Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Feb 012008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • February 01, 2008 12:22 PM
Berkeley City Council Votes to Provide Sanctuary to Patients and Providers On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to adopt a Sanctuary Resolution, which will provide protection for patients and providers in the event of a DEA raid. The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved the Medical Cannabis Sanctuary Resolution co-sponsored by Councilmembers Moore and Worthington, thereby designating Berkeley a "sanctuary for medicinal cannabis patients, providers, and landlords." The resolution also called on the Governor to stand up against the DEA and call for an end to the interference in the implementation of state and local laws. This resolution came as a result of months of lobbing and outreach to the City Council by medical cannabis activists, patients, providers, and supporters. This is an important victory for patients, providers, and now third-party landlords in Berkeley and the East Bay.  Congratulations to all of those who worked on this important resolution to ensure protection and safe access in the Bay Area. To learn more about the City Council's resolution read the San Jose Mercury and Berkeley Daily Planet articles. California Legislation to Help and Protect Patients As the anti-medical marijuana efforts escalate with the most recent examples being the surge of DEA raids and the California Supreme Court's decision to deny a patient's right to work, several California state representatives are stepping forward to protect patients and providers in California.  The following is a brief legislative update on medical cannabis bills and a resolution that are being worked on in Sacramento currently. Last week, ASA reported that Assemblyman Mark Leno was introducing a bill that would protect a patient's right to work. This bill came on the heels of the California Supreme Court's ruling last week in the Ross vs. Raging Wire Communications case.  California Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA were waiting to respond in case of an adverse ruling like this. Assemblyman Leno announced only hours after the decision on Thursday that he will be introducing an ASA-sponsored piece of legislation that will amend California law to protect patients from this kind of discrimination. Senator Carol Migden has been a long time medical cannabis supporter. Last month, working with medical cannabis supporters, the senator introduced a California Senate Joint Resolution calling on Congress, the President, and federal law enforcement to stop raiding legal medical cannabis collectives and respect California’s law. Senator Migden’s resolution follows an unprecedented escalation in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) attacks on medical cannabis providers and threats against property owners who rent to hundreds of collectives all over California. Senator Migden also recently introduced to the Senate floor a bill that will ensure back tax relief for medical cannabis dispensaries.  The medical cannabis dispensaries would have back sales tax amnesty for all sales prior to October 1, 2005.   Senator Migden's sales tax relief comes in response to the 2005 decision by the California Board of Equalization (BoE) to adopt a policy to collect sales tax from dispensaries and other medical marijuana providers. At the time, ASA testified at several public hearings, presenting a position paper against collection of sales tax, as it would invariably be a cost absorbed by the patients. To read about ASA's position on sales tax,  click here. This bill is an important compromise for both dispensaries and the Board of Equalization, because it relieves the burden of paying large amounts of back taxes whilst encouraging compliance with and participation in the BoE's sales tax scheme.  Read more about Senator Migden's tax relief bill in the Bay Area Reporter. ASA will keep you updated as news comes in on the status of these three important pieces of legislation. New Northern California U.S. Attorney Says Raids Should be a Low Priority This week, the San Francisco station KCBS released a story about the new U.S. Attorney for Northern California, Russoniello.  The story highlighted a recent quote by Russoniello regarding DEA raids of state sanctioned and regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.  The new U.S. Attorney said,  "We could spend a lifetime closing dispensaries and doing other kinds of things and enforcement actions, bringing cases and prosecuting people, shoveling sand against the tide, it would be terribly unproductive and probably not an efficient use of precious federal resources." While the new U.S. Attorney's sentiments about funding raids are encouraging, the federal government and current Bush Administration has made it clear that they intend to shut out access for patients.   To listen to the full story on KCBS and the new U.S. Attorney for Northern California's statements click here.
Jan 312008

