Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access"

  • NH set to become the next medical cannabis state, while MD considers yet another symbolic bill

    Yesterday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 573, by a voted of 286-64. The bill is expected to pass the Senate, which approved similar legislation last year. In fact, the year's bill will provide patients with greater access options, as they will be able to purchase medical cannabis from a state-regulated dispensary in addition to being able to cultivate their own medicine in an enclosed, locked facility. While last year's bill was vetoed by the previous governor (the veto fell just 2 shorts shy of being overridden),  it is expected that it will again pass the senate followed this time with the signature of newly elected Governor Maggie Hassan.

    ASA worked with NH state Representative Donald "Ted" Wright to help with language as the bill made its way through the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, and commends the work of the committee and each of the legislators that voted in favor of the bill that will create true safe access in New Hampshire. Although the bill failed to included protections against housing, employment or education discrimination, HB 573 is a very patient friendly bill, and will provide access to patients living with any of a number of debilitating conditions. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about legislation that is about to pass the Maryland General Assembly.

    Late on Wednesday, it was announced that both the Maryland House Health and Government Affairs and Judiciary Committees approved HB 1101, a bill that would in theory create an access model where patients would obtain medicine from hospitals that are approved to conduct research on human subjects.  Earlier this month, Maryland was considering a true safe access, HB 302, which would have been created access through dispensaries and cultivation while providing patients with the strongest privacy protections in the nation. Instead, this system can only be described as a symbolic bill because even the state's own Department of Legislative Services (DLS) analysis said the likelihood that any facility is approximately "nonexistent." In fact, the state's analysis noted that;

    "Both the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) previously advised (with regards to a similar bill introduced in the 2012 legislative session) that they did not intend to participate in the program as academic medical centers. JHU and UMMS have confirmed that their intentions have not changed. It is unclear how many, if any, other institutions are eligible (and willing) to participate as
    academic medical centers under the bill."

    In other words, the state has no idea (or confidence for that matter) that there is a single facility in the state that will provide medical cannabis to patients with a qualifying condition. Even less friendly for patients is the fact physicians will not be able to write recommendations for conditions for which they have not been pre-approved to recommend. In fact, there is not a single debilitating medical condition that a patient in Maryland would be guaranteed access for under this law, bad news for Marylanders with rare conditions.

    Worse still, this completely unproven approach is anticipated to be a financial quagmire for the state.  The DLS analysis further states that,

    "Because participation in the program is expected to be low (or nonexistent)...DLS advises that the commission is not likely to be able to comply with the bill’s requirement to set its fees at a level sufficient to offset program costs (notwithstanding that some costs, including those associated with the required database, are the responsibility of DHMH rather than the commission) unless it sets its fees at a level that would likely be prohibitively high."

    In other words, if by some miracle, some eligible facility stepped forward to become a provider of medical cannabis, the state would be hemorrhaging money on the program. Regardless of whether a facility stepped forward, the state would still bear the expense of promulgating unimplementable regulations. Bottom line, Maryland is about to pass the expensive symbolic medical cannabis law in history.

    So there you have it. Neither Maryland nor New Hampshire are set to pass perfect medical cannabis bills in 2013, but the difference between them is night versus day. Or should I say, sickness vs. wellness.
  • San Diego prosecutor to try dispensary operator for third time

    Third time’s a charm? Not in the case of Navy veteran and former San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson.

    San Diego Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Chris Lindberg decided this week to try Jackson for a third time in as many years. Jackson, who operated the San Diego dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective (AACC), was raided by a multi-agency law enforcement task force in 2008 and again in 2009. Jackson was tried the first time on possession and distribution charges, but was acquitted by a jury in 2009.

    Unsatisfied with that result, ADA Lindberg, likely at the behest of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, tried Jackson a second time on charges levied after the 2009 raid on AACC. The second trial was not considered “double jeopardy” by the court because the prosecution was based on a different raid. During Jackson’s second trial in 2010, Lindberg prevented him from using a medical marijuana defense and, as a result, was convicted this time on the same charges of possession and distribution.

    Outraged by this official persecution of a law-abiding dispensary operator and the waste of taxpayer dollars, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) appealed Jackson’s conviction in late 2011. In a unanimous landmark decision by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, Jackson’s conviction was overturned in October 2012. The court also held that Jackson should have been entitled to a medical marijuana defense, rejecting arguments made by both Lindberg and the Attorney General that patients must take part in the cultivation used to supply dispensaries.

    Although the Attorney General decided not to appeal the 2012 ruling overturning Jackson’s conviction, in an unusual move Lindberg appealed to the California Supreme Court. Clearly disappointed by the High Court’s decision earlier this year not to review the case, Lindberg is seeking to try Jackson again. This time, however, Jackson is ensured a defense at trial.

