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Since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act over a decade ago, California courts have struggled to determine what a person must do to establish himself as the primary caregiver for a qualified patient. Providing marijuana alone, several courts have said, is insufficient even to have a jury hear a defense based on one's status as a primary caregiver. In People v. Mentch, which is pending before the California Supreme Court, the Court will provide further guidance. The Compassionate Use Act defines a "primary caregiver" as "the individual designated by the person exempted under [the Compassionate Use Act] who has consistently assumed the responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person." Because the California electorate has declared that marijuana is medicine, it is ASA's position that consistently cultivating marijuana for a qualified patient, standing alone, is sufficient to establish one's status as a primary caregiver. The Attorney General, on the other hand, has argued that one must do more, such as house, feed, or clothe the qualified patient. ASA's amicus brief seeks a definition of primary caregiver that is more faithful to the language of the Compassionate Use Act and the voters' intent.
In the latest saga of obfuscation by Kern County officials, District Attorney Ed Jagels has recommended the banning of dispensaries in the county. The Bakersfield Californian quotes Jagels in an October 10 article as saying, "I do not think we benefit from the cooperative/collective licensing ordinance." Who doesn't benefit, and what exactly are the problems caused by the existing ordinance approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2006? Let's be very clear about this. The people who stand to lose the most from a lack of dispensaries in Kern are the hundreds of patients now forced to travel to other counties to obtain their medical marijuana. Let's be clear about another thing. The Kern County Sheriff was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee the dispensary permitting process as defined by the county's regulatory ordinance. The fact that Sheriff Youngblood cooperated with federal DEA agents to raid and close the same dispensaries that had been permitted by his office is cause for great concern. I wonder if Sheriff Youngblood understands that medical marijuana patients and providers are prevented from using medical evidence at their federal trial. Is it possible that Sheriff Youngblood couldn't figure out how to file charges under state law, or was he trying to ensure a conviction in federal court for conduct with which he disagreed, even if he had to violate his own ordinance to do it? There's one more thing to be clear about. The Kern County Board of Supervisors did the right thing in adopting the 2006 ordinance regulating dispensaries. The dispensaries that were permitted under the ordinance and the communities surrounding them had very few problems. But, Sheriff Youngblood wasn't the same Sheriff that took part in drafting the ordinance, and now he has succeeded in undermining both state and local law. The solution is not, as suggested by DA Jagels, to shut down dispensaries or ban them from Kern County. The best solution is one of the options offered by the Kern County Counsel -- maintain the current ordinance, but appoint another agency to oversee the permitting process. Kern County patients rely on these facilities, and it's up to county officials to figure out how to effectively regulate them.
Steve Filson, Democratic California Assembly Candidate for the 15th District, posted his candidate statement on Calitics yesterday. After covering his platform issues, he came out strongly in favor of medical cannabis:
And the one vote I will consistently cast is to support medical use of marijuana. My extensive corporate management experience with employees, who fell victim, albeit rarely, to substance abuse is based on medical and other professional training, not on the viewpoint of archaic hysteria. As an expert in employee recovery programs, I know this drug to be fully appropriate for medicinal uses and it does not constitute a "domino" step to harder drugs.Considering that Filson is vying for a seat that has historically been held by Republicans, this is a courageous statement and shows that he really cares about patients and understands the importance of this issue to Californians. Thanks to the work of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have also come out in support of medical marijuana, along with two of the Republican candidates, Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Tom Tancredo. It is clear that medical marijuana is becoming a more mainstream electoral issue. Soon it will be the job of advocates and patients to hold our elected officials to these statements.
