Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access"

  • California Medical Association Says U.S. Has “Failed Public Health Policy” on Medical Marijuana, Urges Rescheduling



    The first broad marijuana policy statement by a state medical association has become a hot topic of conversation, repeatedly referring to the current federal approach as a “failed public health policy.” Indeed, the October 14, 2011 official policy statement by the California Medical Association (CMA) is gathering significant interest from medical marijuana advocates as well as the broader reform movement. While certain portions of the statement focus on full legalization, the CMA has geared its policy recommendations for those in Washington with the power to reschedule medical marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

    The prevailing theme of the CMA policy is that marijuana’s current placement under Schedule I of the CSA has directly and severely hindered researchers from fully establishing marijuana’s medical value. Specifically, the CMA states without equivocation that:
    [C]annabis must be moved out of its current Schedule I status.

    Notably, the CMA points out that Schedule I classification of cannabis is the principle reason the growing body of international evidence in favor of medical marijuana’s efficacy has been limited in the U.S. to approximately one dozen clinical trials. The CMA ultimately recommends that:
    Rescheduling cannabis will allow for further clinical research to determine the utility and risks of cannabis.

    By urging the federal government to reclassify marijuana out of Schedule I, the CMA are in effect stating that marijuana does in fact have medical value. While some may choose to play up the reference to “risks,” the CMA was confident enough in medical marijuana’s safety to have issued an August 2011 “Physician Recommendation of Medical Cannabis,” which provides guidance to doctors on how they may treat their sick and dying patients with medical marijuana. In other words, the CMA has asserted that marijuana, even in the absence of FDA approval, is safe enough for physicians to recommend to their patients.

    The CMA policy recommendation to reclassify marijuana is one that ASA not only supports, but has also been actively working to implement. As part of the Coalition for Rescheduling  Cannabis (CRC), ASA has appealed a July 2011 denial by the DEA of the CRC rescheduling petition. With this policy statement by the CMA, patients and advocates have gained an important champion on the critical issue of federal rescheduling of marijuana. The question now becomes, will Washington officials listen to doctors' orders?
  • The Ongoing Saga of Federal Interference in Washington State & Push Back from Congress



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this year, on April 21st, the Washington State legislature passed SB 5073, a bill that would have established a licensing system for the dozens of medical marijuana distribution centers that existed to provide much-needed medication to thousands of patients throughout the state. Notably, the legislature passed the bill after Governor Christine Gregoire sought and received feedback from the Obama Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby wrote that growing facilities, dispensaries, landlords, financiers, and even state employees “would not be immune from liability under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).” In other words, anyone remotely connected to the production and distribution of medical marijuana could be criminally prosecuted under federal law. Yet, the legislature must have seen through these threats of intimidation because it passed SB 5073 anyway.

    Less than a week after SB 5073 was passed, on April 27th, U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking “further clarification” on the Justice Department’s position on “federal prosecution in states that have enacted laws authorizing medical use of marijuana.” Specifically, Congressman Inslee sought clarification on whether the Justice Department would really “prosecute a state employee who is operating in full compliance with SB 5073.” Unfortunately, nearly 6 moths later, Congressman Inslee is still waiting for a response.

    Not-so-coincidentally, a day after the congressman sent his request for clarification, the federal government conducted several aggressive law enforcement raids in Spokane, Washington and later indicted multiple dispensary operators under federal law. A day after that, Governor Gregoire vetoed the parts of SB 5073 that included the establishment of medical marijuana production and distribution regulations.

    Apparently, this was a thought-out, well-conducted strategy by the Obama Administration to undermine the efforts of Washington State legislators to establish sensible public health policy with regard to medical marijuana. And Washington is not alone. Similar derailments of public health policy happened in Arizona, California, Montana, and Rhode Island, to name a few.

    Thursday, Congressman Jay Inslee sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Holder, reminding him that the Justice Department has:
    [F]ar more critical functions than preventing some of our Nation’s most vulnerable residents from getting the relief they need.

    Once again, Congressman Inslee asked for:
    [A] detailed justification as to why the Justice Department is focusing such a substantial portion of its limited resources in this area.

