Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Aug 312010

CA Assembly Rejects SJR 14 - Americans for Safe Access

The California Assembly failed to adopt SJR 14 by only four votes on Monday (see votes). We are disappointed by this outcome, but I want to thank the hundreds of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) members and supporters who called their representatives in the Assembly over the last ten days to support the resolution. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff in the offices of California Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who worked tirelessly until the very last minute to get the votes we needed. SJR 14 was resolution sponsored by ASA and authored by Senator Leno calling for an end to federal interference in state medical cannabis laws and for the development of a comprehensive national policy to provide safe access. We hope to send a new resolution to the President, lawmakers, and the administrative agencies in the next legislative session, so that we can help shape the evolving federal policy on medical cannabis. The window of opportunity for SJR 14 this year was narrow. Resolutions usually go to the back of the line when lawmakers in Sacramento are running out of time. It was even tougher this year. A historic financial shortfall and impasse on the budget have dominated the final days of the legislative session. Even last minute support from the influential National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was not enough to galvanize Assemblymembers around the resolution. SJR 14 should have been a winner in a Democratic legislature – it costs nothing, does not change state law, and calls for action only in the federal arena. Unfortunately, ambivalence about medical cannabis is at a high water mark in Sacramento. Even legislators with a track record of support are worried about increasingly unpopular collectives, lenient doctors, or patients that “don’t look sick.” That is why some of the twelve silent Assemblymembers withheld their support for SJR 14. We are seeing a more sophisticated legislative effort from our opponents in Sacramento. Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) introduced a law enforcement-sponsored bill to limit locations for collectives. AB 2650 was initially cut and pasted straight from the unreasonable ordinances adopted this year in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Senator Ron Calderon’s (D-Montebello) fist bill sought to tax all cannabis at the same rate as tobacco (SBX6 16), and his latest effort establishes a tight licensing requirement – but without specifying fees or providing any legal protections for growers (SB 1131). These initiatives and others like them will be back in the next session. We still have to fight to protect the ground we have gained since 2003, and   work even harder to make progress on licensing, taxation, and collective regulation next session.  There is a lot to do. We should already be building our base, shoring up relationships in the legislature, getting strong legislative proposals together, and building coalitions for next session. I want to call on ASA members and medical cannabis advocates in the state to rededicate their time, attention, and financial resources the campaign for safe access in California. If we rediscover the energy and commitment that brought us this far, we can overcome these challenges and make real progress towards realizing the voters’ mandate for medical cannabis in California and finally changing federal law.
Aug 262010

LA City Attorney Turns Up the Heat - Americans for Safe Access

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has filed a complaint (download sections 1- 2 -3 - 4) asking for a Temporary Restraining Order and Permanent Injunction closing 135 pre-moratorium medical cannabis collectives deemed ineligible to register under the city’s new ordinance. The complaint is City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s latest escalation in his campaign to roll back safe access to medical cannabis in the city. His aggressive posture has already raised the ire of patients, legal collective operators, and advocates in the state’s largest city – including many who played an instrumental role in developing and promoting regulation in the city. Yesterday, the City Clerk’s office surprised collective operators by publishing a “Preliminary Priority List,” which indicated that less than 25% of the collectives which applied to register with the city were eligible to do so. Each ineligible collective will receive a letter explaining why they were excluded this week. Early reports indicate that unauthorized relocations, changes in ownership or management, and problematic background checks are leading causes for ineligibility. That only 25% of the collectives survived the initial vetting speaks to the severity of the city’s ordinance and the narrow interpretation championed by the City Attorney. City Councilmembers can expect renewed controversy over the escalation when they return from recess in September. There will also be new litigation, as “ineligible” collectives seek relief based on a myriad of individual circumstances. The development and implementation of medical cannabis regulations in Los Angeles has been a case study in what not to do. The long delay in writing regulations, botched moratorium, indecision on interim operating policies, reckless 11th-hour amendments, and absolute breakdown in enforcement have left patients in a state of confusion and fear. It did not have to be this way. Other cities and counties have successfully regulated medical cannabis already. Angelinos hope that their elected officials will realize that there is a better way to achieve the proven benefits of regulation – reduced crime, fewer complaints, and increased revenue – and abandon this costly path of obstruction and delay.
Aug 062010

Toronto Police Conduct 2nd Raid on Long-Running Dispensary - Americans for Safe Access

  • August 06, 2010 3:04 AM
Our sister organization, Canadians for Safe Access (CSA), reports a second raid of Cannabis as Living Medicine (CALM), one of the most well-established medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada.  Officers claimed they were responding to “community complaints” and seized a large quantity of medical grade cannabis and hashish.  Today, the website indicates that the peer-run collective, which serves more than 3,000 Canadians who suffer serious and chronic illness, is temporarily closed. This unfortunate event is a reminder that Americans are not alone in our pursuit of safe and legal access. From their press release:
For Immediate Release: August 5, 2010 Police Raid of Medical Cannabis Dispensary Puts Patients at Risk Yesterday, Cannabis as Living Medicine (CALM), one of the most well- established medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada, was raided by police in Toronto for the second time in five months. In the last couple of months, a dispensary in Guelph, another in Iqaluit, and several in the province of Quebec were also raided. Canadians for Safe Access, a national patient advocacy organization, is denouncing these raids. The result is that thousands of Canadians suffering from MS, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, arthritis and other critical and chronic illnesses have lost an important source of their medicine, laments Rielle Capler, a researcher and co-founder of the organization. They will have to go to the streets or suffer without their medicine. Capler adds, Rather than leave these dispensaries vulnerable to police raids, CSA is calling on Health Canada to work with them to develop regulations that would ensure their protection as well as the highest quality of care for patients. Our government should be supporting patients to access the best possible medicine, and supporting the organizations that are providing this vital service." While the use of cannabis for medical purposes is constitutionally legal in Canada, the Federal Governments program, which provides licenses to patients for legal possession of cannabis, does not provide an adequate legal source of this medicine. Government statistics show that only about 800 of the 4000 licensed medical cannabis users access the governments supply, which is considered by many to be inferior. Research indicates that over half of license holders acquire their cannabis from dispensaries, which currently supply high quality medicine to an estimated 20,000 Canadians with critical and chronic medical conditions. Medical cannabis dispensaries, also know as compassion clubs, have played a vital role supplying safe access to cannabis for the critically and chronically ill in Canada for over 12 years. These organizations provide access to a variety of high quality cannabis strains and preparations that can effectively alleviate pain, muscle spasms, nausea, anxiety, and other serious symptoms. Compassion clubs are also at the forefront of academic peer-reviewed research on medical cannabis in Canada. Well-run dispensaries are appreciated by patients, accepted within communities, and their work has been lauded by various court  rooms across the country. Media Contacts:
Rielle Capler 604-818-4082- rielle@telus.net
Philippe Lucas 250-884-9821 phil@drugsense.org
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.