    The new trial, which has been set for May 1st in San Diego County Superior Court, is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars in a time of fiscal crisis, but is also a futile attempt to undermine patients’ rights to safely and legally obtain their medication from storefront dispensaries.

    Since the landmark appellate ruling, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has indicated his disinterest in prosecuting state-compliant dispensary operators in the city. Mayor Filner has also promised to help pass an ordinance that would establish local dispensary regulations, thereby making Jackson’s third trial that much more superfluous, yet still injurious for Jackson.

    It seems doubtful to say the least that Jackson could now be convicted by a jury. It’s long past time for law enforcement in San Diego to abandon its hostile stance toward medical marijuana and allow California law to be implemented without further interference.
  • Progress in Massachusetts

    Following overwhelming approval of the medical marijuana ballot initiative in November, Massachusetts’ patients are waiting for safe access to their medicine as the state proceeds with implementation. We aren’t there yet, but so far progress is continuing in the right direction, thanks to the work of patient advocates from around the state. There have been a number of exciting advancements over the last several weeks.

    The Attorney General issued a ruling that cities and towns cannot ban medical treatment centers from opening. Despite the overwhelming passage of the initiative that won in 350 out of 351 communities, a small minority of municipalities had attempted to forbid treatment centers from operating within their jurisdictions, largely based on unfounded fears about how treatment centers will work. Supporters within these towns have been frustrated with local officials’ attempting to overturn the will of the voters by passing bans. The AG has decided that these efforts are not legal, based on the reasoning that if one town can ban treatment centers, they all can. If that happened, implementation of the medical marijuana law would be impossible, and therefore these local bans are not permitted under state law. However, the AG also found that cities and towns can pass temporary moratoriums or zoning ordinance to address treatment center siting, as long as they do not ban the centers outright.



    In other important developments, we saw an impressive turn out from patients at three recently convened listening sessions where the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) was soliciting input as the agency works on writing the regulations that will determine how the medical marijuana program will work. We thank Dr. Lauren Smith, Acting Commissioner of DPH, and her staff for making the time to travel around the state and listen to patients and others on issues regarding implementation.

    The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA) remains committed to making sure that patients, their family members, and medical professionals have a voice in the process. Once again advocates in Massachusetts have risen to the occasion, and we’ve proven nothing is more powerful than patients coming forward to speak about their experience. Read media coverage to hear directly from patient advocates at the Worcester session, Boston session, and Holyoke session.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA), (through their board member, Karen Munkacy MD) has been working closely with MPAA and DPH.  ASA has presented information on patient access, physician education, patient education, recommendations for dispensaries (written in collaboration with the American Herbal Products Association) and what is a reasonable 60 day supply of MMJ.

    We expect draft regulations to be released at the end of March, and then there will be one or two public hearing(s) around April 19. The month of April will be a critical period for patients and others to formally submit testimony to DPH on how implementation should be carried out.


     Sign up to be on our e-mail alert list at  compassionforpatients.com and visit us on facebook to stay updated about future meetings as we organize in preparation of the next hearing.

  • Let's Continue to Fight for Safe Access - Join ASA Today

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    On her 30th birthday (March 19 in 2012), doctors discovered a cancerous mass in my sister's right breast.  She was rushed to the emergency room for an emergency mastectomy and was newly pregnant at the time.  For a grueling year, she suffered extensive chemotherapy treatments , during which she secretly used cannabis to ease her anxiety and nausea instead of drugs proscribed by her doctors which were known to harm the fetus.   Her healthy and beautiful daughter Chloe was born via scheduled cesarean with no complications other than slight prematurity.  My sister lives in Virginia, where medical cannabis is barely a conversation.  Today, a year later on March 11th, a new mass was found in her left breast.  Unless we do something to help her, my sister will unnecessarily continue to suffer through her treatments.

    I have always championed the medicinal properties of cannabis and believe it should be easy to obtain and available to whoever needs it.  But nothing drives that fact home harder than experiencing it on the front lines through a loved one's suffering.  My sister is not alone.  There are so many people struggling with extreme pain, discomfort and agony on a daily basis.  Every single one of them deserves relief.

    I joined ASA to not only end my story and voice to the fight for safe access to medical cannabis but to empower others to take action as well.  Today, I do so by urging you to join ASA.



    ASA's 45 day Spring Membership Drive launched yesterday. Our goal, to obtain 3,000 new members starts with you.  Incidentally, it's a great time to join because we are offing a bunch of membership incentives with each membership level.

