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Advocates Decry DEA Obstruction to Medical Marijuana Research - Obama Can and Should Regain an Adherence to Scientific Principles

Posted by · January 12, 2009 12:15 PM

Only days before President Bush is to leave office, his administration has dealt yet another blow to scientific integrity by refusing to implement the recommendations of DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner and open up the production of cannabis (marijuana) for research purposes. For more than 40 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has maintained a monopoly on the cultivation of cannabis for Food & Drug Administration-approved scientific studies. Instead of opening up research on the medical properties of cannabis, the Bush administration has chosen to hide its head in the sand and obstruct the advancement of this important therapeutic substance. In June of 2001, University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Lyle Craker, an experienced research botanist, applied for a license to cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved studies. After nine days of testimony from many experts and administration officials, Judge Bittner issued a set of recommendations in February 2007, concluding that the current sole-supply of cannabis by NIDA was insufficient for the level of research that cannabis deserves and that expanded research was "in the public interest." After nearly two years of delay, acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart issued a ruling today that refuses to implement Judge Bittner's recommendations. This refusal by Leonhart to adhere to her own DEA Administrative Law Judge is especially disappointing and insensitive in light of strong Congressional support for expanded research and a desire to dismantle the current monopoly on research cannabis production. In 2008, forty-five members of Congress sent a letter to then-DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, urging her to accept Judge Bittner's recommendations and calling the federal monopoly on cannabis production "unjustified." Incoming president Barack Obama has an opportunity to correct this shortsighted position that fails to recognize medical and scientific precedent. Rather than turn a cold shoulder to the reams of scientific studies pointing to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, president-elect Obama has the opportunity to develop a sensible policy with regard to medical cannabis research. In addition, since acting-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has shown little capacity for understanding the need for more research into cannabis, Obama should appoint a candidate to head the DEA that can grasp the importance of advancing this important medicinal substance. To be sure, anything less will perpetuate the outdated position of the Bush Administration and deny hundreds of thousands of Americans a medicine that has been shown to be effective at treating innumerable illnesses and the side effects of toxic treatments.

ASA Video Testimonial - 3rd Installment

Posted by · April 07, 2008 12:11 PM

Welcome to the latest installment of ASA’s video testimonial project. As many of you may remember, the video testimonial project has been designed to help educate people about medical cannabis by having patients and supporters share their stories. This project was also designed to help people like you educate your friends and family about medical cannabis by sharing these videos with your community. Forward this blog to family, friends, and community members and help spread the word about medical cannabis. Also, check back here next Monday for the next installment of the video testimonials. Roy from Marin County, CA Thank you again to Carson Higby-Flowers for volunteering to record, edit, and produce the testimonials. Also, thank you to all of the brave patients, supporters, and advocates who took the time to come in and participate in the video shoot. Check out last week’s installment here.

ASA Video Testimonial- 2nd Installment

Posted by · March 31, 2008 11:05 AM

Welcome to the latest installment of ASA's video testimonial project. As many of you may remember, the video testimonial project has been designed to help educate people about medical cannabis by having patients and supporters share their stories. This project was also designed to help people like you educate your friends and family about medical cannabis by sharing these videos with your community. Forward this blog to family, friends, and community members and help spread the word about medical cannabis. Also, check back here next Monday for the next installment of the video testimonials. Richard from Berkeley, CA Thank you again to Carson Higby-Flowers for volunteering to record, edit, and produce the testimonials. Also, thank you to all of the brave patients, supporters, and advocates who took the time to come in and participate in the video shoot. Check out last week's installment featuring three medical cannabis patients here.

California Weekly Round Up

Posted by · March 28, 2008 10:38 AM

Senate Health Committee Votes to Move SJR 20 Forward From ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltman

The Senate Health Committee showed their commitment to safe access for patients this Wednesday by approving the resolution calling on an end to federal intervention in California and DEA attacks on medical cannabis patients, SJR 20. The 7-4 vote, split down party lines, is an key victory in putting an end to DEA raids in California. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing the resolution next. Their vote will determine whether or not the resolution will move forward to a vote on the Senate floor and then the Assembly floor. Since this is a non-binding resolution, it will not need the Governor's signature. This is a very exciting move forward for medical cannabis patients throughout the state. If passed on the Senate and Assembly floors, this resolution will send a resounding statement nationwide saying to the Federal government that Californians are taking a stand and calling for an end to the attacks! Read more about the hearing on ASA's blog.

