January 2007 Activist Newsletter

Volume 2, Issue 1

Looking Back on a Big Year, Looking Forward to Even Better

2006 was a momentous year for medical cannabis patients.

What follows are some of ASA's highlights for the year. With your support, we're making progress in California, expanding other state programs, and establishing a national presence in Washington, D.C.

Join us in making 2007 another year of major breakthroughs for medical cannabis patients.

ASA Helps Defeat Counties' Challenge to State Law

Medical marijuana patients around the country scored a major win when ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford helped persuade a California Superior Court judge that state medical marijuana laws can co-exist with the federal law that prohibits all use.

The California Attorney General's office joined ASA, the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in arguing that a state medical marijuana law requiring counties to issue ID cards to patients and caregivers does not conflict with federal statutes.

ASA Press Conference in San Diego ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer and Chief Cousel Joe Elford address the media

ASA argued that despite the federal government ban on medical marijuana, all states remain free to adopt and implement medical marijuana policies of their own design. The case originated from a lawsuit initially brought against the State of California by San Diego County, which was later joined by San Bernardino and Merced counties. Merced officials announced they are now moving forward with ID cards. San Diego and San Bernardino will be facing ASA in court on appeal in 2007.

CHP Victory: ASA Gets Binding 'Consent Decree' from State

California's medical marijuana patients are now better protected from arrest and seizure of their marijuana, thanks to a binding agreement between ASA and state officials.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in February 2005 against the California Highway Patrol by ASA on behalf of qualified medical cannabis patients who had lost their medicine in CHP traffic stops. CHP had a policy of seizing any cannabis found, regardless of whether the officer was shown patient documentation or not.

On August 22, 2005, as a result of the lawsuit, CHP adopted a new policy that respects the rights of qualified patients to possess and transport medical cannabis.

The new settlement agreement makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are now allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater.

New Look, Strategies, and a National Award

In 2006, Americans for Safe Access adopted new strategies for communicating with professionals and officials, revamped its look and logo, and won national recognition.

ASA Booth ASA staffed a booth at the League of Cities Conference in San Diego.


The redesigned logo and communication materials help position the organization as an authoritative resource for physicians, policymakers and politicians. ASA is creating research reports, such as the recent one on medical cannabis dispensary regulations in California, and putting them in the hands of officials who can make a difference for patients. ASA is also using new media strategies, such as the commercial we aired on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in the metro San Diego area, urging the San Diego City Council to protect safe access for patients.

ASA staff are using the new look and logo in the conference booth display they've been taking to meetings of public health and policy groups all around the country. ASA even won a third-place prize for "Best New Exhibitor Booth" from among more than 100 new exhibitors at the American Public Health Association's 134th Annual Meeting and Exposition.

ASA Opens Offices, Starts New State and National Campaigns

Washington, D.C. - ASA this summer opened an office in the nation's capitol for federal lobbying efforts. ASA is targeting Congress and governmental agencies such as the FDA and Health and Human Services.

Colorado, Washington state, Rhode Island - ASA is launching new campaigns for safe access in Colorado, Washington state, and Rhode Island. ASA has hired new coordinators and established partnerships with organizations in each of these states to ensure that patient needs are being met by state policies.

Oakland - At the beginning of August, ASA's national staff in Oakland moved into larger offices to accommodate an expanding staff working on new initiatives.

Report on Dispensaries Released at Convention of City Officials

This fall, ASA issued a new report showing why California's medical marijuana dispensaries are a benefit to both patients and local communities. Released at a press conference as part of the annual League of California Cities convention in San Diego, the report shows that regulatory ordinances in cities around the state are working for patients and their communities, based on information collected over nine months from local officials involved in the process and a study done by a UC Berkeley researcher.

The press conference, which included officials from three cities with regulated dispensaries, was covered by local TV and newspapers, as well as National Public Radio.

ASA distributed copies of the report to hundreds of city officials attending the California League of Cities conference.

State, National Groups Support ASA's Workers' Rights Suit

The California Supreme Court in 2006 decided to hear ASA's landmark employment-rights lawsuit. ASA took the case on behalf of Gary Ross, a systems engineer fired for failing an drug test because he uses medical cannabis after work. National and state medical organizations, California state legislators and disability rights organizations all filed briefs supporting ASA's argument that medical cannabis patients deserve civil employment protections. ASA will be before the Court this spring.

ASA Sues Over Collective Cultivation Ban in Butte

Standing up to law enforcement's disregard for the state's medical marijuana law, ASA filed a lawsuit against Butte County officials, challenging its ban on private patient collectives. The group lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 7-person private patient collective who were told by county law enforcement officers that it was not lawful to grow collectively for multiple patients and had their medicine destroyed. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages in excess of $75,000 and attorneys fees. Because of the threat by Butte County officials to arrest and prosecute collective members who continue to cultivate, many patients in the county are fearful. ASA's suit aims to make local officials respect the state law, which specifically allows for collective or cooperative cultivation.

ASA Gets City to Pay Patient $15,000 for Medical Marijuana

ASA helped medical marijuana patient James Blair claim $15,000 in compensation for medical marijuana lost in a police raid. The payment by the city of Emeryville is one of the largest cash settlements to date in a case of wrongful seizure. The city has now adopted a policy of not confiscating medical marijuana from qualified patients. ASA's Return of Property Campaign has helped show dozens of patients around California how to get their medical cannabis back.

ASA Fights for Patients' Right to Drive

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on at least two occasions revoked the drivers licenses of medical cannabis patients simply because of their medical treatment. ASA intervened in both cases, winning reinstatement for one patient and a hearing for the other.

San Francisco Adopts Model Dispensary Ordinance

At the beginning of 2006, San Francisco's dispensary regulations went into effect. ASA worked exhaustively with city Supervisors to craft the ordinance. ASA solidified support for several provisions that protect patient access, limit the liability of dispensary operators and permit patients to medicate on-site. When the dispensary permitting process proved unreasonably cumbersome, ASA helped get the new rules put on hold for reconsideration.


Greet the New Congress: Educate Officials About Medical Cannabis

America's new Congress was seated this month. You can help them understand the ongoing crises faced by medical cannabis patients and providers. The DEA has escalated its attacks on patients and providers, resulting in nearly 100 people now awaiting federal trial on medical cannabis-related charges.

During the week of January 22nd-26th, we urge you to visit the local office of your U.S Senators and U.S. Representative to introduce yourself to their staff and explain the importance of medical cannabis. When your elected officials hear from you they are more likely to support our calls for safe, legal access!

To drive home the message, bring two pill bottles, one empty and one with ten large paperclips. Tell them the ten paperclips each represent a million dollars spent. The bottle with paperclips is raids, the empty one is research.

You can also bring a copy of ASA's congressional newsletter. Download it at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/congressional_news.pdf.

If you need help setting up a meeting, contact Barbara Camille at [email protected]. Then let us know how it goes. Build a relationship with your federal representatives, and help persuade them to support patients. Patients and advocates must make our voices heard NOW!