Maryland Grassroots Medical Marijuana Campaign Kicks Off - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 31, 2008 6:42 AM
Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA's successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland's medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at tonebowles@sbcglobal.net Last year’s attempt to introduce HB 1040, The Maryland Compassionate Use Act, which would have replaced the current law with comprehensive language concerning cultivation, identification cards, confidentiality issues, fees, transportation, and possession, was blocked by Chair of the Judiciary, Joseph Vallario. The very same lawmaker who gutted the 2003 legislation. Despite the fact that we had more than enough support in the Judiciary Committee to pass the new law with improvements, Chairman Vallario wouldn’t put the improved legislation up for vote. Why? Because he’s still worried that letting qualified individuals suffering from severe or chronic illness use medical marijuana will bring the wrath of the Federal Government down on Maryland. He even said way back in 2002 "I am not going to have a part in something that is in violation of federal law." This year we’re taking a new approach in Maryland to help tackle this problem. I am working with ASA and the Drug Policy Alliance to build up grassroots support to compliment our next legislative efforts. We’ll be focusing on recruitment, training, and developing strong, vocal and representative leadership that will be crucial for helping policymakers move far-reaching legislation aimed at establishing full legal protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens and the people who care for them. Between now and early spring we will hold several regional teach-ins and know your rights trainings. These forums will provide an opportunity to introduce patients, their care providers and other grassroots supporters to each other, briefly recap previous efforts to improve the law, and explain the strategy and tactics while covering all of the basic legal information for interactions with law enforcement. We are hoping to bring interested medical marijuana supporters to Annapolis for a tour of the Capital where they can take advantage of the activity of the legislative session, meet their state lawmakers, deepen their understanding of the legislative process, and raise enthusiasm around working on a legislative campaign in the future. Maryland’s existing medical marijuana law, “The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act” does not go far enough; it slaps patients with a criminal conviction even if they successfully offer a medical necessity defense in court. This means that even a successful defense results in a permanent criminal record, which poses barriers to financial aid, housing, employment, and more. Maryland’s medical marijuana law is the only state medical marijuana law that does not shield patients from arrest! We need real compassion and honest protection now!
Jan 292008

Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order - Americans for Safe Access

Nationwide campaign launched today to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana With only a week left until Super Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates launched a nationwide campaign today to urge presidential candidates to end federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. The campaign urges candidates to issue an Executive Order upon taking office that would end federal interference in state-sanctioned medical marijuana laws. The proposed Executive Order would deny funds to the Department of Justice for federal enforcement efforts against patients and providers in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. "To match the increased level of federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws, we're asking candidates to clearly state their opposition by pledging to issue an Executive Order, if elected." said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, the advocacy group that launched the campaign. "We're spending millions of dollars on law enforcement actions that harm our most vulnerable citizens," continued Woodson. "And, the President wields the power to stop it at any time." Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stepped up its enforcement actions against medial marijuana patients and providers. While federal interference has occurred in multiple medical marijuana states, some have been hit harder than others. In California, the DEA has conducted more than 100 raids and threatened more than 300 landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue to lease to medical marijuana dispensing collectives (dispensaries). In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently prosecuting more than 100 medical marijuana-related cases. The campaign focuses on candidates that have already made supportive statements on medical marijuana: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, and Representative Ron Paul. These candidates are being asked to officiate their support by pledging to issue an Executive Order, which states that:
"No funds made available to the Department of Justice shall be used to prevent States from implementing adopted laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. In particular, no funds shall be used to investigate, seize, arrest or prosecute in association with the distribution of medical marijuana, unless such distribution has been found by adjudication to violate state or local law."
DEA actions have already garnered opposition from both local and federal lawmakers, including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. In December, Mayor Dellums made a public statement condemning DEA tactics. The same month, Chairman Conyers publicly voiced his "deep concern" over DEA "efforts to undermine California state law," and he committed to sharply question these tactics in oversight hearings.
Jan 252008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 25, 2008 12:11 PM

California Court Rules Against Patients' Rights- Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA Respond with Legislation