    ASA members…

      • Receive discounts on ASA products, events, and materials

     

      • Get invitations to special member-only briefings

     

      • Know that they are contributing to directly on the front lines of the medical cannabis movement everyday



    And for the next 45 days new and renewing members get…

      • $35 Basic membership = ASA lapel pin

     

      • $50 ASA Fan membership = ASA T-shirt

     

      • $100 ASA Friend = ASA Activist Handbook

     

      • $250 ASA Enthusiast= ASA Sweatshirt

     

      • $500 ASA Fantastic= ASA Sweatshirt and Handbook



    Become a Sustaining Member with an affordable monthly contribution and get…

      • $10/month Ally = ASA lapel pin

     

      • $25/month Advocate = ASA T-shirt

     

      • $50/month Activist = ASA Activist Handbook

     

      • $100/month Leader = ASA Sweatshirt

     

      • $250/month Movement Builder = ASA Sweatshirt and Handbook



    60% of Americans for Safe Access’ (ASA) budget comes from individuals just like you.  Your membership ensures that ASA can answer calls from thousands of patients every month, weigh-in on legislation around the country, represent you in Washington, DC, and give advocates the tools they need to create safe and legal access in their communities. No one else is doing this important work, and it only happens because of the support of people like you.

    You can help make it happen right now. Join ASA or renew your membership today. That way you can know that you are helping to make a real difference in the fight for medical cannabis nationwide.

    Unlike contributions to a 501(c)(3), donations to 501(c)(4)s are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.  But your financial contribution goes so much further because it directly affects change on the issues you care about.

    Together, we can work together to directly affect chance for so many deserving people whether we know them or not. by joining ASA and lending out voices to the ongoing fight for medical cannabis.

  • If you want to break federal law, it’s better to be a banker than a medical marijuana provider



     

     

     

     

     

     

    According to Matt Taibbi, in his latest Rolling Stone exposé on the banking and financial industry “Too Big to Jail,” HSBC “helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel,” and also “moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions.”

    Yet, as outrageous as these transgressions are, the Justice Department refuses to criminally prosecute the bankers committing federal crimes right under the nose of the U.S. government.

    At a press conference where the Justice Department announced a settlement between the government and HSBC, in which the bank was forced to pay $1.9 billion, but without any individual being fined or prosecuted, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer had this to say:
    Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.

    So, the lesson we’re supposed to take from that is this:

    if you’re a banker you can commit federal felonies and all you have to endure is a slap on the wrist. However, if you’re in any other line of business and you commit federal felonies, all bets are off.

    If you’re a medical marijuana provider, for example, the Justice Department will not just look the other way as it did for years with HSBC. Instead, you can expect the government to come after you with the full force of the law.

    Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has spent millions of taxpayer dollars criminally prosecuting scores of people, arguably in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws. Montana medical marijuana cultivator Chris Williams was most recently sentenced to 5 years in federal prison. California-based dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky was sentenced a few weeks earlier to 10 years. Michigan cultivators and medical marijuana patients Jeremy and Jerry Duval were sentenced late last year to 5 and 10 years in prison, respectively. All four of these defendants were convicted at trial after being denied a medical marijuana defense.

    In medical marijuana-related cases, the government goes out of its way to stack the legal deck against defendants. It’s bad enough that the Justice Department expends significant resources to prosecute those trying to comply with state law, but to also deny them a defense is shameful.

    Two bills currently in Congress would attempt to change that dynamic. HR689, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act” would reclassify the drug for more widespread use and research, while HR710, the “Truth in Trials Act” would grant an affirmative defense in federal court cases. Passage of these bills would go a long way in bringing fairness to our country’s public health policy.

    However, much more needs to be done before our skewed approach to medical marijuana is corrected. For example, some of the same banks that were at least partly responsible for our recent economic crash -- like Wells Fargo and Bank of America -- are in collusion with the federal government to deny financial services to legally compliant medical marijuana businesses.

    Just in case you missed it: the Justice Department looks the other way when large banks launder foreign drug cartel money in our own country, but works with large banks to deny services to legally compliant medical marijuana businesses. And that’s if they’re lucky. If the Justice Department decides to target such businesses, as it has with hundreds of them, the owners could spend years in prison.

    Justice in America has often been selective, though rarely has it been starker than this.
  • My Bumpy Road To The ASA Conference in Washington D.C.


    I spent the last three years working as an Executive Legislative Assistant to a ranking budget chair in the Washington State Legislature, so it should come as no surprise that a trip to the Nation’s Capitol has always been high on my  bucket list. I was this close to fulfilling my dream in 2008, after scrimping and saving for over two years on a relatively low salary. Unfortunately, prohibition happened.


