June 2006 Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 6

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 in Butte County, challenging its ban on private patient collectives. The group lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 7-person private patient collective run by David Williams. In September 2005, just prior to harvest, Butte County law enforcement conducted a warrantless search at Williams' property in Paradise, California, and forced him to uproot and destroy more than two dozen plants or face arrest and prosecution.

"We were told that it was not lawful to grow collectively for multiple patients," 53-year old patient and collective member David Williams said of the 2005 incident. "Detective Jacob Hancock, who took part in the raid, ignored our evidence and arguments that we were in no way breaking state law." Another collective member, Rebecca Conley, was present for the raid, and pleaded with the police as her plants were being destroyed. "What they did to us and others in Butte County is unacceptable, and must be stopped," said Conley. In addition to the raid at Williams' home, Butte County was responsible for multiple other raids on similar private patient collectives in the fall of 2005.

The lawsuit was filed in Butte County Superior Court and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages in excess of $75,000 and attorneys fees. The lawsuit names the County of Butte, District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the Butte County Sheriff, and Detective Hancock as defendants. "Not only did these officials break the spirit and letter of the state's medical marijuana law in denying patients the right to associate collectively," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "They also violated Williams' Fourth Amendment Right against unlawful search and seizure."

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 of what might happen to them. David Williams, however, are intent on planting a crop again this year, despite the prior harassment, intimidation, and threats of reprisal by the county. New collective members Gary Marsh, Peter Jeffers, and Bruce Thompson, along with Williams, are banking on the lawsuit to allow them to cultivate this year without interference by the county.

Elford commented further that state law, specifically Health & Safety Code Section 11362.775, spells out, in no uncertain terms, that qualified patients "who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions." Butte County and others that choose to ignore this law should know that they will meet with legal resistance at the hands of patients and their advocates.

For a copy of the lawsuit filed against Butte County: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/Butte_Complaint.pdf

Post-Raich DEA Activity: Hinchey Amendment Would Halt Future Raids

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Gonzales v. Raich, patients awaiting federal trial in California bear the brunt of continued attacks. Future attacks could be thwarted by the passage of the Hinchey amendment, which prohibits the DEA from using federal funds to commit medical marijuana raids in states that allow medical marijuana.

Closeup pic of two DEA agents during a raid of the Hope Net dispensary in SF DEA agents prepare to raid Hope Net dispensary in San Francisco (Photo by Clark Sullivan).

The need for Congress to act on behalf of patients is sharply illustrated by the arrests which followed the Raich decision. For instance, the day after the decision came down, patient Joseph Fortt was arrested after the local sheriff turned over information on cultivation sites to the DEA. Suffering from HIV and an impaired immune system, Joseph now faces a tenyear mandatory minimum sentence and awaits trial in Fresno County Jail.

Vernon Rylee, a 61 year old Trinity County patient and caregiver turned over to the feds by the County Sheriff, is sitting in Sacramento County Jail, facing over a decade in prison. Similarly to Fortt, he is very ill and has suffered medical neglect in jail.

Dustin Costa, former president of the Merced Patients' Group, was likewise arrested by the Merced County Sheriff on cultivation charges. The Sheriff later turned the case over to the DEA. Dustin is now in Fresno County Jail awaiting trial.

Added to the list of prisoners of the war on medical cannabis are Louis Fowler, James Holland, Thunder Rector, twelve defendants in the Oakland "Beyond Bomb" raids and twenty San Francisco defendants who were arrested in conjunction with raids on three dispensaries. These defendants would all benefit from the Hinchey Amendment's passage. This amendment would cut the funds to prosecute patients and caregivers in medical cannabis states, halting the gears of the federal machine causing the unnecessary suffering of thousands of sick patients and those who would help them.

Research Update: Cannabis-Extract Helps to Reduce Postoperative Pain

On the heels of the FDA's bogus press release condemning the therapeutic value of cannabis, Anesthesiology, the official journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, published the results of a multi-centered study in England indicating that cannabis is effective in reducing postopertative pain.

To assess the safety, efficacy, and proper dosage of a new cannabis extract capsule called Cannador, researchers in England conducted a dose-escalation study at twelve centers throughout Britain investigating the analgesic and adverse effects of the extract for postoperative pain management. For this study, patients between the ages of 18 and 75 received a single dose of 5, 10, or 15 mg Cannador after stopping patient-controlled analgesia. Starting with 5 mg, dose escalation was based on the number of patients requesting rescue analgesia or reporting adverse effects.

Patients receiving 5 mg all requested rescue pain relievers less than six hours after medicating and half of the patients receiving 10 mg Cannador also requested additional medication. Only one-quarter of the patients receiving 15 mg Cannador needed more pain medication and patients in this group did exhibit some minor side effects including drop in heart rate and slowed hear rate which subsided quickly without medication.

Researchers concluded that "the optimal dose was determined to be 10 mg Cannador because it was effective in providing pain relief at rest without serious or severe side effects in a fit adult group of post-surgical patients."

(Source: Holdcroft A, Maze M, Dore C, Tebbs S, Thompson S. A multicenter dose-escalation study of the analgesic and adverse effects of an oral cannabis extract (Cannador) for postoperative pain management. Anesthesiology, 2006;104(5):1040-1046)

National Action Alert: Urge Your Congressional Representative to Vote for the Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment

Congress will soon debate the Hinchey Medical Marijuana amendment, which would prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. It would end the DEA raids on medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are acting in accordance with state law. Please write or call your Congressional Representative to urge him/her to vote for the Hinchey amendment! Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or write to your Representative using ASA's online action center: www.SafeAccessNow.org/HincheyAction.