SJR 20 is the Senate Joint Resolution that calls for an end to DEA attacks on California’s medical cannabis patients and providers and further calls on the President and Congress to enact federal legislation to end the raids. If passed, this will be the first time in U.S. history that a state legislature has denounced the DEA’s interference in state laws and tactics used against medical cannabis patients and providers. To read more about SJR 20, visit www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/SJR20 Thank you to those who testified on Wednesday in support of SJR 20, including: Lisa Sawoya, Hollywood Compassionate Collective Yvonne Westbrook-White, patient/advocate (see her video testimonial here: www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/VideoTestimonial) Don Duncan, Americans for Safe Access Aaron Smith, Marijuana Policy Project Dale Gieringer, California NORML

There are several important medical cannabis bills and resolutions being heard by the state Senate and Assembly Committees over the next few weeks. ASA will continue to update our lists as things move forward. If you are not yet signed up for ASA's Forums to receive instant alerts, go to www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/ASAForums

Medical CannabisProvider, Michael Martin, Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

On Wednesday Tainted Compassionate Medicinals operator, Michael Martin, plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to manufacture a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. Martin now faces up to five years in a federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and several years of supervised release. On September 26, 2007, the DEA raided five locations in Oakland and San Leandro, allegedly confiscating hundreds of edibles and 460 plants, and arresting Jessica Sanders (30), Michael Anderson (42), and Diallo McLinn (35). After a press conference on October 4, Michael Martin (33), who had been on vacation during the raid, voluntarily turned himself in. All four were originally charged with conspiracy to manufacture or distribute controlled substances and are out on bail. Two of the defendants have since had their charges reduced to misdemeanors and Sanders' charge has been reduced as well. Tainted Medicinal Edibles were available for patients as an alternative to smoking at dispensing collectives across the state. The emotional hearing was short and ended with Martin leaving the courtroom and nearly 50 supporters of Martin, his family, and medical cannabis exiting the courtroom all at once. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 2, 2008 at 2:30pm. Read more about the hearing in ASA Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman's, blog, Vanessa Nelson's Article, and Michael Martin's blog on FreeTainted.com Los Angeles Activists and Victims of DEA Raids Rally in Response to Federal Attacks From ASA's California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Sixty medical cannabis patients and advocates protested in front of the DEA offices at the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday in response to last week’s DEA raids in the Los Angeles area. The protesters heard first hand from Virgil Grant, whose collectives and home were raided on Thursday in a coordinated paramilitary-style operation that involved dozens of DEA agents and police officers from Los Angeles, Gardena, and Compton. Before the protest, I joined Virgil Grant, Yami Balonos, Michael Levitt, and Sarah Armstrong at the Los Angeles City Council meeting where we asked that the council to move quickly to re-convene the city working group that is working on regulations for collectives and to oppose the DEA's interference tactics. Council Member Janice Hahn said she would reconvene the working group. California. Next Wednesday, April 2, the council will vote on a resolution endorsing CA Senator Carole Migden’s Senate Joint Resolution 20 calling on the President and US Congress to end the raids. See below in the City and County Hearings section for more details. Thanks to everyone who came out to support Virgil and his family! Watch the Fox 29 coverage of the rally and hearing. Patients File Against Mendocino County's Ballot Initiative Measure B Mendocino County Attorney, Edie Lerman, filed a lawsuit on behalf of medical cannabis patients Paula A. Laguna and George Hanamoto challenging the legality of ballot initiative Measure B. This Mendocino County initiative calls for a stricter cultivation limits for medical cannabis patients than the California state limit and a repeal of the 2000 initiative Measure G, further limiting the number of plants a medical cannabis patient can have Measure G 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 lawsuit filed on Wednesday states that Measure B cannot be a ballot initiative because there are two distinct components to the bill: the repeal of Measure G and limiting the plant limits for medical cannabis patients. California's state constitution forbids initiatives from containting more than one subject.

CA committee calls for an end to DEA raids, but prosecutions continue

Posted by · March 27, 2008 11:44 AM

Yesterday was a historic day for the medical marijuana movement. SJR 20, a resolution that calls for an end to DEA attacks on California’s medical cannabis patients and providers, cleared the California Senate Health Committee.