This week, the California Supreme Court delivered a major blow to patients' civil rights.  On Thursday, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 215 does not protect legal patients from being fired if they test positive for medical cannabis use.  In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court claimed that Ross could not rely on the Fair Housing and Employment Act or the state's medical marijuana law to prevent discrimination at the workplace. Gary Ross, a 45-year old disabled veteran and a medical marijuana patient, was fired in 2001 by his then-employer Raging Wire Telecommunications after he disclosed that he was a medical cannabis patient and would test positive to the company's mandatory drug test. Following this event, Ross filed a lawsuit arguing that Raging Wire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition. However, a Sacramento Superior Court, and then the Third Appellate District Court both rejected his argument. In October 2005, ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court on behalf of Ross. The California Supreme Court's decision on Thursday was a major blow to medical marijuana patients' rights, with the potential to limit a patients' right to work. ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, played a significant role in Mr. Ross' case, helping write the appeal and serving as co-counsel to Mr. Ross starting in 2005. For more information on the Ross case read Mr. Elford's  blog on the case and the California Supreme Court Decision at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RossDecisionBlog

The good news is that California Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA were waiting to respond in case of an adverse ruling like this. Assemblyman Leno announced only hours after the decision on Thursday that he will be introducing an ASA-sponsored piece of legislation that will amend California law to protect patients from this kind of discrimination. In his press release, Assemblyman Leno wrote, "Today's California Supreme Court ruling strikes a serious blow to patients' rights.  In the coming weeks I will introduce legislation that secures a medical cannabis patient's right to use their doctor recommended medication outside the workplace. Through the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 and SB 420 in 2004, the people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana."  Assemblyman Leno's legislation will accomplish what the California Supreme Court's decision has diminished.  This bill will properly protect legal medical cannabis patients and ensure their right to work.

Read Assemblyman Leno's press release about this important piece of legislation: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/leno_ross_release.pdf For background on the Ross vs. Raging Wire case visit: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/Ross Read the California Supreme Court's decision at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Ross_Ruling.pdf                 San Francisco Democratic Committee Calls on Mayor Newsom to Take a Stand From San Francisco ASA Core Leader, Alex Franco In a huge step forward for the Stand Up Newsom Campaign and patients in San Francisco, the San Francisco Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee passed a resolution with the following amendment: "...that Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and San Francisco’s State legislators join with Oakland Mayor and former Congressman Ron Dellums in denouncing the DEA tactics surrounding the property rights of landlords who rent to medical cannabis dispensaries." At Wednesday night's San Francisco Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee meeting, party Vice Chair and San Francisco Marijuana Offenses Oversight Committee co-chair, Michael Goldstein, seeing the ineffectiveness of the resolution as presented proffered an amendment requesting Mayor Gavin Newsom to join Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums in condemning the DEA's recent tactics of intimidating property owners who rent to medical cannabis dispensaries.  Upon hearing the loud applause from the public in attendance, committee member Robert Haaland was moved to ask to join Vice Chair Michael Goldstein's amendment by adding language that included the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and San Francisco's elected state officials.  This added strength to a position of support already voiced to advocates by many of the Board members, and Senator Carole Migden who is currently moving legislation supporting medical cannabis dispensary owners and their landlords through the state legislature.  San Francisco Assembly member Mark Leno has also voiced support of safe access of patients to their medication. Activists from Axis of Love SF, the Harvey Milk Club and Americans for Safe Access San Francisco spoke on behalf of the resolution. Some activists who were called minutes before the meeting rushed to the site and were able to demonstrate their support through their presence. The committee showed it understood the issue by first supporting the amendment, then by passing the entire resolution that included the amended language. Both votes were nearly unanimous with the exception of one abstention by Senator Diane Feinstein.  Feinstein's proxy, George Broder, explained his vote by noting he was unable to vote without passing it by the Senator. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The DCCC is the only political committee in the country whose principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates every step of the way through this critical election year.  Congratulations to ASA and the activists involved in getting this resolution passed. For more information about the DCCC's decision and to find out how you can get involved, contact Alex at: aaaFranco@yahoo.com