    I became a medical cannabis patient in ‘05 while living in Oregon. At that time, I did not know that I had a rare genetic disorder; only that I had long been suffering from chronic joint and muscle pain, extreme nausea and vomiting, disabling migraines and eventual insomnia. After an honest conversation with my doctor about the handfuls of pills I was taking to mask the symptoms - at the ripe ol’ age of 25, mind you – it was suggested that cannabis might relieve what ailed me. I was honestly taken aback when it worked so well and I was able to wean myself off every single pharmaceutical.




    Happy ending, right? Not really.


    Like many who wind up in court for cannabis, I was pulled over by a traffic cop. It happened on a desolate stretch of Interstate 5 in Southwest Washington. In what has become a recurring nightmare for cannabis consumers nationwide, the State Patrolman asserted that he “smelled a strong odor of marijuana.” The two joints I had were sealed in a glass jar, so it was more likely the peace sticker on my car, identifying me as a beatnik, that aroused the officer’s suspicion. Regardless, I knew better than to consent to his request for a search. In an instant, I was handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car, yelling out the window “you do not have permission to search my vehicle. I do not consent to the search you are performing right now.”


    Reality quickly set in. My doctor’s recommendation from Oregon was no good here, even though I was just 50 miles north of Portland. My eyes zeroed in on the bumper sticker on the plexiglass in front of me that proudly proclaimed, “It’s Not JUST Marijuana” and featured a bright red no sign over a pot leaf. I then realized my vocal protests about the search were in vain. The officer obtained probable cause the moment he allegedly smelled cannabis. It would be his word against mine and a determined drug enforcer like him was bound to find my medicine. It was only a matter of time before I found myself in the Cowlitz County Jail with bail of $5,000, payable only in cash. I was facing a felony for Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, a charging decision left up to the discretion of individual officers. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was cancelling my East Coast vacation and using the funds to bail myself out, literally and figuratively.


    Since then, my priorities have shifted greatly. I have become increasingly active in the medical cannabis, legalization and criminal justice reform movements. My life trajectory was forever altered by the horrific death of Richard Flor, Montana’s first registered cannabis caregiver. 68 years old and incredibly ill, Richard died from the neglect he experienced while serving a five-year prison sentence. His widow, Sherry, remains imprisoned even after her husband’s tragic death. The once-happily-married couple of 37 years were named co-conspirators in a federal indictment. The last four months of Richard’s life, they were not only imprisoned apart from one another – separated for the first time in their marriage – but they needed special permission from each of their wardens to communicate just by mail. That permission never came. Instead, Sherry’s final words to her husband were in a call to her daughter, Kristin, who stood helpless over her father’s comatose body, as he lay shackled to a hospital bed. The U.S. Government got its pound of flesh from the Flors, but that wasn’t punishment enough.


    Two of Richard’s business partners and two other employees were also indicted.  A third business partner accepted a plea bargain that spared him from indictment, but required “significant cooperation” with investigators. One of the co-owners, Chris Williams, courageously took his case to trial. Watching firsthand as Chris’s nightmare unfolded in federal court, my resolve was cemented. I could not rest until the whole world knew what was happening in America’s so-called justice system.


    Soon after, I left my Legislative career to work with the November Coalition. Founder Nora Callahan and her husband, Chuck Armsbury, are also casualties of the War on Drugs through separate but equally absurd tales of conspiracy, drugs and guns. Then, just this month, I met another inspiring victim of cannabis prohibition. Jacob Shepherd was four years old when he watched as law enforcement agents gunned down his father in a deadly standoff over a small backyard cannabis garden. His mother was hit by a stray bullet. As an impressionable young child, Jacob was whisked away from the scene in a police cruiser, covered in both of his parents’ blood. That was almost 20 years ago. When will the madness end?


    I am incredibly appreciative of the kind-hearted sponsors who donated to the scholarship fund for ASA’s upcoming Unity Conference in Washington D.C.  Thanks to their assistance, I will be able to personally tell members of Congress about Richard, Sherry, Kristin, Chris, Nora, Chuck, Jacob and countless other stories of injustice. I will get to learn from world-renowned medical experts who have studied cannabis science in depth. I will get to meet other like-minded advocates from across the country, all because of the generosity of complete strangers! I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity and plan to make the most of every second I have in the epicenter of democracy! Thank you again to Americans for Safe Access for hosting the conference and every supporter who has made this trip possible.

