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Washington, DC -- Patients and their supporters rallied at the Justice Department in Washington, DC today to protest increased federal interference in medical marijuana states. More than 200 supporters also rallied today in Sacramento for medical marijuana patients Dr.Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities to serve out 5-year prison terms. On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided several distribution centers in Spokane, Washington, as a state bill to license such facilities was vetoed the next day by Governor Gregoire. Thursday's actions are the latest in a string of more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids carried out since President Obama took office.
"Patients are sick and tired of being singled out, stigmatized and harassed over the medication they choose," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana patients' rights group organizing the protest. "At minimum, the federal government must end its intimidation tactics of threats and harmful raids," continued Sherer. "But more importantly, medical marijuana is an urgent public health issue that President Obama should address by working with -- not against -- the patient community."
As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA also organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials today in 10 medical marijuana states, including Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).The national day of action comes at a time of heightened federal attacks on medical marijuana states, routinely timed to coincide with state legislative actions. Threats of criminal prosecution have been made by U.S. Attorneys against local and state officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. In March, more than two-dozen federal raids in Montana were timed to coincide with deliberation on a pending bill to repeal that state's medical marijuana law. After Governor Schweitzer later vetoed the bill, US Attorney Michael Cotter issued a threatening letter to the state's legislative leadership, further discouraging them from adopting a cultivation and distribution licensing law.
"The imprisonment of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer is emblematic of a failed federal policy," said Sherer. Fry and Schafer were raided by the DEA in 2001, despite approval from local law enforcement to cultivate medical marijuana. Fry and Schafer were later charged and tried in 2007 for manufacturing, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They were denied a medical defense despite their adherence to state law and ultimately convicted. In order to obtain the mandatory minimum 5-year sentence, the government was able to add up multiple years of harvests to arrive at more than 100 plants. The Obama administration vigorously fought an appeal of their sentence in the Ninth Circuit.
Adding to the cost of incarceration, both Fry and Schafer are in need of medical attention. Fry, a breast cancer survivor, and Schafer, a hemophiliac, will also be leaving behind a family of 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and will miss the birth of another grandchild in October. Advocates are calling on President Obama to grant clemency and commute Fry and Schafer's sentence. In April, ASA issued a report card, giving Obama a failing grade on medical marijuana. "President Obama has given us nothing but broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes.
ASA's "Sick and Tired" campaign page: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=6369
ASA's "Cease & Desist" order: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_Cease_Desist.pdf
Threatening letters from US Attorneys: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letters.pdf
Obama Report Card: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Obama_Report_Card.pdf
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