Jan 242008

Sometimes the Court Gets It Wrong - Americans for Safe Access

It was a very cold day today in the Bay Area. It was cold in San Francisco and, unusually, colder still in Oakland. Far colder was the California Supreme Court's decision in Ross v. Ragingwire, which limits the Compassionate Use Act to far less than a shell of its promise of "ensur[ing] that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician. . . ." And this is not even to mention the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which, though hardly mentioned by the Supreme Court, was the basis for our position. While the politics involved here, as well as the uninformed opinion of those that think this was case was governed by federal law, make this decision unsurprising to many, I can state with confidence, even in defeat, that our legal position was solid and we should have won. Rather than take my word for it, I will simply direct everyone to the dissenting Put simply, in the words of Justice Kennard, "The majority’s holding disrespects the will of California’s voters who, when they enacted the Compassionate Use Act, surely never intended that persons who availed themselves of its provisions would thereby disqualify themselves from employment." There is no federal law that required the employer to drug test under the facts of this case, much less to fire Ross for testing positive for marijuana. The only relevance of federal law to the facts of this case is to sell Ragingwire's legally disingenuous position to the press and public. Unless there is a conflict between state and federal law, and here there is none, federal law cannot defeat state law requirements, which require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Absent such conflict the Court was obliged to apply state law (the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Compassionate Use Act), which requires Ragingwire to provide a reasonable accommodation (not fire him for using the substance, legal under California law, to treat his disability). Unfortunately, as an an attorney who must continue to litigate cases before this Court, there are limitations on what I can say. Suffice it to say, we would not lose this case before all judges in California (or elsewhere), but only before these five of seven judges who were appointed to sit on this Court. Judges make all the difference, and in this case, they made for a cold, cold day.

Jan 232008

Israel & Canada Move Ahead, while US Lags Behind in Medical Marijuana Research - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 23, 2008 11:23 AM
Earlier this month, there were two exciting developments for medical cannabis internationally. In Israel, a Tel Aviv medical clinic began dispensing medical cannabis to patients in need, while in Canada, a federal court ruling ended the monopoly a federal contractor has on supplying cannabis to patients, opening up possibilities for dispensaries and collective production of medicine. Our international counterparts may be surging ahead in their paths to provide safe access for patients who benefit from medical cannabis, but here in the US, it's sometimes hard to move to the conversation about access when our government barely budges on research issues. The DEA continues to uphold a monopoly on the production of cannabis for research, even though it's own administrative law judge recommended ending this monopoly by granting a license to Professor Lyle Craker to grow research material. While whole plant medical cannabis is being stonewalled though, GW Pharmaceuticals is moving rapidly through Phase III trials in the US for Sativex, a cannabis-based tincture. GW's chairman, Dr. Geoffrey Guy, had this to say about the progress of Sativex:
"2008 promises to be an equally eventful year for GW, with the results of a number of key Sativex Phase III trials in Europe and the US due to be reported. The momentum behind Sativex and the wider field of cannabinoid medicines, as highlighted today by the promising results of our THCV metabolic research programme, continues to grow..."
It's good to know that GW recognizes the potential for a wider field of cannabis medicine, but until the monopoly on production of cannabis for research is ended, it will be difficult for researchers to push this field forward in the United States. Until then, at least patients in Israel are happy: "One cancer patient said the ministry's decision to offer the drug through the clinic was "a blessing," saying it prevents suffering patients from being driven to buy the drug illegally."
Jan 182008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 18, 2008 11:34 AM
Medical Marijuana and the 2008 Presidential Candidates Next Tuesday, January 22, marks the deadline for Californians to register to vote in the 2008 Presidential Primaries, which will be held on February 5, 2008. The California Primaries will give voters the chance to choose which candidate they want to have represent their party in the 2008 general elections. Over the past several months, the medical marijuana community has interacted with many of the candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Activists, patients,and supporters throughout the country have targeted the candidates, asking them to take a stand for patients and support safe access and an end to DEA raids. While ASA has not endorsed a candidate, ASA activists, chapters, and affiliates participated in bird-dogging events throughout the country, asking the candidates the tough questions about medical marijuana, DEA raids, and research. Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana out in New Hampshire spent the majority of 2007 focusing on the candidates' positions on medical marijuana and educating voters, with the culminating event being the New Hampshire primaries two weeks ago. Several organizations including the Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana and Pro/Con.org released report cards on the primary candidates and medical marijuana. The website 10 Questions.com went so far as to include a question about medical marijuana and the DEA raids in their presidential forum. ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman wrote up a review on the candidates' answers to the 10 Questions forum. Rebecca Saltzman's blog features video answers from several candidates and highlights the strongest positions. Check out Rebecca's blog at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/CandidateBlog With the deadline to register to vote less than a week away, we encourage you to consider registering to vote in time for the primary elections. All registration applications must be postmarked by Jan. 22nd to qualify in time for the primaries. As many of the reports mentioned above point out, the candidates' policies on medical marijuana vary greatly and it is up to us, the medical marijuana community, to vote for who we consider is the strongest candidate. To register to vote visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm To find out where your polling place is visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_ppl.htm For general information about the primary elections visit: http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov
Jan 112008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 11, 2008 12:16 PM
California State Senator Carole Migden Takes a Stand for Safe Access This  week, State Senator Carole Migden introduced a resolution in the California Senate calling on the federal government to end its attacks on patients and providers in California and end the DEA raids.  This is a huge victory for patients, providers, supporters, and activists in the medical marijuana movement.  Senator Migden's statement comes as a response to the DEA's recent escalation of tactics against medical cannabis providers by targeting innocent third-party landlords, threatening to prosecute them and seize their property for renting to collectives. The resolution introduced yesterday makes a clear and strong statement about the DEA's actions in California, saying:

"Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature respectfully memorializes the Congress and President of the United States to enact legislation to require the Drug Enforcement Agency and all other federal agencies and departments to respect the compassionate use laws of states, including returning any assets seized from medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives to the states in which they are located…" Senator Migden's actions follow several recent statements from other California elected officials.  Senator Migden joins Los Angeles City Council Member Dennis Zine, Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and others in opposing the DEA actions.  ASA and an ad-hoc coalition of reform organizations and activists have been reaching out to elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. While Senator Migden's resolution is a significant win for the medical cannabis community, we must continue to urge our elected officials to stand up for patients and providers and call for an end to DEA raids in California. 

To better protect the rights and interests of landlords, ASA has created a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions, which can be downloaded here. To find out how you can get involved in the campaign to end DEA raids in California, contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org or your local California ASA chapter and/or affiliate. Chapter and contact information for your local ASA chapter can be found at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/CaliforniaContacts

San Luis Obispo County Approves the Opening of the First Dispensing Collective This week, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted to approve the permit for a dispensing collective in Templeton.  This approval comes after 6 months of debate.  With a narrow 3-2 victory, the collective will be the first dispensary in San Luis Obispo County.  This is a great victory for the hundreds of patients living in the region who have so far been denied safe access.  With the permit approval, the dispensing collective can open in 30 days, pending no appeal from the opposition. Read more about the new collective on  KSBY and SanLuisObispo.com

Mendocino Supervisors Vote to Limit Patients' Access and Revisit Measure G This week, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to restrict patients' cultivation limits to only 25 plants per land parcel.  This decision means patient cultivation collectives and gardens are limited to only 25 plants, regardless of the number of registered medical cannabis patients living on or co-owning the parcel of land.  This decision has the potential to unduly limit the number of plants patients have the right to cultivate dictated by California state law. Following the vote, the board of supervisors also voted to revisit the 2000 initiative Measure G.  The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use. The board's decision to put an initiative up for voters to revisit Measure G this June could have a significant impact on patients’ access.  If Mendocino voters vote in favor of an initiative which opposes Measure G, this could be a blow to patients' rights by limiting patients' cultivation.  Activists in Mendocino County, including Mendocino ASA are springing in to action as a result of the Board of Supervisors’ recent votes. To find out what you can do in Mendocino County, contact MendoBruce@yahoo.com Read more about the Board of Supervisors' votes in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

