September 2007 Activist Newsletter
September 09, 2007
Volume 2, Issue 9
Ruling from state appellate court could end years of local law enforcement violations
ASA's Return of Property campaign reached a pivotal point this month. Chief Counsel Joe Elford appeared before a state appeals court to argue that any California patient whose medical marijuana is seized in a law enforcement encounter has a right to get that cannabis back as soon as the patient demonstrates that the marijuana is lawfully possessed underCalifornia law.
State law says any wrongfully seized property must be returned, but some law enforcement agencies have argued that they cannot give back medical marijuana because doing so would violate federal law, even though the state Attorney General has said otherwise. California court rulings have split on the issue, with some judges ordering the return of medical marijuana and some refusing.
The appeals court is considering two cases. The first is that of Felix Kha, a Garden Grove patient who had eight grams of medical marijuana confiscated. A Superior Court judge ordered the return of his medicine, but the city of Garden Grove not only refused, it appealed the order. The second case is that of Jim Spray, a Hunt-ington Beach patient who was denied a court order by a different judge in the same Court that issued Kha's order.
"It is bad enough to have your medicine seized by police,” said Elford. “But to then be denied its rightful return shows a blatant disregard for the law."
Over the past two years, ASA has had success getting law enforcement agencies such as the California Highway Patrol to change their policies and has even helped patients get cash compensation for medicine that was destroyed or lost before it could be returned.
For further information, refer to:
Felix Kha's return of property case, including a description and legal briefs
The City of Garden Grove's appeal
ASA's opposition to Garden Grove's appeal
The California Attorney General's amicus brief in support of Kha
The California Police Chiefs Association amicus brief in support of Garden Grove
Examples of return of property court orders issued by Superior Court judges in California
Poll Shows Nearly All Viewers Support Safe Access
Medical marijuana was the subject this month of a news magazine program on the country's largest television network devoted to retired Americans. The "Viewpoint" program on Retirement Living Television (RLTV), a cable channel that boasts 29 million viewers, included interviews with patients, medical researchers, dispensary operators, and federal officials.
Among those featured in the program were Florida medical marijuana patient Irv Rosenfeld, who receives his medicine free from the federal government; Dr. Bertha Madras, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Dr. John Benson, one of the co-investigators for the 1999 Institute of Medicine report, which concluded that there are medical uses for marijuana. ASA's Director of Government Affairs, Caren Woodson, was part of an RLTV promotional program that aired the day before.
The focus of the RLTV programs was "the relationship between seniors living with chronic pain and their choice to use medical marijuana to alleviate their constant discomfort," according to RLTV, which offers additional information at www.rl.tv.
A poll of RLTV viewers found that only one person did not support access to medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation. This is consistent with a December 2004 poll conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which found that 72% of their membership "agree that adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it." Nearly one-third said that they smoked marijuana.
Many of the ailments commonly associated with aging - such as arthritis, cancer, glaucoma, and chronic pain - can be effectively treated with cannabis, as outlined in the ASA booklet on medical marijuana and aging.
Front Range ASA, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Front Range ASA (FRASA) chapter members have been pioneers with their organizing tactics to ensure safe access for Coloradoan patients. Working with one of ASA's Medical Advisory Board members, Dr. Bob Melamede, the chapter has used both science and activism to improve access for patients. Just this year, one of FRASA's leaders and a medical cannabis researcher, Matt Schnur, filed two petitions with the Colorado Department of Health to expand the list of conditions for which cannabis is approved. The petitions cite research indicating diabetes mellitus and anxiety and depression can be treated with cannabis. The chapter is waiting for a response.
FRASA has also been reaching out to the medical community and patients groups. In addition to distributing ASA's condition-based booklets and research to hospitals, patients groups, doctors' offices, and other health associations, FRASA has contacted the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association about updating their official public statements about medical cannabis. The intersecting patient populations ASA shares with a variety of condition-based organizations provide unique opportunities for collaboration.
This summer, FRASA and the Colorado Campaign for Safe Access, a project of ASA and Sensible Colorado, sponsored an educational seminar for El Paso County Drug Taskforce members. This seminar on Marijuana Education and Dispensary Safety, or MEDS, was taught by Colorado Campaign for Safe Access' Executive Director, Brian Vicente. Participating law enforcement members learned about Colorado's medical cannabis laws and patients' rights.
The Colorado Campaign for Safe Access and FRASA also worked together in August to organize mass e-mails, petitions, calls, and meetings with their Congressional representatives, urging them to sign on to a letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, asking her to grant UMass Amherst professor Lyle Craker a license to grow marijuana for medical research.
FRASA has already made great strides towards ensuring safe access in Colorado and will continue to work towards this goal.
LA-ASA's two years of work to establish sound regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles has accelerated in the wake of the latest DEA raids there.
The large patient protests ASA organized have given the City Council a new sense of urgency to complete the permanent ordinance. The city's medical cannabis working group has abandoned plans to start from scratch, and is instead using the LA County ordinance as a template.
This model ordinance, which ASA was instrumental in helping craft, includes on-site consumption, the distribution of medical clones, and other patient-centered provisions.
Since last month's raids, the Los Angeles City Council has been working even more closely with LA-ASA.
ASA has taken the next step in its lawsuit to force the federal government to tell the truth about medical marijuana and admit that many doctors routinely recommended marijuana to their patients.
On August 17, ASA filed an amended complaint with the federal District Court, charging that the government's failure to answer ASA's 2004 Data Quality Act petition violated the law and constitutes an "unreasonable delay."
The government has 60 days to respond.
ASA's petition documents why the government cannot factually say that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and "there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition."
The Data Quality Act says federal agencies must rely on sound science in the information they disseminate.
The case will likely be heard in late 2007.
On August 29, ASA activists throughout the country visited their Representatives' local district offices to ask for Congressional action on medical marijuana.
Activists asked their Representatives to join others in the U.S. House who are trying to eliminate funding for federal raids on medical marijuana patients and providers.
They also asked their Representatives to add their names to a "sign-on" letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy from John Olver (D, MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA).
The letter urges Tandy to accept a judge's recommendation that scientists at University of Massachusetts Amherst be allowed to cultivate cannabis for federally approved medical research.
With the recent DEA raids throughout California, Washington, and Oregon, it is time to bring these attacks to light in your community! Write a letter to the editor in your local paper calling on City Councils to take measures to protect patients.
Write a letter mentioning the following points:
In the past few months, the DEA has raided nearly 20 medical cannabis dispensaries throughout California, as well as patients and providers in Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico, leaving hundreds of sick patients without medicine.
Patients need to be protected by their elected officials.
Local, state, and federal elected officials in medical cannabis states need to stand up for the sick and dying patients that they represent.
Visit ASA's tips on writing a letter to the editor for a how-to guide along with contact information for your local news source: www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/LTE.
For more help, contact Sonnet: Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org.