Unsurprisingly, the votes came down on party lines. One Republican Senator stated that there is a pill that patients could use instead of smoking marijuana. Committee Chairwoman Sheila Kuehl responded that a pill did exist (Marinol), but that it is too strong for many patients. It's good to know that many of our state representatives are well educated on this issue and willing to stand up for patients and providers.

Californians have good reason to rejoice about this win. The resolution, authored by Senator Carole Migden, not only calls on the DEA to leave patients and providers alone, but further calls on the President and Congress to enact federal legislation to end the raids. If passed, this will be the first time in U.S. history that a state legislature has denounced the DEA’s interference in state laws and tactics used against medical cannabis patients and providers.

Unfortunately, even as our legislators consider this resolution, the raids and prosecutions continue. Just hours before the SJR 20 hearing occurred, Michael Martin plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to manufacture a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. Martin now faces up to 5 years imprisonment, a $250K fine, and several years of supervised release.

 

Martin was arrested and charged in conjunction with the September 26, 2007 DEA raids of the Tainted, Inc. facilities that produced clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles for medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. The products made by Tainted were available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carried prominent warning labels.

Despite these precautions, the DEA attempted to paint Martin and Tainted as criminals who were pedaling marijuana-laced candy to children. Martin feels he has done nothing wrong, and the medical cannabis community showed up in force yesterday to support this assertion at his hearing yesterday. Fifty supporters packed the court room, sending a clear message to the judge.

The words that Martin wrote just before turning himself in will hopefully be heard by the California Senate and Assembly, as they consider passing SJR 20 to send a clear message to the federal government:

I encourage community leaders, government officials, patriotic citizens, and anyone who has the common sense to realize the failed policies of this war on medical cannabis, to rise up and be heard. Let your elected officials know that we demand a stop to these senseless acts of violence and the needless wasting of resources in states where citizens support the use of medical cannabis. The choice to use medical cannabis is a decision that should be made by a patient and a doctor... It is a fundamental right of the sick and dying to find relief for their pain and suffering through sound research and advice from their personal physician. The issue here is not a matter of whether a law has been broken. The issue is whether those laws are just and moral.

 

While a future change in law may not end the persecution Martin and his family are experiencing, it would prevent more tragedies like this from occurring.

Obama: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws."

Posted by · March 26, 2008 8:37 AM

I was heartened to hear last Saturday words that cut right through the federal war on medical marijuana patients by one of the likeliest candidates to be our next U.S. President. In an interview with Mail Tribune of Oregon, Barack Obama stated, in answer to a question on medical marijuana, “…I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate.” Obama then uttered the following decisive and sensible phrase, giving hope to medical marijuana patients and advocates throughout the country:
I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.
Ideally, Obama would commit to changing federal policy around medical marijuana and allow legal access to those who benefit from it. Unfortunately, the federal government continues to ignore the mountain of evidence that marijuana has medical efficacy for a number of health conditions. Eventually, the federal government will align with the vast majority of U.S. citizens that support medical marijuana, and maybe that day will come with Obama in the White House. In the meantime, however, we can at least get the Bush Administration to end its harmful medical marijuana raids. While Obama’s words may not be strong enough to pierce the flak jackets of this Administration’s DEA agents, they may eventually resonate with the new DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart or Attorney General Michael Mukasey (and maybe they need to hear from more of us too). What Obama’s words do give us is hope for the future; that, at the least, the federal government will not hinder states that choose to establish medical marijuana laws. No need to sit around for that day to come, though. There’s something that we can do right now to ensure that outcome and more quickly. Americans for Safe Access has been urging the top candidates to pledge that they will introduce an Executive Order to end DEA activity in states that have passed medical marijuana laws. Sound familiar? Maybe he lifted the idea from our Executive Order campaign. Regardless, he has not formally pledged yet. Here’s your chance to urge Obama and Clinton to officially pledge to introduce an Executive Order, if elected President, that cuts off funding to the Department of Justice for enforcement against medical marijuana in states that have adopted such laws. Please consider emailing either or both of them from our Executive Order campaign page, or write to them at the following addresses: Senator Hillary Clinton Hillary for President 4420 North Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22203 Senator Barack Obama Obama for America P.O. Box 8102 Chicago, IL 60680 Just last week, six dispensaries were raided by the DEA in the Los Angeles area, aptly illustrating how this issue could not be more timely and important for our next President. Act now!