Wow, take a look at Gov. Romney's cold dismissal of wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient and muscular dystrophy sufferer Clayton Holton. Holton tries to explain to Gov. Romney that marijuana works for him in a way that other medicines have not. Gov. Romney's tired rejoinder is that Colton should ignore what his own body has told him and seek Marinol or addictive opiate-based pain medications, even though
"It makes me sick. I have tried it, and it makes me throw up," Holton said.Holton then asks the key question:
"Will you arrest me or my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"Romney brusquely states:
"I am not in favor of medical marijuana being legal in the country."and then coldly walks away, continuing to refuse to answer the question, even after several entreaties by the wheelchair-bound patient and others. Taking the Governor on his word, if he becomes President, he does in fact intend to raid, arrest and prosecute sick patients like Clayton Holton and throw them in jail for using marijuana to help ease debilitating ailments like muscular dystrophy. Traditional Media, including CNN, from whence the link came, pick this up, Romney absolutely will arrest the sick and dying. That's just sad. Gov. Romney, I urge you to look to your religious beliefs which you so often cite as inspiring you to public service, and try to find compassion in your heart. Even if you do not endeavor to change your stance on medical marijuana, you can still commit to ending the raids that put the sick and dying in jail. It's the compassionate thing to do.
In a time of increased federal raids and DEA attacks on patients and providers across California, it is important to have educational tools like the new documentary, "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," to illustrate the importance of understanding and protecting dispensaries as an integral part of safe access and the successful implementation of state law. According to the producers of this important documentary:
In the hour-long documentary "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," voices from inside discuss practices and issues involved in distributing medical cannabis. Of the twelve states in 2006 that permit medical cannabis use, California is the only state that allows for the distribution of the medicine. How and where do people get their medicine? How does one insure that their medicine is clean, safe and of sufficient quality? Tours of five cannabis dispensary models provide an unprecedented look into this quasi-legal business. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, patients and caregivers share their perspectives and concerns.The documentary is a finalist in the La Femme Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 11 at 10am at the Wilshire Screening Room, 8670 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills (cost is $10). The Director/Producer Ann Alter will be in attendance at the screening. The filmmakers are interested in holding additional screenings in the Los Angeles area between October 11 - 14. Contact distribution coordinator Ben Shaw at 707-496-9439 or [email protected] for details. A trailer for "Dispensing Cannabis" can be viewed here, and you can purchase a DVD by visiting the official "Dispensing Cannabis" website. For more information on medical cannabis dispensaries and to hear what public officials across the state have said about them, refer to ASA's report, "Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation."
ASA Holds an Emotional Press Conference as Tainted's Michael Martin Turns Himself In Yesterday, dozens of ASA's supporters and ASA staff gathered at an emotional press conference as edible producer Michael Martin, 33, turned himself over to federal authorities in response to an arrest warrant issued last week. Martin received word of the September 26 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid on Tainted, Inc. while on vacation, and is not considered a fugitive as reported earlier by government and media. Martin, a medical marijuana patient, spoke at the press conference saying, "We must put a stop to this travesty and, as a community, speak up, and defend a patients' right to use safer alternatives of medication as they and their doctors see fit. We must no longer allow the federal government to viciously intimidate its citizens by misinforming and blantantly lying to the public about the benefits of cannabis as a safe and effective medicine..." Read Michael Martin's open letter, which he read from at the press conference