May 2006 Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 5

ASA Questions FDA Statement on Medical Marijuana

On Friday April 21, the New York Times ran a front page story with the headline: "F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit from Marijuana." According to Americans for Safe Access, there were three major problems with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) claim:

  1. The FDA conducted no scientific study of the evidence related to marijuana as medicine to treat those with cancer, AIDS and other serious illnesses. Their "inter-agency advisory" was simply a press release that contained no new information, yet still received widespread national attention.
  2. The FDA's dismissal of marijuana as a safe and effective treatment for certain illnesses directly contradicts the National Academy of Science's 1999 Institute of Medicine report Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base and a rapidly growing body of research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis for treating a wide range of afflictions. Unlike the FDA's press release, this million dollar study received almost no publicity, since its findings were in conflict with the Drug Czar's agenda.
  3. The timing of FDA's advisory is suspect given that just nine days earlier on April 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which houses the FDA, for the eigth time postponed a decision on a medical cannabis petition filed pursuant to the provisions of the Data Quality Act, which requires that federal agencies justify regulatory decisions with scientific data. If HHS feels confident enough in their position that marijuana has no accepted medical value to permit FDA to release an inter-agency advisory, then they should be compelled to answer our appeal without further delay.

In response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) bogus press release condemning medical cannabis, 24 Members of Congress have drafted a strongly worded letter to FDA asking the agency to either produce evidence of new research or explain motivation behind its statement. This effort was led by Representatives Hinchey (D-NY), Paul (R-TX), Frank (D-MA) and Farr (D-CA) in collaboration with ASA.

Furthermore, ASA will be sending our own letter to HHS and FDA asking these agencies to explain their contradictory statements on medical marijuana and produce the evidence that supports the Administration's position that "marijuana has no accepted medical value."

The FDA's job is not to play politics; the FDA's job is to protect public health. If the government is going to stick to its position that marijuana does not have medicinal benefits, then HHS should be compelled to show us the science and respond to our DQA petition. If not, ASA will take the government to court. It's that simple.

Emeryville Pays Patient $15,000 for Medical Marijuana

Picture of James Blair with medicine James Blair with a portion of his returned property.

Medical marijuana patient James Blair was arrested on marijuana cultivation charges in 2003 and had his medicine and equipment confiscated. Blair, who is partially paralyzed from a diving accident, received a check for $15,000 on April 11, 2006, from the City of Emeryville for marijuana seized by its Police Department. With the assistance of ASA, Blair received one of the largest cash settlements to date in a case of wrongful seizure. The City of Emeryville has now adopted a policy of not confiscating medical marijuana from qualified patients.

It is ASA's hope that financial pressures such as these will deter police from violating the rights of medical marijuana patients. "By making government pay for their transgressions through successful lawsuits like mine," said Blair on the day he received his check. "Americans for Safe Access and I are going to force police agencies to adopt sensible policies that uphold patients' rights."

After the dismissal of Blair's criminal charges, stemming from the 2003 raid on his home by Emeryville police (EPD), a Superior Court Judge issued a court order, in 2004, for the return of his property. Soon after, Blair went with court order in hand to pick up his property, but was verbally denied it. Under threat of contempt of court, EPD finally agreed to return only some of Blair's property. Blair learned that due to a burglary at an off-site secured police evidence locker, many of his possessions, including most of his cultivation equipment and much of his medical marijuana plants, were stolen.

With this monetary penalty, and ASA's recent success in reversing a mandatory seizure policy by the CHP, patients are winning the battle for their rights under state law. Widespread adoption of sound police policies on medical marijuana are within sight.

Local Chapter Focus: Los Angeles ASA

Next LA ASA Meeting:

Saturday, May 20th 2-4pm
Hollywood Lutheran Church
1733 N. New Hampshire Ave.,
Hollywood, CA

Los Angeles ASA has been going strong for over a year, and over the past few months, they have kicked their work into a higher gear. The chapter has worked on campaigns at all levels of government, from city politics to federal law.

In October, 2005, LA ASA chartered a bus to travel to San Francisco, to join with local activists in rallying for the rescheduling of marijuana. This two day long journey brought over 50 activists from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to the rally.

Picture of LA ASA activists LA ASA creating condition-based t-shirts on their bus ride to the SF rescheduling rally (Sara Henuber).

The chapter has also organized many rallies of its own. After DEA raids in December and March, they organized successful emergency response rallies, drawing over 30 activists to each protest and garnering local media attention. They also held a rally during medical marijuana week targeting the Los Angeles Police Department, which drew more than 50 patients and supporters.

Proving their ability to lobby effectively, LA ASA activists ensured the passage in LA County of the most progressive medical marijuana dispensary ordinance in the state. They set up lobbying meetings with all of the supervisors, and packed the chambers with more than 80 activists at the hearing. The legislation does not cap the number of dispensaries, allows on-site consumption, and puts regulation in the hands of the planning department, instead of the Sheriff.

Contact LA ASA:

(323) 464-7719
[email protected]

LA ASA is now gearing up for the final hearing of the LA County ordinance on May 9th. Then, they will move on to working with the City of Los Angeles to adopt regulations to protect safe access to medical marijuana.

National Action Alert:
Write to Medical Marijuana POWs!

Several medical marijuana defendants are in jail awaiting trial. Please write to them and show your support! (To find out details about these POWs, visit

Dustin Robert Costa

Jail ID: T00229755
DOB: 10/11/46
Fresno County Jail
P.O. Box 872
Fresno, CA 93712

Joseph William Fortt

Jail ID: T00229134
DOB: 11/14/62
Fresno County Jail
P.O. Box 872
Fresno, CA 93712

Louis Wayne Fowler

X-71918 6E 3 20
c/o Sacramento County Jail
651 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

James Dale Holland

Jail ID: T00230818
DOB: 09/25/61
Fresno County Jail
P.O. Box 872
Fresno, CA 93712