El Dorado County Denies Dispensing Collective Permit El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted to not renew the business permit for the medical cannabis collective, Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County.  The board's decision will have a grave impact on safe access for patients in El Dorado County.  The collective, located in Cameron Park, applied for a business license and in 2004. Following license approval by the county, the collective opened its doors to patients in 2005.  The decision to deny the license and shut down access for patients cited the disharmony of the federal and state medical marijuana laws. In response to the Board's decision, the collective's operator, Matt Vaughn, has decided to sue the county for violating California state law and the Compassionate Use Act.  ASA will keep you updated on the lawsuit and access in El Dorado County as news comes in. To read more about El Dorado County and the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County, go to: http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/622253.html

Jan 092008

2007: ASA's Year in Review - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 09, 2008 1:14 PM
In the January edition of ASA's monthly newsletter, we review much of what we accomplished in 2007, including:

  • Winning a legal victory that forces law enforcement to return medical marijuana to valid California patients

  • Co-sponsoring the largest HIV/AIDS lobby day in DC

  • Launching a grassroots campaign to pressure Gov. Schwarzenegger to stand up for patients' rights

  • Protecting state laws by defeating the Coburn Amendment

  • And much, much more... 


Thanks to Alex at Drug Law Blog for including some of ASA's accomplishments in his top 10 drug law stories of 2007. Here's how we ranked:

8. ASA Sues the Feds for Putting Out Pseudo-Scientific Gobbledygook.

One of the intriguing things about law is the way formalized and seemingly very "square" tactics can sometimes accomplish surprisingly progressive goals. This year, Americans for Safe Access brought a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA based on a law called the Data Quality Act.  The basic argument is that under the DQA, these federal agencies have to rely on accurate science in setting their policies, and that their position on medical marijuana manifestly fails to do that. This suit is still working its way through the courts, so we'll see what comes of it....

4. Medical Marijuana:  The Feds Push, and California Pushes Back

... In November, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a case that was all about whether an individual should be able to get back medical marijuana that was seized by police if the marijuana was legally possessed under California law. We also saw the oral argument in the California Supreme Court in the employment law case of Ross v. RagingWire, which was about whether an employee could be fired for using physician-approved medical marijuana. Though it's tough to know how that one will ultimately come out, at least some of the comments from the justices suggested that they were sympathetic to the state's position on medical marijuana. [Both of these cases were argued by ASA Chief Counsel, Joe Elford.]

Check out the rest of his top 10 to see how we matched up.
Jan 042008

California Weekly Round Up - Americans for Safe Access

  • January 04, 2008 10:59 AM

Oakland Mayor Dellums Speaks Out for Safe Access On December 20th, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums came out strongly in support of medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by issuing a statement and sending a letter to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI). Dellums also stated his support for Representative Conyers' decision to hold hearings scrutinizing the latest DEA tactics in California of sending threatening letters to landlords and raiding dispensaries that are in compliance with local and state law. In Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers, he "urge[s] the House Judiciary Committee to expeditiously hold hearings and examine this very important issue." Mayor Dellums' public statement and letter were a result of a coalition of activists reaching out to the mayor, including ASA, local attorney James Anthony, the Drug Policy Alliance, CA NORML, and the Marijuana Policy Project. Just under a month ago, Bay Area landlords who rented to collectives received letters from the DEA threatening to seize their assets if they did not evict the medical cannabis providers. ASA and the coalition of advocates sprung into action, reaching out immediately to local elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. Mayor Dellums' recent public support joins a handful of other elected officials in the Bay Area, including Senator Carol Migden, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and the Oakland City Council who have come out publicly against the federal government's attack on medical marijuana. We are continuing to rally support from local officials and the community. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates have yet to release a statement supporting medical cannabis patients and providers and condemning the DEA's attacks. Read Mayor Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers at: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Letter_to_Conyers.pdf Read Mayor Dellums' statement at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Statement.pdf