at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Martin_Letter.pdf. The press conference continued with Martin's lawyer, Sara Zalkin, his mother, Kimberly Miller, a patient who relies on cannabis edibles, Jeff Bishop, collective operator Richard Lee, and ASA's Executive Director, Dr. Frank Lucido, Steph Sherer, speaking. Several media sources covered the press conference including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press, ABC 7, CBS 5, and KTVU Channel 2. Martin was released on bail of $300,000 and will appear before the Magistrate Brazil in Oakland Federal Court along with the three other defendants facing charges, on October 26th at 10:00am. ASA will be posting his upcoming court dates in the CA Weekly Alerts to come. Read ASA's press advisory on the event here. ASA Chapters Organize Statewide Banner Drop Targeting Governor Schwarzenegger Yesterday, with one week until the statewide mobilization left, several California ASA chapters throughout the state conducted a synchronized banner drop during rush hour. Activists performed this act of civil disobedience by rolling out homemade banners, reading the message, "Gov. Schwarzenegger: Defend California's Medical Marijuana Laws!" Some of the chapters, like the San Francisco ASA chapter, left the banner up after they had left. The banner drops were designed to further promote the important mobilization to the Governor's office next Thursday, whilst increasing public awareness around the issue. As many of you may know, medical marijuana activists, supporters, patients, and providers, have been organizing a statewide mobilization to the Governor's office in Los Angeles. The event will take place next Thursday, October 11th at 12:00pm at the Governor's Los Angeles office. To read more about the campaign and the mobilization, check out the "Take Action" and "Special Events" sections in the Weekly Alert, or visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp. Several people called ASA's headquarters yesterday to report spotting the banners on their way to work. ASA's San Francisco chapter recorded their banner drop on video. We will be posting the video on ASA's website early next week. Thank you to all the chapter members for taking action to promote this historic campaign! If you are interested in getting involved in your local ASA chapter, contact [email protected]. Longtime Medical Marijuana Activist is Arrested at a Drug Free Coalition Meeting Earlier this week, longtime medical marijuana activist and leader of the Inland Empire's Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, Lanny Swerdlow, was arrested at a Drug Free Community Coalition meeting in Rancho Cucamunga. Swerdlow was arrested after law enforcement were called by the Drug Free Community Coalition's leader, Paul Chabot. Authorities claim that Swerdlow was arrested because Chabot was pressing charges for alleged assault. Swerdlow refutes this claim, and is preparing to fight the charges. Below is an excerpt that Swerdlow wrote up about the event:
"After about an hour of sitting in the car while the police questioned some of the people and ran background checks on the four of us who were there and questioned me as well, the officer issued me a citation, citing me for battery. They informed me that they were not doing this because they had seen anything, but doing it because Mr. Chabot was pressing charges against me. They were very courteous the entire time and I suspect that they felt this was all a crock, but, if I understood them correctly, they had no choice but to arrest me because Mr. Chabot was adamant in filing charges... No matter what happens, the Chabots and their Drug Free Community Coalition better get used to seeing us if they are going to operate in the Inland Empire and continue their attacks on California's medical marijuana laws. Riverside County has made great strides especially in the light of where this county was five years ago. San Bernardino County is somewhat where Riverside County was five years ago but there are two cities, Claremont and Diamond Bar in SB County that allow dispensaries. We have come too far and achieved too much to let anyone stop us now. We will do what we can to see to it that patients in the Inland Empire continue to have access to sources of medicinal marijuana and that laws of the state of California are respected by all. "Read the Lanny Swerdlow's full report on ASA's Forums here. For more information on the event and the work MAPP is doing, contact Lanny at: [email protected]. To sign up to receive this weekly round up by e-mail, click here.