ASA Introduces New Video Testimonials

Posted by · March 25, 2008 5:05 AM

Watch 3 Medical Cannabis Supporters Share Their Stories As the National Field Coordinator for ASA I meet patients, medical professionals, caregivers, and people from all walks of life on a daily basis. When meeting people new to the movement I am regularly asked who supports medical cannabis and why should I get on board? In the past, I would then take several minutes to explain, but that is about to change today! Over the next month on each Monday, ASA will be releasing video testimonials through our blog of medical cannabis supporters to help educate people about medical cannabis. Below are three Bay Area medical cannabis supporters who volunteered to share their stories to help spread the word about medical cannabis. The video testimonial project has been designed to help educate people about medical cannabis by having patients and supporters share their stories. This project was also designed to help people like you educate your friends and family about medical cannabis by sharing these videos with your community. Forward this blog to family, friends, and community members and help spread the word about medical cannabis. Also, check back here next Monday for the next installment of the video testimonials. Steve from Oakland, California Yvonne from Richmond, California Carole from Fremont, California Thank you to Carson Higby-Flowers for volunteering to record, edit, and produce the testimonials. Also, thank you to all of the brave patients, supporters, and advocates who took the time to come in and participate in the video shoot.

California Weekly Round Up

Posted by · March 21, 2008 1:23 PM

California Supreme Court Affirms ASA Win in Return of Property Case From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court declined to review or "de-publish" the landmark ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County (Felix Kha case) that upheld the right to return of wrongfully confiscated medical cannabis, despite federal law! The decision in Felix Kha's case was a huge victory for patients, but we feared the worst after the City of Corona asked the Supreme Court to review the case. The Court might have "de-published" the case, making it impossible to cite as a precedent in other litigation.

Wednesday's ruling was an about-face from the Supreme Court's unconscionable ruling allowing employment discrimination against legal patients in Ross v. Raginwire Telecommunications.

Now that the Felix Kha decision has been vindicated, patients and caregivers can challenge the wrongful confiscation of medicine in any court in the state. This will leave local law enforcement with a tough choice - obey California law or face a torrent of litigation under this decision. No longer can they hide behind the illusion of enforcing federal law. We have been waiting a long time for a ruling that would put some teeth in Proposition 215. This is a big incisor! ASA spent years identifying this test case, preparing for the fight, and arguing in court. That is the kind of long-term, big picture thinking it is going to take to break the culture of resistance among some California police officers. This summer, ASA will beef up its return of property campaign to be sure every patient and caregiver in the state enjoys the full benefit of this precedent. Have a look at ASA Staff Counsel Joe Elford's blog on this topic at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/blog/?p=74 ASA, Operators, and Advocates Call on State to Protect Tax Revenue

On Tuesday, advocates and dispensary operators from throughout the state met up in Sacramento to testify at the Board of Equalization's hearing to help protect safe access and sales tax. The group met with the Board to encourage them to protect an important source of revenue - $100 million in sales tax collected annually by medical marijuana dispensaries.

ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman testified first saying that dispensaries' tax revenue is in danger, due to increased federal interference in the state medical marijuana program. In 2007 alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana providers, and they embarked on a new strategy, sending more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries, threatening property owners with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture. She also mentioned House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers' intent to hold the DEA accountable for their actions against patients in future oversight hearings. Read Saltzman's report on the hearing on ASA's blog.

Following Rebecca Saltzman was Californial NORML's Dale Geiringer who broke down the numbers for the BOE, focusing on the amount of tax revenue dispensaries produce. He also discussed the problem of the DEA seizing assets from dispensaries.

Geiringer was followed by several dispensary operators and former operators from Berkeley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma who explained the DEA threats they have been forced to face. Read more in Rebecca Saltzman's blog about the hearing.

DEA Raids 5 Los Angeles Dispensaries

On Thursday, the DEA raided 6 dispensaries and the private residence of an operator in Los Angeles. All of the dispensaries are from a single family of collectives. The collectives raided were:

The Holistic Caregivers, Compton Western Caregivers Group, LA Crenshaw Holistic Caregivers Group, LA THC Gardena, Gardena Southern California Caregivers Group, LA (SFV) Med Ex, LA

No arrests were made and the collectives, which took only minor losses due to careful precautions, are expected to reopen today. During one of the raids, acitivists at the site protesting over heard one of the DEA officers tell the others that "the alert has gone out" and "they're on the way." This further shows that ASA's Raid Response Emergency Text Messaging system is working!

