Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Oct 222010

Advocates Urged Not to Lose Sight of Marijuana's Medicinal Properties - Americans for Safe Access

  • October 22, 2010 7:29 AM
In a recent editorial published in the San Diego Tribune, Dr. Igor Grant reminds medical marijuana advocates that even with the hotly debated Proposition 19 on California's ballot this November, we have to keep our eyes on the prize. In this case, that means "thoughtful, continued research" into the therapeutic properties of marijuana.  Dr. Grant, a professor and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, cites three recently published studies that indicate "marijuana effectively blunts neuropathic pain in some people." He acknowledges that while this is a limited number of small studies, the results of these studies argue for more testing in the future. And to get there, we can't let ourselves or our cause get mired in the politics of legalization.
Oct 212010

ASA Advocates Take Possession of Marijuana Plants from San Diego County Sheriff - Americans for Safe Access

  • October 21, 2010 8:33 AM
The following is a guest blog by Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her ‘fierce fight’ against medical marijuana patients suffered another devastating defeat this week. Advocates from the local chapter of Americans for Safe Access (SDASA), the nation’s largest advocacy group promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, successfully obtained an order from the courts for the release of five large impounded medical cannabis plants. The judge ordered the plants released to a representative of SDASA for their safe keeping.

On Wednesday afternoon of this week, Marcus Boyd of SDASA retrieved the plants from San Diego County Sheriff’s evidence locker.

[caption id="attachment_924" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="ASA Advocate Marcus Boyd in front of Sheriff's Department"]
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The patient, to whom the plants belong, remains in custody for cultivating them despite all the charges in his case being dropped, and will receive his plants upon release.

On September 2, John Palmer, a resident of Imperial Beach was arrested by Detective Michael Thomas Neumann and other members of the San Diego Sheriff's Department during a ‘routine’ probation search. Following the search and the discovery of the plants, Palmer was charged with possession, possession for sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

At the time of the search Palmer was in full compliance with state law, in fact, deputies found Palmer's state issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card as well as another patients' doctor's recommendation posted on the wall next to the grow.

During the search, Palmer explained to deputies that he was lawfully and collectively growing the medicine, as approved by the Probation Department. He explained that three weeks earlier he was granted a court order from a judge specifically allowing him to grow marijuana while on probation.

Detective Neumann not being aware of the law, called the infamous local medical marijuana eradicator and ‘expert’ cultivator, Detective Steve Reed, to find out if Palmer could be charged with cultivation and possession for sale.  Detective Reed said, “medical pot? Ha! Book-em and charge-em!"

Deputies arrested Palmer, impounded the plants and incarcerated him in the Vista jail where he remains today and is scheduled to be released on Monday October 25, 2010.

The other patient who was collectively cultivating the plants with Palmer and whose collective grow was confiscated during Palmer's arrest was not arrested himself. After learning of Palmer's arrest he was able to quickly make contact with Marcus Boyd of SDASA in search of assistance.

Boyd, who hosts the monthly South Bay meeting for SDASA in Imperial Beach, immediately contacted Salina Epley, Palmer’s public defender in the case, began providing assistance with the case as well as attending Palmer’ court hearings along with SDASA Advisory Board Member Terrie Best.

During the court process, the prosecutor was insistent upon keeping Palmer in custody, despite being told by the Judge that Palmer would likely be found not guilty if the case went to trial. The Judge urged that a plea bargain be worked out.

All plea offers from the prosecutor were unreasonable and therefore unacceptable to Palmer. A plea deal was not reached and a trial date was set for November 10th.

On October 6th, Palmer was back in court for an evidentiary / readiness hearing. That day, after reviewing the motions filed by the public defender, the prosecutor moved to drop all marijuana related charges against Mr. Palmer.

At a prior hearing however, the judge ruled that the prosecutor had provided sufficient evidence to violate Palmer's probation status remanding him into custody for another 20 days.

In light of the extended jail time, the public defender conferred with her client and while officially on the record, recognized Americans for Safe Access's support in the case and formally requested the court, "immediately release the five mature plants to Americans for Safe Access's representative, Marcus Boyd, for safe keeping."