To find out ways to get involved and ensure safe access in San Francisco please contact Alex Franco at: AAAFranco@yahoo.com To find out ways to get involved in the East Bay please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org

Check out Mayor Dellums' press coverage on Channel 2, the Oakland Tribune, and KPFA

Court Appeals Verdict: Patient's Conviction is Reversed The Fourth Appellate District Court issued another very positive published decision in People v. Chakos last week. The two concurring judges, Aronson and Fybel, involved in the unanimous opinion were the same two concurring judges in the Garden Grove (Kha) case.

The court found that the conviction for possession with the intent to sell of defendant Chakos should be reversed because the court improperly admitted a cop to testify as an expert about marijuana distribution. They found him to be no more an expert than the average layperson because he did not understand the unique practices and difficulties faced by medical marijuana patients. Although the defendant possessed approximately six ounces of marijuana, had a digital scale, and plastic baggies, the court found that this did not suggest non-medical use. Specifically, after noting that a patient is legally entitled to possess eight ounces of marijuana under California law, the court stated:

"One might posit, then, that individuals who may lawfully possess marijuana under state law for medicinal purposes will have patterns of purchase and holding that will reflect the practical difficulties in obtaining the drug. Those practical difficulties could also explain the gram scale -- anyone with the lawful right to possess marijuana will need to take precautions not to insure that he or she does not get “ripped off” by a dealer, but that he or she does not possess more than the eight ounces contemplated by the Act. Practical difficulties of obtaining the drug also explain why a patient entitled to 13 possess it under state law might want to keep an extra supply on hand within the legal amount, since supplies would not be reliable."

They end the decision by referring to the "expert" cop:

"Now, are these speculations to be rejected because contradicted by the expert’s testimony on the record? No -- and that is the point: The record fails to show that Deputy Cormier is any more familiar than the average layperson or the members of this court with the patterns of lawful possession for medicinal use that would allow him to differentiate them from unlawful possession for sale. In other words, Cormier was unqualified to render an expert opinion in this case."

Read more about the case and the 4th Appellate Court's decision in the San Francisco Chronicle's story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/21/BAJ0U37B7.DTL&tsp=1 Ukiah City Council Calls for Medicine Limits- Board of Supervisors to Consider Ballot Initiative The Ukiah City Council is expected to vote on a resolution today at 4:00pm, which calls on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to put an initiative on the ballot to limit the number of plants medical cannabis patients are allowed to cultivate and repeal the landmark legislation, Measure G. Measure G was voted on by the Mendocino County voters in 2000. The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use.

The Council is calling for a repeal of Measure G and limiting the plant numbers to six per patient. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss putting the repeal of Measure G and limiting patients' cultivation on the ballot next Tuesday, January 8th.

Come out and support patients' access! Scroll down to "City and County Hearings" to find details about the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday.

Read about Ukiah City Council's efforts to repeal of Measure G in the Press Democrat: http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20071224/NEWS/712240316/1033/NEWS01 and in the Willits News: http://www.willitsnews.com//ci_7812598?IADID=Search-www.willitsnews.com-www.willitsnews.com

Orange County Begins Issuing Medical Cannabis ID Cards From Safe Access Now's Aaron Smith

On January 2nd, the Orange County Department of Public Health launched the statewide medical marijuana ID card program. Application for the cards are being taken on an appointment-only basis. Obtaining a card is voluntary for patients and caregivers but many find them to be very helpful in preventing false arrest by state and local law enforcement. In order to qualify for the ID card, you must be able to provide a copy of a valid doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, proof of residency within Orange County and pay an application fee of $150 ($75 for MediCal recipients).

To make an appointment and apply for the card program, call the County Health Department at (714) 480-6717 during normal business hours.