Guest post written by James Anthony. James Anthony is a former Deputy City Attorney for Oakland and a LEAP member (www.leap.cc). He now serves as land use permitting counsel for better MCDs throughout the State of California and looks forward to a day when the federal government realizes it has better things to do with its resources than harass patients. You can reach him at [email protected]. Patients and advocates often ask if there's any pattern to DEA raids. This a common and understandable question--as human beings we want a predictable and sensible universe. And this natural impulse to seek patterns is exploited by all psychological terror groups in a number of ways. (I include the DEA as a psychological terror group because 1) they are losing the war on medical marijuana and must resort to ever more desperate tactics, and 2) because they are part of the US government which openly condones torture and preemptive warfare--clearly a dangerous and ruthless adversary). There are two basic ways to exploit this human desire for patterns: 1) Be utterly random--this generates fear and leaves the victim completely without any pattern to rely on--think of random car bombings and how demoralizing that must be, the only protection is to never go out in public or to leave the area. 2) Create the appearance of patterns and then break them. This is good because it leaves the victim eternally vigilant and seeking for and inventing non-existent patterns. In experiments with animals this is called "experimental neurosis." It is a proven method of driving mammals crazy and leads to fits and frenzies of self-biting, mania, and catatonia. The DEA and the US government are well aware of this dimension of psychological warfare. They truly believe it is a war and that we are the enemy. They are not interested in debating this issue or in allowing different states to try different approaches. To the DEA, we are evil and must be eradicated--or intimidated into surrender. Given all that, the DEA does three things: 1) it throws darts at a map (randomness), 2) it looks for maximum propaganda value (what story can they tell to make us look bad?--and those are indeed narrative patterns), and 3) individual offices in the various geographical areas have to justify their existence for continued funding and positive job evaluations (it is after all a job in a bureaucracy--once in a while, you got to do something), this leads to the "low hanging fruit" pattern. So we have the following patterns: 1) Randomness--to keep us all on our toes, and to keep us fooling our selves with silly stories like, "You only get busted if you . . . (fill in the blank: advertise, don't advertise, are public, are private, for profit, non-profit--it might make you happy but there are now examples to prove every such "rule" both true AND false--the DEA is very Zen that way). 2) Propaganda Narratives--front for legalization; front for criminal gangs; front for "able-bodied urban youth gangs" (code for young people of color); danger to the environment; "profiteers"; corrupters of youth; gonna getcha daughter; pot stronger than ever; grow houses gone amok; conspiracy; terrorist funders; etc, etc--all basically Reefer Madness Redux. Think of the recent 60 Minutes coverage which fell into this to some extent. Think of any DEA press conference and you will clearly see one of these narratives. 3) Low Hanging Fruit--who would you want to go after: a well-organized 100 million a year crack, heroin and meth distribution network (which can now be found in any part of America, rural or urban or in between, thanks to 30 years of ramped up prohibition)--or a bunch of peaceful medical cannabis advocates, sitting there with no violent inclinations at all and a sign hanging up saying Medical Cannabis--Come and Bust Us, We Will Lie Down on the Ground? Yeah, me too. So when you need to bump up your stats (or you need to justify that useless multi-agency task force's multi-million dollar budget that aint done jack all year), whip up a "year-long investigation" (what takes a year to figure out that they are selling marijuana in there? duh) and put on the flak jacket, round up the SWAT team and go kick some ass. Oh yeah, and extra bonus points if you can bust a person of color, or a youth, or someone with a record, or someone who's doing it right and actually balancing the books, generating a surplus and paying all their taxes--then you can use their financial statements against them (ask their CPA politely and s/he'll print them out for you)--and you can seize their bank accounts and literally pay tribute to your bosses (maybe in the tens or hundreds of thousands--oh, was that why they waited a year? So they could steal your money?), Hi Boss, the task force brought in $200K this morning--and rounded up some dangerous sick people who provide a medical service. Well, it's a job and the benefits are good--and the potheads NEVER shoot back. At least, those are the only patterns I see, but maybe I'm missing something. (Oh yeah, and I hear busts usually happen on Wednesdays. Go fishing on Wednesdays.) And, yes, I'm really sorry that I can't give you the "rules," so we never have to worry about being busted. The DEA is not rules-based. It is our enemy--distribute cannabis, and you are fair game for capture, torture, imprisonment, kidnapping, and loss of all property (the only thing left is attainder of blood-- where they curse your entire family name for all time to come, but give them a minute to work it out). Of course you can sweeten the odds: have your city government and neighbors love you, be white, sit in a wheelchair, change your last name to Bush, be extremely lucky, turn around three times counter-clockwise every morning and say the Hail Mary backwards. I wish I could add sincerity to the list, but I'm not quite that naive. Still, it couldn't hurt, as long as you're real with yourself about the rest of it. Here's my advice, which I give to every potential client at the first meeting: Don't do it (for all the reasons given above and more). And I totally understand that most of them walk away. That's a good thing. If they go for it anyway, I call that committed. And that's a good thing too. But just be real. And be smart. Anyone who operates a dispensary has an extremely high risk-comfort level, or you could say, is either a hero or a fool.
