Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Oct 052010

CA Attorney General? Not Steve Cooley! - Americans for Safe Access

On November 2, medical cannabis patients in California will make an important choice at the polls – one that will shape the fight for safe access to medicine for years to come. I am not talking about Proposition 19, the voter initiative that is garnering headlines nationwide. I am talking about the race for California Attorney General.

If Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley wins, it will mean tough times for patients and providers all over the state.



Steve Cooley is leading in the polls, and that should make you worried. If Cooley is elected as our next Attorney General, he will pursue the same anti-medical cannabis agenda we know all too well from his tenure in Los Angeles County. Cooley will likely dismantle the gains made by medical cannabis patients over the past 10+ years, rewrite the Attorney General Guidelines to ban the sales of medical marijuana, continue to raid dispensaries and undermine the full implementation of state law, and work to overturn important legal precedents in the courts.

In short, he will roll back years of progress – putting us on the defensive in California for a long time.

But it does not have to be this way. There are millions of Californians who oppose Cooley’s agenda  - and not just concerning medical cannabis. Cooley opposes marriage equality, considers environmental protection a low priority, and has a spotty record on women’s issues. ASA is organizing a coalition of opposition committed to defeating Steve Cooley. We need to get the word out about Steve Cooley to all of the constituents who are threatened by his agenda. We need to build alliances, get our message in the media, and turn out voters. Most of all, we need your support for the “Not Cooley” campaign right now.

ASA is calling on patients and advocates all over California to register to vote  before October 18, and turn out to the polls on November 2. Together, I know we can make a difference!
Sep 282010

Persistence pays off in Los Angeles - Americans for Safe Access

[caption id="attachment_871" align="alignleft" width="119" caption="Paul Koretz"]
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(UPDATE October 19 - The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on the Hahn-Koretz amendment to the Medical Cannabis Ordinance this morning, apparently because Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised by post-moratorium collectives. A District Court judge will hear oral arguments in the consolidated medical cannabis lawsuits on November 3. A vote on the amendment is scheduled for November 4, but advocates expect further delay.)

Sometimes it is hard to see the results from grassroots advocacy, but medical cannabis supporters in Los Angeles just got some concrete evidence that persistence pays off. In response to pressure from constituents, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn introduced a motion on Friday to make an important change in the city’s controversial medical cannabis ordinance. If adopted, the motion will allow dozens of legal collectives deemed ineligible by the City Clerk to seek registration – and that means more access to medicine for patients.



The controversy stems from a narrow interpretation of the ordinance, which prohibits changes in ownership or management. The City Clerk ruled last month that dozens of collectives were ineligible to register because they “changed” management. In most cases, however, the only “change” was in how many people were listed on different forms – including paperwork dating back to 2007. The City Attorney promptly filed lawsuits to close the collectives. Advocates have been talking with staff and City Councilmembers for weeks about the need to reinstate legal collectives that can show continuity of management.  

Americans for safe Access (ASA) invests a lot of time and resources in grassroots advocacy because we know it pays off. A small army of lobbyists and lawyers are working to make changes to the ordinance to benefit their clients. Until now, City Councilmembers have been steadfast in resisting calls for amendments. But grassroots pressure has succeeded in creating the first opportunity for progress. We have to keep up those phone calls, emails, and letters. We need to keep making our voices heard inside and outside City Council Chambers. This motion must still be approved by the City Council, and there are many more changes that need to be made to make this ordinance work for medical cannabis patients.

Read more about being an effective grassroots advocate in  ABC’s of Citizen Advocacy.
Sep 132010

Thanks, again, Dr. Weil! - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 13, 2010 5:03 AM
Just a few short weeks after penning this review of medical marijuana documentary, "What if Cannabis Cured Cancer?", healthy-living guru Dr. Andrew Weil has published another article posing the simplest of questions:
Meanwhile, as a medical doctor and botanist, my aim has always been to filter out the cultural noise surrounding the genus Cannabis and see it dispassionately: as a plant with bioactivity in human beings that may have therapeutic value. From this perspective, what can it offer us?
For the answer, read the full article courtesy of The Huffington Post. Thanks, again, Dr. Weil for your continued support and open discussion about the use of marijuana for therapeutic pursuits.  Patients  and physicians alike appreciate your voice and dedication; together we can set the record straight.
Sep 092010

What happens in Vegas... - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 09, 2010 6:25 AM
This week, federal and local law enforcement agencies executed paramilitary-style raids on an unspecified number of medical marijuana collectives in Las Vegas, NV.  The latest reports indicate at least one-half dozen facilities were the latest to experience the “smash and grab” tactic well-known by dispensing collectives across California.  ASA is now alerting the media, providing support, and helping to organize a grassroots response.



Like so many of the first states to adopt medical marijuana laws, Nevada remains in transition. The law provides some protections for patients who qualify to use marijuana and register with the Department of Health, but, unfortunately, the state legislature and local governments have failed to create the laws necessary to properly control and regulate the distribution of medical marijuana. This is precisely what occurred in California!

Which is why it’s somewhat odd, perhaps disappointing, that it has taken Nevada so long to catch on.  Recall, Nevada is, arguably, one of the few Western states to demonstrate time and again that when given their space to regulate free from federal interference, state government works!  The state successfully controls and regulates corporate gambling enterprises, among the most liberal alcohol laws of all 50 states, a robust adult entertainment industry, and a variety of other ventures generally considered “controversial”.

So what gives, Nevada?  After all, it’s only medical marijuana!
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.