Blog Voices from the Frontlines

Sep 262007

DEA Gives Schwarzenegger Another Reason to Stand Up for Patients' Rights - Americans for Safe Access

  • September 26, 2007 9:58 AM
Today, on my way into the office, I got a call alerting me that the DEA was raiding River City Patient Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento. I was immediately outraged by the DEA's continued harassment of patients and providers, but here at ASA, we're used to putting these feelings aside and springing into action. By the time I reached ASA's headquarters, everyone was on the phone, calling media outlets and supporters to urge them to protest at the site of the raid. A text message had been sent out to ASA's Sacramento raid emergency response text messaging group, emails had been sent to local listserves, and alerts had been posted on message boards. Just a couple hours after the raid began, ASA's Sacramento chapter leader informed us that 100 patients and advocates were protesting outside the dispensary with signs and flags. Several reporters had interviewed her and filmed the progress of the raid. Their was some good news - it didn't appear as if Sacramento's police or sheriff's department had been involved in the raid. The feds acted on their own. Also, we just found out that all the employees who had been detained were released. No arrests were made. After two and a half years at ASA, raid response has become a routine part of my work life. Still, DEA actions continue to shake me up. I refuse to get used to them and instead, I use these times to reflect on the important work we're doing and to reinvigorate my activist energy so that one day we will not need emergency responses. If you're a CA resident who's also shaken up, here's something easy you can do to make a difference - call the Governor as part of ASA's Stand Up for Patients' Rights campaign. Here's the info: Call the governor's headquarters today to urge him to stand up for patients' rights by calling on the Bush administration to end the DEA raids on state-sanctioned patients and providers. The Governor's Headquarters in Sacramento: 916-445-2841 Phone Script:
"Hello, my name is __Insert Your Name__ and I live in __Insert Your City__ in California. Thousands of California medical marijuana patients depend on safe access to medicine to treat the chronic and terminal disease symptoms. The federal government has taken serious actions to raid, arrest, and prosecute hundreds of patients and providers, publicly stating that they will not recognize the validity of our law. Today, the DEA raided another medical cannabis provider in Sacramento. On Thursday, October 11, we are gathering at your office in Los Angeles, I urge you to join us on that day to stand up for patients’ rights. I also urge you to defend California's laws and call on the Bush Administration to end the attack on patients and providers. Please let me know what you plan to do."
Please let ASA know you've called the governor by e-mailing Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org.
Sep 252007

Michael Teague Is Free at Last, as Federal Judge Questions Another Federal Medical Marijuana Prosecution - Americans for Safe Access

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter terminated the supervised release of Michael Teague fifteen months early in response to a motion filed by Americans for Safe Access.  Michael was one of the first federal medical marijuana prosecutions in California.  He served nearly seventeen months in federal prison, and a month and a half in a halfway house, before serving almost 33 months of a four-year term of supervised release for cultivating 102 plants.  In cutting Michael loose early from the onerous drug-testing and other conditions of supervised release, Judge Carter commented on Michael's exemplary conduct. What made the hearing interesting, though, is that Judge Carter went to lengths to explain that it was tragic for Michael to have been harmed so severely for being caught in the conflict between state and federal law.  Through these statements, Judge Carter joins Judge Breyer of the Rosenthal case as federal judges who have openly criticized or questioned federal criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients.
Sep 242007

60-Minutes Highlights Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and Interference by the Feds - Americans for Safe Access

A 60-Minutes episode, which aired on Sunday, September 23, 2007, has finally shed some light on one of California's medical cannabis (marijuana) predicaments. The fact that 60-Minutes has chosen this moment in time to educate the U.S. public on medical cannabis, eleven years after the passage of Proposition 215, indicates that something is amiss. However, the episode focuses on a narrow aspect of the issue and fails to provide proper context. For example, 60-Minutes chose to focus exclusively on California law and the distribution system that was designed as a result of that law. But, the episode also questions the validity of medical marijuana without sufficiently discussing the vast amount of research and history that would provide the program with its evidence. Regardless, any "unintended consequences" from the Compassionate Use Act (Prop 125) are not due to the way the law was drafted, as 60-Minutes guest Scott Imler suggests, but to a reluctance by the federal government to respect the will of California voters. Prop 215 was drafted to be inclusive of illnesses and conditions for which cannabis was known to be effective. While we may want to pontificate about whether people are really using it medically or if there is abuse in the system, it is ultimately up to a patient and her doctor to determine if cannabis is appropriate. If there is a question about abuse, it becomes the domain of the California Medical Board, which has its own medical cannabis guidelines for physicians. Federal raids are not a proper response to allegations of abuse. It was the hope that Prop 215 would compel "federal and state governments to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana." But, because of a refusal by the federal government to acknowledge marijuana's medical efficacy, not only has this "plan" not been realized, but tactics are also being used to hinder that "distribution" and undermine state law. Ever since the June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court gave it the discretion, in Gonzales v. Raich, to arrest and prosecute medical cannabis patients, the federal government has consistently used Drug Enforcement Agents (DEA) to conduct paramilitary-style raids with flak-jackets, ski-masks, and automatic weapons drawn. With the 60-Minutes focus on the DEA raid of California Patients Group serving as a graphic example, the feds have intensified this tactic over the past few months. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of DEA raids, with medical cannabis dispensaries being shut down over entire regions of the state. Another tactic used by the federal government to undermine California's medical marijuana law, not mentioned by 60-Minutes, is to threaten landlords with asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution if they continue to lease to dispensaries. More than 150 letters have been sent, mainly to landlords in southern California. Given that limited DEA resources would prevent the government from acting on most (or all) of its threats, this tactic amounts to nothing more than intimidation. It is with admirable resolve that dispensary operators across the state remain undeterred and continue to provide a much-needed medicine to patients. Dispensaries are a community-based solution to a problem of access to medical cannabis in California. This is what access looks like with a federal government resistant to taking part in the implementation of state law. Would distribution look different if cannabis could be prescribed? Probably. Would we see it in pharmacies? Possibly. But, until, as the 60-Minutes episode suggests, the federal government changes its policy toward medical cannabis, we will see people needlessly harassed, arrested, prosecuted, jailed, and deprived of a medicine that works for them.