Sign up for ASA's Emergency Response Text Messaging System to receive instant alerts about raids in your area. Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert

Look for an announcement over the next few days about LA ASA's response to the raids at Los Angeles City Hall and the downtown Federal Building on Tuesday morning.

Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

Federal Judge Frank C. Damrell sentenced Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer to five years in prison for "conspiracy to grow marijuana and manufacturing it in a medicinal marijuana case." During the four hour sentencing hearing, Judge Damrell said he had no choice but to issue the statutory minimum of five years in federal prison with an option to appeal the decision. The couple has posted bail at $25,000 per person as they await appeal.

On September 28, 2001, the DEA raided the Cool, California (El Dorado County) clinic of medical marijuana physician and breast cancer patient Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney and hemophilia and chronic pain patient Dale Schafer, and seized patient records. Almost immediately after the Raich decision, on June 22, 2005, Fry and Schafer were arrested and indicted for marijuana found on the premises during the raid. In 2002, the federal government also successfully revoked Fry's DEA license to practice medicine.

In order to convince the jury to convict on charges of cultivation of more than 100 plants, the U.S. Attorney took the unusual and controversial step of aggregating the plants in gardens from three different years. Additionally, Judge Damrell did not allow them to explain to the jury that the El Dorad County Sheriffs and District Attorney had previously given them active permission to grow their relatively modest garden.

Fry and Schafer are currently caring for three beautiful children and two grandchildren in their home.

Read more about the hearing in the Sacramento Bee.

Local Updates: Santa Barbara Approves Dispensary Ordinance and Sacramento Votes Against ID Cards This week, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously voted to approve a citywide dispensary ordinance. The vote came after a 6-month moratorium which began last summer. The Santa Barbara ASA chapter has been diligently working to urge the city council to develop and implement a dispensary ordinance for over a year. Santa Barbara has seven dispensaries. Under the new regulations, only one dispensary will be in full compliance. The city council foresaw this problem and placed an addendum to the ordinance allowing the current dispensaries three years to fall into compliance with the new ordinance.

While the Santa Barbara City Council was voting for new regulations to protect safe access for patients, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted against implementing the state medical cannabis ID card program. The County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against the program. Many patients testified at the hearing asking the board to adopt the program, but the board refused. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney testified against the program citing concern that the program would encourage marijuana use.

Thank you to Sacramento ASA chapter, Aaron Smith from the Marijuana Policy Project, and all of the other medical cannabis advocates who have been working for months to urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt the program.

To read more about Santa Barbara and Sacramento read the Santa Barbara Independent Article and the Sacramento Bee Article.

 

Building a Movement in Maryland

Posted by · March 20, 2008 5:19 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 [email protected] Last week, ASA, in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, kicked off our Patients for Access campaign in Maryland, which I first wrote about here in January. The campaign is designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership to support future legislative reform efforts. More than a dozen people came out for our first Medical Marijuana Teach-In and Know Your Rights Training. I think we gave an astounding presentation and I was pleased to see many familiar and new faces. The crowd was incredibly diverse and the feedback portion of the training indicated that they sincerely appreciated the information and the training. "Dynamic", "Necessary", "Informative", and "Enraging" were just a few of the descriptions used during an oral evaluation. Little is known by the public about the state’s medical marijuana law and a few attendees were not even aware that Maryland has a medical marijuana law. We believe our first training raised awareness and provided a foundation to build on. Everyone at the training signed our petition to protect Maryland medical marijuana patients and many also signed up to participate in a field trip to meet friendly state legislators next Month in Annapolis. A few took the information, sign-up sheets, and membership forms to get their friends and family involved. We were fortunate to be hosted at a really great space in Baltimore's Charles Village inside an old Methodist Church which now serves as a noncommercial, cooperatively managed space for radical politics and grassroots culture -- a project sponsored by a local co-op, 2640. We are conducting similar teach-ins throughout the month of March. This week we host trainings in Salisbury, Maryland (Eastern Shore) and Silver Spring, MD (Montgomery County). Our final training occurs in Western Maryland on the March 25th. For more information and to keep updated about our continued efforts to improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law see: http://www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/maryland/ http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/maryland