November 2006 Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 11

ASA Activists Arrested at DEA Protest

SAN DIEGO - Medical marijuana patients and ASA activists demanding to speak with the head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration were arrested in San Diego shortly after noon today for refusing to leave the site of an agency convention. The seven patients arrested and one cited were among the 75 patients and activists protesting at the Marriott San Diego Mission Valley, where the DEA held a meeting to discuss medical marijuana.

Protestors arrested in San Diego ASA Legal Campaign Director Kris Hermes with letter to DEA

The protestors dump-ed 1,500 empty pill bottles in front of the hotel, asking that DEA chief Karen Tandy tell them where they should get their medicine, now that the agency has shut down all medical cannabis dispensaries in the area. The patients refused to leave until Tandy spoke with them. When she declined, San Diego police arrested the seven for trespassing and cited one.

"Doctors recommend cannabis and patients use it because it works," said Steph Sherer, ASA executive director. "The DEA is inflicting unnecessary suffering on tens of thousands of Americans by denying them a safe, effective medicine. It has to stop."

Protestors arrested in San Diego SDPD cites protestor Craig McCain for trespassing

Earlier in the day, two other patients were cited for dropping a banner near the hotel that read "The DEA is Not My Doctor."

The seven arrested were: Ira Altshuler, Wendy Christakes, Alex Franco, Chris Fusco, Kris Hermes, Gail Tripp, and Kristen White. The one cited was Craig McCain, a spinal-injury patient.

Patients in San Diego are having difficulty with access to medical cannabis since the DEA raided or threatened all the dispensaries in the area.

Similar raids in the past month have shut dispensaries in Los Angeles, Modesto, Palm Springs and San Francisco.

Policy Protecting Patients Signed by California Attorney General, Governor, CHP

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

The signed agreement settles a lawsuit filed last February 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 - signed by CHP officials and counsel for Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger - makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater.

"We're urging local officials around the state to adopt similar law enforcement policies," said Kris Hermes, ASA legal campaign director. "Medical cannabis patients have rights under the law that must be respected, and this consent decree acknowledges that."

As part of the settlement, ASA received reimbursement for legal fees associated with prosecuting the case.

"California's private attorney general statute encourages concerned citizens to fix flawed policy through litigation," said Joe Elford, ASA chief counsel. "This case corrects an egregious policy that completely ignored the right of sick and dying Californians to possess marijuana for medical use."

The new consent decree is at www.safeaccessnow.org

The CHP policy that went in to effect in August 2005 is at www.safeaccessnow.org

Senator Jeffords Putting Pressure on HHS over Rescheduling Delay

Thanks in part to the efforts of ASA's national office staff in Washington, D.C. and in a sign of the increasing pressure Congress is putting on the federal Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to recognize medicinal uses of cannabis, a ranking Senator has taken action on behalf of patients.

Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont on October 10 sent a formal letter to the head of DHHS, Secretary Michael Leavitt, asking about the status of the cannabis rescheduling petition that has been before the agency since 2004.

Senator Jeffords points out in the letter that he asked Secretary Leavitt about the issue at Leavitt's confirmation hearing in January 2005, and was then told that it should be answered by August 2005. As Jeffords writes "Needless to say August 2005 has long since passed, and it has now been over two years since the DEA forwarded the rescheduling petition to the DHHS for evaluation, and yet no action has been taken on the DEA's request."

Senator Jeffords goes on to ask Secretary Leavitt to "please describe the factors that have led to this delay in responding to the DEA's request," and asks for a new estimate on when the scientific and medical evaluation will be complete.

ASA's Director of Government Affairs, Caren Woodson, continues to work with Senator Jeffords' office and other Congressional offices to keep pressure on DHHS and other agencies.

Research Update: MS, Cancer, Neuroprotection

Among the dozens of peer-reviewed medical and scientific articles about cannabis published this month are ones describing its neuroprotective and cancer-fighting properties, as well as how cannabis helps MS patients.

Incontinence control for patients with multiple sclerosis was the subject of a clinical trial in England, which showed that MS sufferers are significantly helped by cannabis. British researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled study of 630 MS patients, comparing the efficacy of a cannabis extract to THC. The study found that both the extract and THC showed significant effects compared to placebo.

Scientists in China reported this month on a study of the role cannabinoids play in controlling cancer. The two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are considered to be involved in inhibition of tumor development. Their study of patients with human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) found that "disease-free survival was significantly better in HCC patients with high CB1 and CB2 expression levels." They conclude that CB1 and CB2 may predict how patients with HCC will fare and suggest possible "beneficial effects of cannabinoids" for patients with HCC.

The tumor-fighting properties of cannabinoids was the subject of an article published by researchers in Sweden who are looking at mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). The Swedish team has already shown that cannabinoids induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in MCL. This study explores the roles of CB1 and CB2 receptors in making that happen. They conclude that targeting CB(1)/CB(2) may have therapeutic potential for this type of cancer.

Scientists in Great Britain published research on how certain cannabinoids can activate a type of receptors in the human body known as PPARs (peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptors), research that they say identifies a new therapeutic target for neuroprotective cannabis therapies.

In another neurological study done by researchers in Scotland, scientists looked at how THC interacts with the cannabinoid CBD, which has already been shown to act on both hippocampal neurones and glia to improve function. They found that THC and CBD interact synergistically and conclude that the cannabis extracts have other constituents yet to be identified that can significantly modulate the ability of THC and CBD to improve neural activity.

National Action Alert: Plan a “Pill Bottle Dump” Action
at a Local Federal Building on January 22nd

Medical cannabis patients and providers are under attack! Over the past month, the DEA conducted raids on three dispensaries and several medical cannabis grow facilities across California, restricting safe access to cannabis for bona-fide patients statewide. In response, ASA is organizing a national day of action on Monday, January 22nd, 2007. When the 110th Congress convenes, patients and advocates nationwide will assemble at their local federal buildings to demand an end to DEA raids on patients and providers who are abiding by their state law.

Tell the DEA to stop their assault on medical cannabis patients and their providers!

On Monday, January 22nd, thousands of patients and advocates will gather at their local federal buildings to demand an end to federal raids on medical cannabis patients and providers. No access is not a solution! And to drive that message home, advocates will dump wheelbarrows full of empty prescription bottles at the federal buildings, demanding the DEA re-fill these bottles if they continue to undermine state medical cannabis laws by raiding patients and their providers. We need YOU to organize an action. To get involved today, contact Rebecca: [email protected].

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