Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Read ASA's press release about the brief here. DEA Raids Los Angeles Dispensary Herbal Nutrition Center in Los Angeles was raided yesterday afternoon by DEA agents. The collective was ransacked by agents, but no one was arrested. DEA agents seized medicine and vandalized displays and the collective's surveillance system. As a result of the raid and the upcoming holidays the collective will be re-opening it's doors on January 2, 2008. Thank you to all that came out to show your support. If you haven't signed up for ASA's raid alert text messaging system, do so today at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert Read a report about the raid from the collective's operator on ASA's forums at: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=642 Special Announcement: Tom Kikuchi has Moved to a Different Facility ASA has been alerted that recently convicted Tom Kikuchi has been moved has been taken from Dyer Detention Center. Sarah Armstrong, longtime supporter and caretaker for victims of the war on medical marijuana reports that, "he feels this is a temporary situation, and that he will soon be shipped away to somewhere else, they will not tell him where." Sarah has also reported that Tom has asked that people hold up on cards and letters until he can ascertain how long he will be at this federal facility. ASA will keep you updated as news comes in. Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced only a few weeks ago to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Read Vanessa Nelson's article(s) on Tom Kikuchi at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/
online presidential forum that has asked 10 questions to each of the presidential candidates. Question #3 asks the candidates how they feel about medical marijuana, whether they would stop the DEA raids, and if they would change the laws. So far, one Republican and four Democrats have answered the questions. Here are there answers: Mike Huckabee does a great job at dodging the question and even claims that the way to go about this would be for advocates to just change the laws (as if we weren't trying, and as if Huckabee would have no influence over this if he was president): Mike Gravel dodges the question in a completely different way, using the opportunity to bash the war on drugs and talk about broader decriminalization of marijuana: Dennis Kucinich probably does the best job of answering the question directly, clearly stating that he would end the raids and that medical marijuana should be available to those who need it: John Edwards states that he would end the DEA raids and ties medical marijuana into the broader issue of the Bush administration's neglect of science, in favor of politics: Barack Obama also voices support for medical marijuana, saying that if it's safe it should regulated like other prescription drugs, though he takes jabs at patients who grow their own medicine: So what do you think? Who dodged the question? Who answered it the best? Did any of these answers change who you're going to vote for?
here. For more information on what you can do to support the defendants, visit www.FreeTainted.com. DEA Asset Forfeiture Letters Reach Northern California; Activists Mobilize This week, the DEA's newest tactic of shutting down access for patients reached Northern California. Several Northern California collectives' landlords received asset forfeiture letters from the DEA. In these letters, the DEA threatens to seize the property of the innocent third-party landlords for allowing medical cannabis collectives to operate in their properties. While this is a concerning development, ASA is working in coalition with Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California NORML, and other activists and leaders to ensure that andlords, patients, and providers are protected. We will need the grassroots' support and actions in the upcoming weeks. Please stay alert, as the coalition will be calling on activists to take action to ensure safe access in California. Court Denies Appeal for Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative This week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative's oral arguments, affirming the U.S. government's injunction. This decision does not change the current situation for medical cannabis dispensaries in California. Read more about the decision, reported by CBS 5: http://cbs5.com/local/medical.marijuana.oakland.2.610402.html DEA Seizes Taxes from CA Board of Equalization From Dale Gieringer, Executive Director, California NORML DEA raids on California's medical marijuana dispensaries are costing the state's taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues, according to records collected by California NORML. The DEA has not only closed facilities that were paying millions of dollars yearly in sales taxes, but also seized as much as $450,000 in sales tax payments that were in transit to the state Board of Equalization. Among them was a $350,000 electronic payment to the BOE from the Compassion Center of Alameda County, which the DEA seized from the bank on October 30th. Read the rest of the story>>
City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a unanimous panel of three judges on California's Fourth Appellate District issued a 41-page published opinion, which made clear that all superior court judges across the state must return confiscated marijuana to qualified marijuana patients who demonstrate that they are entitled to possess it under California law. The opinion is written by the Honorable William Bedsworth, whom many consider the "Literary Jurist." It has many quotable passages. The opinion starts out with a noticeable description of the issue presented -- "We confront here the facially anomalous request that we approve state confiscation of a substance which is legal in the circumstances under which it was possessed." I take this to mean that the court is stating that it will not condone police seizing marijuana that is possessed legally under California law. In other words, the police should not have taken Felix Kha's marijuana in the first place. The court, then, treated seized medical marijuana just like other legally possessed property taken by the police and found that "[b]ecause Kha is legally entitled to possess it, due process and fundamental fairness dictate that it be returned to him." There would not be an exception to these constitutional principles for medical marijuana patients. Courts must return medical marijuana to qualified patients. But what about federal law, you wonder? Well, federal law expressly contains an exception to its marijuana laws for law enforcement officers performing their functions. 21 U.S.C. Section 885(d) provides that "no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed [under the federal Controlled Substances Act] upon any . . . duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances." Thus, as did a unanimous court of appeals in Oregon, the Fourth Appellate District held that the courts and police are immune from federal drug laws for returning medical marijuana. Law enforcement's reliance on federal law in refusing to do this is misplaced. The court further explained:
By complying with the trial court's order, the Garden Grove police will actually be facilitating a primary principle of federalism, which is to allow the states to innovate in areas bearing on the health and well-being of their citizens. Indeed, "[o]ure federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of States [that have authorized the use of medical marijuana] to decide from themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens." [citation] The [Compassionate Use Act] and the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] are a clear manifestation of that decision-making process.The feds may do what the feds will do in enforcing their own laws, but the people of California are entitled to decide to tread a different path, which requires the return of medical marijuana wrongfully seized by the police. The City of Garden Grove was joined in its resistance to court-ordered return of medical marijuana by several amici (friends of the court), which included the California Peace Officer' Association and the California District Attorneys' Association. (The Attorney General, on the hand, filed a brief supporting our side.) The court addressed several of their claims:
Amici for the City also claim that ordering the return of Kha's marijuana is ill advised as a matter of public policy because local police are held to a high moral standard, they often cooperate with federal drug enforcement efforts, and they are generally charged with enforcing and administering “the law of the land,” which includes federal law. We appreciate these considerations and understand police officers at all levels of government have an interest in the interdiction of illegal drugs. But it must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such. For reasons we have explained, state courts can only reach conduct subject to federal law if such conduct also transcends state law, which in this case it does not. To the contrary, Kha's conduct is actually sanctioned and made “noncriminal” under the CUA.The court emphasized to the police that medical marijuana patients are not criminals:
Amici argue the police should not have to return Kha's marijuana to him, even though he is qualified to use the drug for medical reasons under California law. Characterizing Kha as a “criminal defendant,” amici claim the CUA only provides him with a “defense” to certain offenses and does not make his possession of medical marijuana “lawful.” But Kha is clearly not a criminal defendant with respect to the subject marijuana. Since the prosecution dismissed the drug charge he was facing, he is nothing more than an aggrieved citizen who is seeking the return of his property. The terms “criminal” and “defendant” do not aptly apply to him.For the first time in a published opinion, a California court clarified to the local police that it is state law, not federal law, they should be enforcing. It was a pleasure to read this thoughtful, well-reasoned decision which strongly vindicates the right of medical marijuana patients everywhere. It will be cited often. For the briefs filed in the case see here.
ASA Applauds Gov. Richardson’s Inclusion of Medical Marijuana in HIV/AIDS Platform - Americans for Safe AccessOn Saturday, December 1, to commemorate Worlds AIDS Day, Democratic Presidential Candidate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson unveiled his HIV/AIDS policy platform. In addition to recognizing the need for a National AIDS Strategy, the Governor’s plan includes a provision that would permit the use of medicinal marijuana to help people living with HIV/AIDS improve pain and symptom management. The anti-emetic and analgesic properties of cannabis have been particularly useful to HIV/AIDS patients. People living with HIV/AIDS have long used cannabis to help with symptoms of HIV related illnesses ranging from wasting and loss of appetite to adherence to medications. Consequently, it is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 AIDS patients use cannabis for medical purposes. Earlier this year, the journal Neurology published the results of a clinical trial indicating that smoked marijuana can alleviate painful, peripheral HIV/AIDS-related neuropathy. Research also shows that access to cannabis may improve health care outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS. For example individuals who use cannabis in conjunction with their antiretroviral therapy are approximately 3.3 times more likely to remain on their prescribed drug therapies than those who do not use cannabis. The Bush Administration has failed to acknowledge the growing body of evidence which demonstrate that marijuana has medical value. In fact, neither the Clinton nor the Bush Administrations have ever undertaken any effort to review or fully implement the recommendations of the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, Marijuana and Medicine-Assessing the Science, which acknowledged that "For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication." In contrast, California and 12 other states, including New Mexico, have passed laws that authorize the use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physicians. Americans for Safe Access is encouraged by Governor Richardson’s sensitivity to the intersection of medical marijuana and HIV/AIDS. We hope other Presidential candidates will take note, and follow his lead.