Drug Law Blog does a nice job of taking apart a misinformed Inland Empire Op-Ed railing against medical marijuana dispensaries:
Chabot (the author) spends hundreds of words repeating misinformation about medical marijuana's medical efficacy, arguing that "Marinol is a medicine - smoked marijuana is not," flogging the "gateway drug" theory, and generally championing the party line of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She forgets to use the goofy ONDCP tagline -- "Marijuana: harmless?" -- but otherwise sounds like she's writing a speech for John Walters to deliver to some provincial Rotary Club. The thing she seems to forget is that the train she's riding already left the station a long time ago in California, along with 11 other states.Apparently, even with all of the evidence, some dead-enders continue to deny that marijuana is medicine. So, I guess that's why we're here, to continue to educate so that when writers like Chabot spread misinformation like "Research has not demonstrated that smoked marijuana can be helpful as medicine," a chorus of voices cry out in protest. Letter to the Editor, anyone?
DEA Raids a Sacramento Dispensary and Attacks Oakland Edible Provider, Tainted, Inc.
This week, the DEA escalated their attacks on patients in California when agents raided the oldest running dispensary in Sacramento, River City Patients' Center and in a separate attack, Oakland-based medical marijuana edible manufacturer, Tainted, Inc.
Wednesday morning, federal agents showed up at River City Patient Center raiding the facility, detaining five employees, stealing medicine, seizing the collective's financial assets, and detaining the collective's operartor, William Pearce. The raid came after a supposed yearlong investigation into Pearce's collective. Pearce, a highly respected member of the medical marijuana community, and the five employees were released Wednesday evening. No arrests were made.
ASA's Sacramento Chapter and affiliates turned out over 100 protesters during the raid, showing their support for the collective. Read more about the raid in the Sac Bee, and read about ASA's response on our new blog.
The other attack on Wednesday was independent of the Sacramento raid. The DEA targeted medical marijuana edibles provider, Tainted, Inc. The paramilitary-style raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) involved five locations the DEA says are connected to Tainted, Inc., a well-known supplier of edible medical cannabis products available in dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Heavily armed federal agents seized cannabis plants and medicinal edibles, arrested three people and shot an employee's dog.
Tainted, Inc. provides clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles to medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. Edible cannabis products provide an alternative to smoking cannabis and are preferred by many patients. The products made by Tainted, Inc. are available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carry prominent warning labels.
Tainted owner Michael Martin was out of town when the raids occurred and is expected to turn himself in to federal agents next week. Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis. Because federal law does not recognize medical uses for marijuana, if he goes to trial, Martin will not be allowed to tell jurors that his company supplied medical cannabis products through licensed dispensaries to qualified patients. Defense attorneys are prevented from raising state law, local regulations or the vast amount of medical cannabis science in federal marijuana trials.
Read ASA's full press release on the Tainted, Inc. raids.
The Medical Marijuana and HIV/AIDS Movement Mourn the Loss of Bay Area Activist, John Shaw
By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan
I am very sad to learn that John Shaw, my friend and ally in the struggle for safe access, died yesterday in San Francisco. Many of you know John from his years of crusading and selfless volunteer work on behalf of medical cannabis and other HIV/AIDS patients. John's good spirits and positive attitude were always an inspiration. I remember how he brought so much enthusiasm to our first ASA outreach teams when he traveled to Los Angeles, never being daunted by the enormity of the task or the always-present opposition. He was always an empathetic friend and a joy to be around - someone who will long be missed by me and his many friends in the Bay Area and all over California.
I hope you will join me in expressing condolences to his family, loved ones, and friends. I have not yet heard word about services, but wanted to let the community know about this terrible loss. John Shaw at an ASA rally protesting a 2005 DEA raid.
Here is a link of John testifying in San Francisco earlier this month:
After clicking on this link, choose September 11th full Board meeting, then Jump to #19 in the 'Jump To' bar below the video screen. John appears at 51:15 in the video.
