January 2006 Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 1

Nationwide Response to San Diego DEA Raids

On December 12, 2005, DEA agents conducted raids on 13 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. Within moments of the raids, calls flooded into our office from ASA volunteers on the ground with reports and updates that continued through the rest of the day.

ASA staff immediately put our emergency response plan into action, holding a press tele-conference that afternoon and igniting our emergency response network of activists.

ASA Medical Advisory Board member Claudia Little speaks to a crowd at the San Diego rally.

The following day, over a hundred activists protested at the San Diego federal building. A day later, hundreds of patients and advocates nationwide gathered at federal buildings to call on the DEA to stop harassing medical marijuana patients.

Dr. Robert Melamede, chairman of the University of Colorado Biology Department spoke at the Denver rally. "We the people have voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes," he said. "What the Feds don't understand is that our vote means something."

Successful actions were held in sixteen cities, including Washington, Wichita, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Missoula. These rallies garnered media attention, including several print stories and dozens of television and radio reports.

Protecting Confidentiality in CA Medical MJ ID Card Program

Under SB 420, all California counties are required to implement a voluntary medical marijuana ID card program. ASA supports the ID card program in general, as it has the potential to better protect patients. However, we were originally concerned about provisions requiring counties to hold onto all application data indefinitely. We felt this seriously compromised patient privacy and security, especially due to the possibility of federal subpoena.

In addition to ASA urging DHS to revise its document retention policy, other public officials weighed in at ASA's request. California legislator and co-author of SB 420 Assembly Member Mark Leno wrote a letter to DHS, as did the Director of Santa Cruz County Department of Public Health. Both public officials decried a document retention policy that went beyond what records the state requires of counties: a photo, a unique identifying number, and ID card expiration date.

Take Action!

Call the Medical Marijuana Program at (916) 440-7836. Urge them to change the policy to instruct counties to return or destroy any patient records beyond what the state requires!

ASA was successful in getting DHS to revise its handbook and strike the original language in the section on maintenance of records that applied to the length of time administering agencies are required to retain documents. On October 28, 2005, DHS issued a letter to local administering agencies making them aware of the revision to the handbook.

It is now DHS policy to leave it up to each county to determine its record retention policy. While this policy change is helpful for counties such as San Francisco and Santa Cruz who return or destroy patient records after a card is issued, explicit instruction from the state on record retention is still necessary.

San Francisco Adopts Model Dispensary Ordinance

On November 15, 2005, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to control and regulate medical cannabis dispensaries across the city. The ordinance, which takes effect December 30, 2005, serves as a model for local regulation of dispensaries.

ASA Campaign Director, Caren Woodson worked day and night on this issue: "With the support and leadership of ASA San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries that puts patients first!"

Ross Mirkarimi accepts ASA Ross Mirkarimi accepts an award for outstanding achievement in public policy from Mark Leno at the ASA holiday party.

ASA solidified support for several provisions that protect patient access, limit the liability of dispensary operators and permit patients to medicate on-site. The ordinance gives the Department of Health regulatory control while limiting law enforcement's access to patient records. ASA also protected access by defeating a cap on the number of dispensaries permitted to operate and a provision which would have prevented dispensaries from operating within 1000 feet of one another.

Additionally, ASA worked to solidify a letter from Assembly Member Mark Leno to the Board of Supervisors clarifying the legislative intent of a provision in SB420 which helped to win passage of an amendment that permit on-site smoking within 1,000 feet of a school "unless otherwise prohibited by state law".

The ordinance is comprehensive in scope and grants protection to most dispensaries currently operating in the City. Approximately 33 of an estimated 37 dispensaries will be allowed to seek permits at their current locations.

Local ASA Chapter Focus: San Diego

San Diego ASA has been a strong chapter for several years, but recently they kicked their work into a higher gear to combat the defiant Board of Supervisors and a day of DEA raids.

On November 1, 2005, the San Diego Board of Supervisors voted to defy state law SB420 by not implementing the mandated medical marijuana ID card program. Dozens of local ASA activists spoke at this hearing, demanding that their county representatives uphold the will of the voters and implement state law.

ASA Field Coordinator, Rebecca Saltzman, spoke to a crowded room about effective political strategies at the November San Diego ASA meeting. Over the next month, local newspapers printed several editorials and letters to the editor that decried the actions of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, especially when they announced their intent to sue the state in federal court.

San Diego ASA Meetings:

2nd Tuesday of the Month @ 7:00 pm
Twiggs Coffee House
4590 Park Boulevard, San Diego

Local activists were soon met with another challenge: DEA raids of 13 local dispensaries. They quickly reacted, holding an emergency meeting the night of the raid with over 60 patients and dispensary operators in attendance. Their rally and media outreach projected the message that San Diego ASA will not stand for federal attacks on patients!

National Action Alert: Call Congress to Stop the DEA Raids!

In December, the DEA raided 13 medical cannabis dispensaries in San Diego and one in San Francisco. Our federal representatives need to hear about these atrocities! Please call your Congressional representatives to condemn the DEA raids and ask them to pass legislation to protect patients and providers. Two current bills that would do this are H.R. 4272, the Steve McWilliams Truth and Trials Act and H.R. 2087, the States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Don't let this federal harassment go unnoticed!