  • Why I am Attending the National Unity Conference

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opened the eyes of this thirty-three year law enforcement veteran. Caught in the whirlpool of drug prohibition policy, prohibitionist law enforcement folks as I once was, forget the importance of maintaining an open mind. Unfortunately, “ group-think” is where most of us tend to feel comfortable.

    Until roughly four years ago, I knew virtually nothing of medical marijuana. I must say that I was somewhat skeptical of the claim for its medicinal properties. My knowledge of marijuana originated from two places, my experimentation as a teen in 1975 and from an enforcement perspective throughout my lengthy law enforcement career. Neither provided any meaningful insight to the medicinal properties or benefits of marijuana.



    One of the first people I met when I assumed the role of LEAP’s executive director was ASA’s executive director, Steph Sherer. People had told me of ASA and Steph, but it wasn’t until I met with Steph that I began to educate myself regarding all there is to learn of medical marijuana (properties, policies and patients). My interaction with ASA encouraged me to visit medical marijuana dispensaries in California where I met dispensary owners like Steve De Angelo and Debby Goldsberry. I toured Oaksterdam University where I met Richard Lee and Dale Sky-Jones. Educationally, I benefitted tremendously from my firsthand experience.

    The quality of the dispensaries, the marijuana and the people managing them is exceptional, but it was my interaction with patients that gave me the best insight. Hearing patients speak of the benefits was truly eye opening. They spoke of their weaning from debilitating opiate based prescription drugs and the quality of life returning once again. I heard of marijuana’s effectiveness in combating many illnesses with virtually no side effects. And to this day I continue learning.

    This is why I am attending the ASA conference this month in Washington DC. Do you know any law enforcement types in need of an education? Do you know of anyone in need of a medical marijuana education? If so, invite them to the conference and let’s open some minds. Education and public policy changes are so desperately needed in acquiring safe and legal access.
  • Support our POWs during this year’s Medical Marijuana Week


    Every year during medical marijuana week, I like to sit down and consider what I’m thankful about in the medical cannabis movement. After such a turbulent year fraught with raids, bad court decisions, and friends being sent to federal prison, I find I’m most thankful for the brave medical cannabis warriors who have lost their freedom for our cause. For this reason, the theme of ASA’s MMJ Week activities is “Have a Heart for our POWs.”




    Every day this week ASA has a suggested list of advocacy activities you can do to support our POWs and the medical cannabis community. Writing a letters to our POWs , attending a local MMJ week event, and contacting your elected representatives are easy ways to make an impact this week and I urge you to participate in these actions!

    I’m also looking forward to seeing many of you at our Unity Conference in DC in just over a week. We have great speakers and trainings lined up for attendees and we’re excited for a fun and educational experience! The thing I’m most looking forward to is storming Capitol Hill with all my fellow activists for a day of face-time with our elected. It’s going to be epic and I can’t wait to share the experience with everyone who can make it.
  • Massachusetts DPH Looking for Input While Writing Regulations

    Earlier in the week, we posted a blog from one of our Board Members, Dr. Karen Munkacy, who is working hard on making sure that implementation of Massachusetts’ medical cannabis program goes smoothly.  Of course, Massachusetts scored a huge victory for safe access when they passed their initiative last November, but few people understand that this is only the first step towards ensuring patients get access to legal medicine in a state. The battle we’re fighting now, with the help of advocates like Dr. Munkacy, is making sure that the rules and regulations for the program are composed in a way that most benefits the patients.

    The good news is that what has truly been a battle in other states has become a welcome and open dialogue with the MA Department of Public Health (DPH), who is charged with the difficult task of interpreting the initiative while writing the program’s regulations. In fact, DPH is actually looking for public input on a number of issues and are holding Townhall-type meetings called “Listening Sessions” in the next few weeks. This is a great opportunity for MA patients and advocates to submit comments on these seven issues:



    • Patient eligibility and debilitating conditions

    • Guidance and training for physicians

    • Operations of a medical marijuana treatment center, including security requirements

    • 60-day supply of marijuana

    • Use of marijuana in food products for medical purposes

    • Requirements for hardship cultivation registrations

    • Monitoring of medical marijuana treatment centers and enforcement of regulations


    If you are planning on testifying in person, make sure your testimony addresses only these listed issues. Also, residents of MA can submit written comments on these issues if they cannot make it to testify at one of the sessions. ASA is encouraged by the amazing example that MA DPH is setting for their colleagues in other states through their transparency and disposition to hear stakeholder input. Through DPH’s willingness to work with the medical cannabis community, MA will soon have a functional and patient-oriented program to serve the needs of their patients. Hopefully this means that suffering patients in the Bay State won’t have to wait as long as their brothers and sisters in New Jersey (over 2 years) to receive legal medicine!