HIV/AIDS Groups Support Medical Marijuana Patient’s Case

SAN FRANCISCO—A San Francisco patient who is attempting to get police to return his medical marijuana got a legal boost yesterday from three HIV/AIDS organizations, including the nation’s oldest, and a leading drug policy group. The organizations filed a “friend of the court” brief with the state’s Court of Appeal for the First District, arguing that state law enforcement agencies should be compelled to respect the rights of patients to possess cannabis. Ben Goldstein, an HIV/AIDS patient, is appealing the decision of a state superior court, which ruled that it lacked authority to order the San Francisco Police Department to return the marijuana they seized from a man who had stolen it from Goldstein.

“Californians have the right to possess medical marijuana under state law,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for the medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, who is representing Goldstein. “We’re asking the court to clarify to law enforcement that they respect that law and return any medical marijuana they seize to qualified patients.”

Goldstein was a volunteer at a local soup kitchen last winter, when he met a man who asked to use Goldstein’s address to receive Christmas cards from his family. Goldstein agreed, but when the man came to collect his mail, he spotted Goldstein’s medical cannabis, grabbed it and ran. Goldstein’s cries for help prompted his neighbors to call the police. SFPD apprehended the man and retrieved the cannabis, but refused to return it.

In describing the benefits of cannabis for people living with HIV/AIDS, the brief states that, "[t]he side-effects caused by conventional therapies can render the patient unable to function in daily life. Marijuana helps restore the patient to a functioning capacity by stimulating the patient's appetite, decreasing the nausea and vomiting frequently induced by many first-line medications, and ameliorating pain."

The organizations filing the amici curae brief yesterday are the National Association of People with AIDS, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). The brief, which was authored by the Drug Policy Alliance, is available online at

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With more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research.