    This is yet another example of the push back from federal legislators on President Obama’s confusing war against medical marijuana. He would do well to respond and, better yet, President Obama should reconsider his harmful and indefensible policy.
  • RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
    We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

    One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
    The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

    Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

    Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

    On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

    If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
    [RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

    Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

    However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

    Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

    The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

    When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.
  • Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Friday, President Obama’s Justice Department (DOJ) made clear its motivations to disrupt and undermine California’s medical marijuana laws. However, advocates argue that last week’s announcement by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys, which included threats against property owners, comes after months of aggressive DOJ attacks in several medical marijuana states. SWAT-style raids and threats of criminal prosecution against local and state officials has become emblematic of Obama’s policy on medical marijuana, a far cry from his pledge on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

    Yet, just as Obama’s confusing war on medical marijuana has reached a fever pitch, condemnation could be heard from several state and federal officials in California. Some state legislators and members of Congress are refusing to be intimidated by this latest round of threats from the federal government. Congressional members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), as well as State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) all decried the recent DOJ announcement in California.

    In a statement issued to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Congressman Rohrabacher called the DOJ effort “a waste of scarce federal resources.” In a separate statement issued to ASA, Congressman Farr had this to say:
    Medical cannabis continues to be prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses, as a means to minimize their pain and support their recovery. For that reason it is important that patients continue to have safe access to the medication they need. California has adopted clear regulations that allow patients to do just that, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing those resources on those who sell illicit drugs.

    State Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ strategy was a waste of precious resources at a time of fiscal crisis:
    They’re wasting money they don’t have. This is not the issue of the day. This doesn’t create jobs. This does not keep the security of the nation intact. It doesn’t clean the environment. If anything, they should be demonstrating leadership in resolving the conflict between federal and state laws. Until we deal with that, we’re going to be going around in circles here.

    Assembly member Tom Ammiano had perhaps the strongest words of condemnation in a press release issued shortly after the DOJ press conference on Friday. Ammiano said that the attack on medical marijuana would cost the state “millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives.”
    I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine.  [Friday’s] announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton.  It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws -- whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted?  Change we can believe in?  Instead we get more of the same.

    Notably, Congressman Rohrabacher’s statement had a prescriptive solution:
    [The DOJ announcement] underscores the need for Congress to pass H.R. 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.

    He’s right. People across the country should contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 1983, a bill that would reclassify medical marijuana and allow states to develop, implement and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.
  • California Appellate Court Creates Contradictory Law on Federal Preemption of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries



     

     

     

     

     

     

    The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued an opinion yesterday in Pack v. City of Long Beach, a case involving a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance adopted last year by the Long Beach City Council. The court did not invalidate the ordinance in its entirety, but instead found that federal law preempted certain provisions of the city’s permitting scheme. In particular, the court found that the provisions of the ordinance granting permits to dispensaries through a lottery system at a significant, recurring fee, are preempted by federal law.

    Notably, the court made a distinction between a permitting or licensing scheme and an ordinance that would merely protect such facilities against local civil or criminal prosecution. This leaves open the possibility that Long Beach could comply with the court’s decision simply by making semantic changes to its ordinance, requiring “registration” rather than “permits” or “licenses.”

    The Long Beach decision expressly disagrees with two published decisions on federal preemption by the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, one in County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML and another in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim. Because of this appellate conflict, the Long Beach decision is not binding on trial courts outside of the Second Appellate District. Sadly, this ruling creates more uncertainty about localized medical marijuana distribution, instead of resolving it.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argued against federal preemption in the Long Beach case by filing an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief in June with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Unfortunately, the court disregarded those arguments and chose to throw a wrench into the implementation of California’s medical marijuana law.

