the case, making it impossible to cite as a precedent in other litigation.
Wednesday's ruling was an about-face from the Supreme Court's unconscionable ruling allowing employment discrimination against legal patients in Ross v. Raginwire Telecommunications.Now that the Felix Kha decision has been vindicated, patients and caregivers can challenge the wrongful confiscation of medicine in any court in the state. This will leave local law enforcement with a tough choice - obey California law or face a torrent of litigation under this decision. No longer can they hide behind the illusion of enforcing federal law. We have been waiting a long time for a ruling that would put some teeth in Proposition 215. This is a big incisor! ASA spent years identifying this test case, preparing for the fight, and arguing in court. That is the kind of long-term, big picture thinking it is going to take to break the culture of resistance among some California police officers. This summer, ASA will beef up its return of property campaign to be sure every patient and caregiver in the state enjoys the full benefit of this precedent. Have a look at ASA Staff Counsel Joe Elford's blog on this topic at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/blog/?p=74 ASA, Operators, and Advocates Call on State to Protect Tax Revenue
On Tuesday, advocates and dispensary operators from throughout the state met up in Sacramento to testify at the Board of Equalization's hearing to help protect safe access and sales tax. The group met with the Board to encourage them to protect an important source of revenue - $100 million in sales tax collected annually by medical marijuana dispensaries.ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman testified first saying that dispensaries' tax revenue is in danger, due to increased federal interference in the state medical marijuana program. In 2007 alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana providers, and they embarked on a new strategy, sending more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries, threatening property owners with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture. She also mentioned House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers' intent to hold the DEA accountable for their actions against patients in future oversight hearings. Read Saltzman's report on the hearing on ASA's blog.
Following Rebecca Saltzman was Californial NORML's Dale Geiringer who broke down the numbers for the BOE, focusing on the amount of tax revenue dispensaries produce. He also discussed the problem of the DEA seizing assets from dispensaries.
Geiringer was followed by several dispensary operators and former operators from Berkeley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma who explained the DEA threats they have been forced to face. Read more in Rebecca Saltzman's blog about the hearing.
DEA Raids 5 Los Angeles DispensariesOn Thursday, the DEA raided 6 dispensaries and the private residence of an operator in Los Angeles. All of the dispensaries are from a single family of collectives. The collectives raided were:
The Holistic Caregivers, Compton Western Caregivers Group, LA Crenshaw Holistic Caregivers Group, LA THC Gardena, Gardena Southern California Caregivers Group, LA (SFV) Med Ex, LA
No arrests were made and the collectives, which took only minor losses due to careful precautions, are expected to reopen today. During one of the raids, acitivists at the site protesting over heard one of the DEA officers tell the others that "the alert has gone out" and "they're on the way." This further shows that ASA's Raid Response Emergency Text Messaging system is working!
Sign up for ASA's Emergency Response Text Messaging System to receive instant alerts about raids in your area. Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert
Look for an announcement over the next few days about LA ASA's response to the raids at Los Angeles City Hall and the downtown Federal Building on Tuesday morning.
Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison
Federal Judge Frank C. Damrell sentenced Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer to five years in prison for "conspiracy to grow marijuana and manufacturing it in a medicinal marijuana case." During the four hour sentencing hearing, Judge Damrell said he had no choice but to issue the statutory minimum of five years in federal prison with an option to appeal the decision. The couple has posted bail at $25,000 per person as they await appeal.
On September 28, 2001, the DEA raided the Cool, California (El Dorado County) clinic of medical marijuana physician and breast cancer patient Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney and hemophilia and chronic pain patient Dale Schafer, and seized patient records. Almost immediately after the Raich decision, on June 22, 2005, Fry and Schafer were arrested and indicted for marijuana found on the premises during the raid. In 2002, the federal government also successfully revoked Fry's DEA license to practice medicine.
In order to convince the jury to convict on charges of cultivation of more than 100 plants, the U.S. Attorney took the unusual and controversial step of aggregating the plants in gardens from three different years. Additionally, Judge Damrell did not allow them to explain to the jury that the El Dorad County Sheriffs and District Attorney had previously given them active permission to grow their relatively modest garden.
Fry and Schafer are currently caring for three beautiful children and two grandchildren in their home.
Read more about the hearing in the Sacramento Bee.
Local Updates: Santa Barbara Approves Dispensary Ordinance and Sacramento Votes Against ID Cards This week, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously voted to approve a citywide dispensary ordinance. The vote came after a 6-month moratorium which began last summer. The Santa Barbara ASA chapter has been diligently working to urge the city council to develop and implement a dispensary ordinance for over a year. Santa Barbara has seven dispensaries. Under the new regulations, only one dispensary will be in full compliance. The city council foresaw this problem and placed an addendum to the ordinance allowing the current dispensaries three years to fall into compliance with the new ordinance.
While the Santa Barbara City Council was voting for new regulations to protect safe access for patients, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted against implementing the state medical cannabis ID card program. The County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against the program. Many patients testified at the hearing asking the board to adopt the program, but the board refused. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney testified against the program citing concern that the program would encourage marijuana use.
Thank you to Sacramento ASA chapter, Aaron Smith from the Marijuana Policy Project, and all of the other medical cannabis advocates who have been working for months to urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt the program.
Characterizing Kha as a “criminal defendant,” amici claim the CUA only provides him with a “defense” to certain offenses and does not make his possession of medical marijuana “lawful.” But Kha is clearly not a criminal defendant with respect to the subject marijuana. Since the prosecution dismissed the drug charge he was facing, he is nothing more than an aggrieved citizen who is seeking the return of his property. The terms “criminal” and “defendant” do not aptly apply to him.This court got it. I am elated their words remain "published" and binding on every superior court and law enforcement as well.
Join ASA at the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics!
Doctors, patients, and researchers from around the world are gearing up for the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by Patients Out of Time on April 4-5. Click here to register for the conference. Patient Out of Time's Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will feature patients, activists, doctors, and researchers gathering to discuss the latest research on medical marijuana. This important conference only happens once every other year, so if you are a patient, doctor, researcher, and/or supporter, we strongly encourage you to consider attending the conference, which will be held on the Monterey Peninsula. The conference is less than a month away, and the registration price increases after March 20, so register today! Several members of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board have been asked to present at the conference, including Philippe Lucas whose talk will be "Putting the Compassion in Compassion Clubs." This cutting edge conference is an excellent opportunity for patients, and their physicians, to learn about exciting and important developments in research. Started in 2000, the Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics is the only national conference organized specifically by patients where attendees will learn about the scientific evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis. It offers the opportunity to meet, network, and share experiences with a diverse national gathering of patients, medical cannabis researchers, our allies and supporters. Join ASA at the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, April 4-5, 2008, at Asilomar Conference Center, in beautiful, coastal Pacific Grove, California. If you are a patient, please share this information with your medical cannabis physician. The conference has been accredited by University of California, San Francisco which means your physician could be eligible to receive Continuing Medical Education credits. For more information, see their website at www.medicalcannabis.com/conference.htm Help send ASA's staff and supporters to the National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Become a member of ASA today!