John's family is planning a memorial, and ASA will announce this when a date is chosen.
Thanks to ASA's Los Angeles Field Coordinator, Chris Fusco! You Will be Surely Missed
By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan
I am sorry to report that Chris Fusco, our LA County Coordinator, will be leaving Americans for Safe Access this week. Chris has done an amazing job here in Los Angeles, helping to steer the campaign for safe access through some very turbulent times. He has helped shape the greatest expansion of safe access since Proposition 215 was adopted, and helped the community bear the brunt of the DEA's unprecedented pressure on patients and collectives.
I have watched Chris take initiative and show leadership as an ASA volunteer and as my personal assistant this year. With LA's moratorium finally in effect and the process of writing permanent regulations under way, Chris can move on knowing he has made a positive difference for this community.
His diligence and good nature will be missed. Let's all wish him well in his next endeavors and hope to see him again soon!
Call to the LA Office may be directed to (323) 882-6766 and emails may be sent to me at [email protected]
ASA vs. Alameda Elections Suit: Victory for Medical Marijuana Patients!
This past Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith ruled that the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and Alameda County, "have engaged in a pattern of withholding relevant evidence and failure to preserve evidence" necessary to conduct a recount of a hotly contested Berkeley ballot measure in 2004. As a result, the Court has voided the election and ordered the County to place Measure R back on the ballot for a re-vote at the next year in the general election. Judge Smith continued by saying Alameda County officials should pay attorneys' fees and reimburse a medical marijuana group more than $22,000 for the costs it incurred during a disputed recount shortly after the November 2004 election.The measure sought to end limits on the number of plants allowed to medical marijuana users and would have created a peer oversight committee for medical cannabis dispensaries in the city.
Americans for Safe Access and three other patients filed the lawsuit against Alameda County on December 30, 2004. The lawsuit challenges Alameda County's refusal to allow the public to examine copies of the Measure R electronic votes and system audit logs during the recount of the ballot initiative conducted on electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, Inc.
Read about the victory for Measure R and patients and providers in Alameda County in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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As the Legal Coordinator, I recently started trying to collect all of the data on DEA raids and state-to-federal-turnovers so that we could all see how widespread and insidious this despicable war on patients really is. The results were interesting and saddening, if somewhat unsurprising. My data is far from complete, and even these next figures may undergo slight variations before I would call them final. Nonetheless, here are my observations on DEA activity from 6/1-9/27/07:
- The DEA has truly been stepping up its war of intimidation on medical marijuana patients across the West. From 6/1/07 until today (approximately 4 months), there have been an astounding 23 DEA raids on dispensing collectives (18) and the residences of individual patient-cultivators (5) and 4 instances of State to Federal Turnovers. This would seem to bely the DEA's claim that they "do not focus their resources on individual medical marijuana patients" anyone have a link for a statement like this, I know I've heard it before? please post in comments
- These 23 DEA raids occurred in 10 different counties (Los Angeles, Kern, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, San Diego, Nevada, Sacramento, Alameda Counties, and in Multnomah County, Oregon). State or local police also turned over 4 cases to the federal government in CA and NM.
- To put the 23 raid figure into perspective, while there were 21 raids in the first 4 months of 2007, 11 of them occurred on one day in LA in January 2007. Raid frequency pre-2007 is even more sporadic, with only 9 raids occurring in 2006, and while there were 19 in 2005, 13 again were part of DEA "grand gesture" in San Diego to deny patients' access. This summer campaign seems different in that instead of hitting many dispensaries in one area on a single day, the DEA is trying to inspire fear and uncertainty all across the state (and in other legal states) by engaging in a long, sustained campaign of raids in a wide variety of cities and counties and by expanding their harassment to individual patient-cultivators with very minimal amounts of medicine.
- For info some of these raids, see San Mateo, Bakersfield, Morro Bay, & Riverside County stories.