    ASA will, in all certainty, file a request for depublication of the Long Beach decision, which is not yet final. There is a possibility that the California Supreme Court will grant review of the decision or depublish it, especially since it is our belief that the court applied an incorrect preemption analysis.
  • ATF is Latest in Long Line of Federal Agencies to Bully Medical Marijuana Patients



     

     

     

     

     

     

    Two weeks ago, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), under the Obama Justice Department, issued a memorandum instructing firearms dealers not to sell to lawful medical marijuana patients. The ATF memo -- an affront to patients’ Second Amendment rights to be sure -- was just the latest in a long list of policy statements and threatening letters from the federal government aimed at undermining the rights of medical marijuana patients. However, this particular effort against gun owners has people riled up more than usual.

    After finding out about the ATF memo, Montana’s congressional delegation -- Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), and U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) -- blasted the decision. In response, Tester wrote a letter to the ATF last week, urging the agency to “immediately reconsider [its] misguided effort.” Rep. Rehberg and Senator Baucus made similar condemning remarks.

    In defense of patients, Senator Tester wrote:

    It is unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    In Michigan, the ATF is being especially proactive. Americans for Safe Access has received reports that the federal government is using information obtained from the state’s medical marijuana program to serve search warrants and forfeiture notices on patients with legally possessed firearms.

    The ATF memo comes after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice to state and local housing authorities that accommodation need not be given to legal medical marijuana patients and that eviction from public housing was an acceptable option.

    Also earlier this year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued an order, increasing the enforcement responsibilities of banks to ensure against criminal and illicit activity. This order has been used to deny or cancel banking services for countless legally operating medical marijuana dispensaries across the country. According to a Denver Post editorial from today:

    [L]ast week, the lone bank in the state that openly worked with the [medical marijuana] industry closed an estimated 300 marijuana-related accounts for fear that the companies  are breaking federal law.

    In a now-famous move, the Obama Justice Department sent out a series of letters this summer to public officials in at least 10 medical marijuana states, threatening criminal prosecution for implementing public health laws. This had a deleterious effect on several local and state laws in Arizona, California, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington to name a few.

    More recently, however, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that Harborside Health Center -- possibly the largest licensed medical marijuana distribution facility in California -- could not deduct its operating costs and must pay taxes on gross income. Besides the possibility of putting Harborside out of business, this could have a devastating effect on local distribution across the country.

    The ATF memo and other examples of intolerance by the federal government illustrate the need for a federal policy that treats medical marijuana as a public health issue. As such, urge President Obama to develop a comprehensive policy on medical marijuana. Also, people should urge their Member of Congress to pass HR 1983 to reclassify medical marijuana, HR 1984 to restore banking services for the medical marijuana community, and HR 1985 to allow dispensaries to deduct their operating expenses when paying federal taxes.
  • Long-banned Alar (Daminozide) Shows Up on Hydroponic Store Shelves Before Being Removed Again



     

     

     

     

    In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” And, although the DEA ignored Judge Young’s recommendation to reclassify the plant from its federal status as a dangerous drug with no medical value, smoking cannabis remains relatively benign with little-to-no side effects.

    That said, it’s important to understand certain safety consequences with regard to cultivating cannabis, especially in light of its increased commercialization in medical marijuana states. As an example, in May the States of California and Oregon removed from the retail hydroponic market several popular flowering additives after the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) found them to contain high levels of long-banned Daminozide (Alar), a known “probable” human carcinogen.

    A subsequent Freedom of Information Act request yielded the concentrations of Daminozide in products such as Flower Dragon, Phosphoload, and Top Load. Two other products quarantined in the CDFA sweep, Emerald Triangle Bushmaster and Gravity, were found to contain Paclobutrazol, which has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as moderately hazardous and banned for use in many European countries.

    According to G. Low, author of Integral Hydroponics and the one who filed the recent FOIA request, “In field situations, Paclobutrazol has a half-life ranging from 3 to12 months, but could persist as long as 3 years.” G. Low added that:
    Both Paclobutrazol and Daminozide are systemic products with long withholding periods, meaning that it is likely to remain residual in harvested produce when used to cultivate a short-term deciduous crop (i.e. cannabis). What these toxins do under combustion when ingested into the lungs is a completely unknown factor. However, the Material Safety Data Sheet for Paclobutrazol states that when it’s heated to decomposition it emits toxic fumes.