http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5251 Read the press coverage by: NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/us/30pot.html?ref=us SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/30/BAIFTLCNQ.DTL The Recorder: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1196361712064 Orange County Register: http://www.ocregister.com/news/marijuana-law-kha-1931328-state-garden CBS 2: http://cbs2.com/local/Medical.Marijuana.Garden.2.598475.html Medical Marijuana Movement Loses Linda Senti From Chris Payaso, c/o Oaksterdam News and Weedbay.net: It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you all that a great shining light of compassion and freedom here in California has been snuffed out. Linda Senti, wife of cannabis activist Eddy Lepp, passed from this world at 8 pm PST Sunday, November 25. Linda was my closest confidant and friend in California, and although sad at her passing, I am happy she is no longer in pain from the cancer she has been fighting for decades. Please pray for Linda, and especially Eddy Lepp. He needs all the support and love that we can offer so that he can continue fighting for OUR RIGHTS. Both Eddy and Linda worked tirelessly for at least the last 20 years together on their vision. A vision that included personal freedom for everyone. Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Deny Dispensary Permit This week, in a disappointing act, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors denied Creekside Medicinal Organics their permit in a 3-0 vote with two Supervisors missing. Despite the large contingency of Sonoma ASA chapter members, patients, and activists who testified in support of Creekside Medicinal Organics, the board went ahead and voted the permit down, citing ordinance residential zoning rule. The collective had met every stipulation of the county's ordinance with one small exception. The land parcel site is 53 feet from residential zoning. The ordinance rule is 100 feet. The physical building, however, is located over two hundred feet from the residential zoning, but because parcel line is only 53 feet away, the permit was recommended for denial and then voted down in a unanimous decision. ASA would like to thank Sonoma ASA and all the activists, patients, and concerned citizens that showed up in support of the collective. Even though we did not win, we appreciate your hard work and your commitment to safe access. It is people like you that keep this movement alive and strong. Read more about the hearing at: http://www.ktvu.com/news/14710912/detail.html Update on Long Beach Raid Two weeks ago, DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers, seizing medicine and other resources and arresting the collective's operator, Samuel Matthew Fata. The collective has remained closed since the raid, and ASA has not received reports of their plans to reopen. The raid was the first federal attack on a dispensary in Long Beach, and the DEA has released a press statement saying it will not be the last. The city of Long Beach does not have a dispensary ordinance, nor regulations in place, despite the reported 10+ dispensaries in the city. Several dispensaries in Long Beach have fallen under attack recently when the DEA issued asset forfeiture letters to the facilities' landlords. ASA will report breaking news on access in Long Beach as well as upcoming court dates and support for the collective as we receive reports. If you have any information about upcoming court dates for Fata, please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org To read more about the raid, see the following news articles: Long Beach Press-Telegram: http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7530132 and http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7544769
In late September, DEA proposed a new rule that would effectively place dronabinol (the active chemical in MARINOL) in Schedule III. Wait a second, isn't MARINOL already in Schedule III? It is. When MARINOL was first marketed, it was placed in Schedule II. Once DEA was shown that it had a low potential for abuse, they agreed to place it in Schedule III. But the narrow language only places in Schedule III MARINOL's specific formulation (synthetically derived dronabinol, suspended in sesame oil). All other formulations remain in Schedule I.Marinol's patent is almost up, which will open up the market to generic dronabinol, as long as the rule change goes through. ASA submitted a Public Comment in support of the proposed rule change. Here are some highlights:
Primarily, the proposed rule is a positive step because in it, the DEA acknowledges, only for the second time (Marinol was the first in 1986), the obvious medical benefits of THC/dronabinol. These proposed changes also represent progress because they implicitly recognize the value of whole-plant cannabis and its capacity to extract naturally occurring THC that is bioequivalent to synthetic THC... This proposed change is also a positive development because its will likely result in greater access for patients to less expensive, naturally derived cannabis-based drugs in the short term... Generic drugs, drugs that are produced and distributed without patent protection (and approved by the FDA under 21 U.S.C. 355 § 505(j)), are generally much cheaper than brand-name drugs, such as Marinol.We go on to argue that the rule change does not go far enough, and that the DEA needs to consider rescheduling other cannabinoids:
...the DEA should initiate another proposed rule change that reschedules a wide array of natural, non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids to support the research and development of a wider variety of cannabis-based medicines. Research suggests that the beneficial therapeutic effects of cannabis may result from the interaction, or synergy, among various cannabinoids. This helps to explain why medicines developed from whole-plant extracts may be more effective than single cannabinoid drugs developed from synthetic compounds. For instance, Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine, which combines both THC and CBD to produce an entirely different therapeutic potential than THC alone, has been developed by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, and has been approved for use in Canada and is undergoing clinical trials in Europe and the United States...And we further argue that the DEA should end the obstructions to medical cannabis research:
...the DEA should accept the opinion of its own U.S. Department of Justice-appointed Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mary Ellen Bittner, who urges the DEA to grant a license to Professor Lyle Craker to cultivate research-grade cannabis for distribution exclusively to federally approved researchers, which would greatly facilitate research on the therapeutic value of cannabis and access to its naturally derived constituent cannabinoids, specifically THC.Please read ASA's full comment and MAPS' comment.
http://AmericansforSafeAccess.org/OrangeCountyBlog DEA Raids Long Beach Dispensary DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Cooperative yesterday. ASA is awaiting further details on the raid. A patient that was there claims that DEA raided LBCC 5 minutes after they opened yesterday morning. DEA took the medicine and harassed the volunteers, but we still have not heard of any arrests. Please post any news on the raid at our forum, http://www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/LongBeachRaid Tom Kikuchi Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced yesterday to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Tom Kikuchi, Stephanie Landa, and Kevin Gage, a noted Hollywood actor, accepted a plea agreement in 2003. This case drew attention because San Francisco police apparently turned her and two others over to federal prosecutors. The three had met with the city’s district attorney and police officials before beginning cultivation. For more information about the case and Tom Kikuchi's hearing, read Vanessa Nelson's article at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/
HHS denied ASA’s petition on April 20, 2005. ASA quickly filed an appeal, and after even more delays, on July 12, 2006, HHS denied the appeal. Having exhausted its administrative remedies, ASA filed a lawsuit on February 21, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, naming HHS and FDA, and challenging the government’s violation of the Data Quality Act. An amended complaint was subsequently filed on August 17, 2007. Mr. Elford's arguments called for an answer from HHS in a timely manor. We expect a ruling from Judge Alsup within a few weeks. Mendocino County Supervisors Send Medical Marijuana Regulations Back to Committee This week, Mendocino County Supervisors voted to send the proposed medical marijuana regulations back to committee. The proposed dispensary regulations which were sent back to committee put a cap on only 2 dispensaries in the large county. It has also been criticized as having unattainable regulations which will put up roadblocks for providers and patients. The current draft of the regulations will be amended in the Criminal Justice Committee. Just two months ago, the CJ committee made recommendations to limit the number of plants a patient is allowed to have. In response, the same Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance calling for the county to honor the voters' wishes as specified in measure G and to keep the guidelines at 25 plants per patient. The Board of Supervisors rejected the Criminal Justice committee's recommendation to lower the County's limits to 6 mature and 12 immature plants. Activists in Mendocino County are hoping the Criminal Justice committee scraps the regulations all together. To find out how you can help in Mendocino County and ensure safe access, please contact Bruce at: MendoBruce@yahoo.com.