Surprisingly, the prosecutor did not argue, stipulated to the request, and the court did not hesitate in granting the motion.

John Palmer left the courtroom in good spirits and was very happy to have won his case. He yelled "thank you" while deputies escorted him out of court.

Yesterday morning with the court order in hand, Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich of SDASA, went to the San Diego County Sheriff’s evidence room and picked up the plants with no delay or resistance from Detective Neumann or any other law enforcement officials.

In fact when Boyd called Detective Neumann and asked him to fax over a release of the property form to the evidence locker, Neumann replied “I don't have a problem with it and I won't stand in the way.  I'll send them whatever they need this morning.”

[caption id="attachment_923" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Seized plants handed over to ASA advocates"]
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When Boyd and Davidovich arrived to retrieve the property, it was found that all the plants had been clipped at the stem right above the roots. In fact the day they were confiscated, Detective Neuman, instead of transporting them and taking care of the property as required by procedure, simply cut them and stuffed them in a large paper bag, ensuring that they could not be usable when and if they were ever retrieved.

The plants were immediately rushed to Kim Twolan, the founder of Mother Earth Co-op located in Mission Hills.  Twolan, who is also a SDASA Advisory Board member and serves on San Diego City's Medical Marijuana Task Force after thorough examination and several attempts to revive the plants, pronounced them dead upon arrival.

Palmer intends to file a claim for the damaged property upon being released from custody on Monday.

SDASA member and local criminal defense attorney Melissa Bobrow has agreed to help Palmer with the property damage claim against the county.
Oct 192010

"Impatience and frustration" in LA - Americans for Safe Access

Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher told the Los Angeles Times that medical cannabis collectives in Los Angeles are experiencing "impatience and frustration” due to ongoing legal controversy surrounding the city’s tough new regulations. That may be the first thing Ms. Usher and medical cannabis advocates have agreed on in years. Don’t expect the amity to last long. The City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is trying to close more than one hundred legal collectives deemed ineligible to register under the city’s ordinance based on broad interpretive leaps. Los Angeles Times reporter Sandy Banks said she understands why the collectives feel like this is an “underhanded trick.”

READ: LA Timnes - "Some compassionate pot shops caught in L.A. law's red tape" (Sandy Banks, October 19, 2010)



The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on an amendment that might have settled some of the controversy this morning. Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised in hundreds of lawsuits now consolidated in Los Angeles District Court. Delay in unfortunate. Some small improvements in the ordinance now could do a lot to diffuse the impatience and frustration felt by collective operators who have tried to support and comply with the city’s convoluted regulatory process. Unless the City Council stands up to the City Attorney’s capricious interpretation of the law, the there may be little goodwill left for implementation after the dust settles in the courtroom.
Oct 182010

Peaceful Demonstration in Trenton, NJ Today - Americans for Safe Access

  • October 18, 2010 3:13 AM
On October 6, the NJ Department of Health released its plan for the implementation of New Jersey's medical marijuana regulations. To say these regulations are restrictive would be putting it mildly - NJ seems to be aiming for the most restrictive regulations of any medical marijuana state out there. These regulations have sparked outrage on both sides of the aisle and a press conference and a peaceful demonstration are scheduled for today, October 18 from 12:00pm to 2:00pm on the front steps of the State House in Trenton.
Oct 152010

Register to Vote - Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) urges everyone to register to vote on or before Monday, October 18, the deadline to register for the November mid-term elections in most states. You can get a voter registration card in most Post Offices, or contact local officials. We need everyone out at the polls this year! Voters in several states will cast ballots on medical cannabis issues this year. Arizona voters will have a chance to approve a medical cannabis initiative that fixes wording flaws in the state's 1996 initiative that left it unenforceable. Voters in Oregon will decide on an initiative to make dispensing centers legal. South Dakotans have a chance to establish protections for patients. And in California, the low-profile race for attorney general has high stakes for safe access, as one candidate supports statewide standards for collectives, while the other has vowed to arrest operators, even those in compliance with all local regulations. Voters in California and Colorado will have to decide on dozens of local ballot measures that will tax, regulate, or ban access to medicine. Check with you local voting officials to see if your city has medical cannabis on the ballot.
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.