    Daminozide was banned in the U.S. in 1989 for use on any consumable crop. Calling Alar a “potent human carcinogen” at the time, 60 Minutes ran a program that exposed the widespread use of Alar by U.S. apple growers.

    So how did known carcinogens find their way back onto the market?

    In each instance, these popular products were marketed to cultivators as containing organic actives (e.g. “kelp”, “rare earth elements”, “citrates”, “humatic isolates,” etc.) and sold in retail hydroponic stores throughout the U.S.

    So that patients do not unwittingly become pawns in an increasingly commercial market driven by quantity and efficiency, as opposed to safety, the patient community must demand responsible cultivation methods, limiting the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and other toxic adulterants.
  • Setting Precedent for Patients and Providers in San Luis Obispo County



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this month, two medical marijuana patients were acquitted of all charges in a case that is likely to affect numerous other similar pending cases. Deip Paul and Steven Brown were found “not guilty” of several felonies after only two hours of jury deliberation. The September 7th verdict finished off a two-week trial, which Superior Court Judge John Trice called:
    [a]n historic ruling for San Luis Obispo County, the first of its kind I believe, that I'm sure will have a large repercussions on currently ongoing trials.

    This victory for patients should be taken in context. Although the California coastal county of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is known for its vineyards, rolling hills, and the serenity of the Pacific Ocean, over the years law enforcement has been terrorizing the medical marijuana patient community.

    With the case of Charles C. Lynch, law enforcement attempted to scare and intimidate county medical marijuana patients and providers by federally prosecuting Lynch for operating his Morro Bay dispensary, despite city approval and business community support. The SLO Sheriff and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided Lynch in 2007.

    Then in 2009, the San Luis Obispo Narcotics Task Force (NTF) started an investigation of Paul, a Cal Poly student who suffers from debilitating migraines, after he reported a burglary to the police. In February 2009, NTF officers followed Paul who was meeting with his medical marijuana provider. The two were arrested and charged with possession, possession with intent to sell, transportation, and conspiracy to sell marijuana. A third defendant, Cory Wolin, faced similar charges, but took a plea deal by testifying against his friend Paul.

    While Paul and Brown were getting prosecuted, NTF Commander Rodney John led a series of criminal enforcement actions in December 2010 against patients and their providers, mainly the operators of delivery services, which were spurred by the hostility against storefront medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. These raids resulted in several arrests and subsequent prosecutions.

    Once the case finally made it to trial more than two years later, the jury weighed whether Paul and Brown were within their rights as qualified patients to engage in an exchange of money for medical marijuana, and if the amount of marijuana and money involved were “reasonable” under the law. The courtroom was packed with supporters during the trial; the strong solidarity was evident.

    Despite Commander John’s testimony in the Paul/Brown trial, his evidence failed to convince the jury. This does not bode well for John’s other nine cases that are winding their way through the SLO Superior Court. The New Times reported this week that, “District Attorney Gerald Shea may have to consider differently which cases to pursue.” A motion to dismiss several of the cases was scheduled to be heard today.

    Paul and Brown are now seeking the return of their wrongfully seized property, still in police custody.
  • Indictments Thrown Out by Nevada Judge, Who Said the State’s Medical Marijuana Law “Makes No Sense”



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Nevada trial court judge threw out an indictment Monday against Leonard Schwingdorf and Nathan Hamilton, two medical marijuana dispensary operators arrested in federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement raids on several Las Vegas facilities last year. This was the first legal disposition since the Obama DEA raided at least 5 area dispensaries on September 8, 2010, indicting 15 people as a result.

    When dismissing the indictments, Nevada District Judge Donald Mosley called the state’s law “mind boggling.” Judge Mosley further questioned the legislature’s failure to craft a law that benefits patients:
    [W]hy don't they (the Legislature) make up their mind if they want to make it legal or not…I can't make any sense out of this law.

    Judge Mosley also asked about the law:
    Are people supposed to give it away? I mean it just makes no sense.

    Although all 15 indictments stemming from last year’s raids were initially filed in federal court, only 7 remain as federal cases. The rest of the indictments, two of which were tossed earlier this week by Judge Mosley, were transferred to state court.

    According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, defendants have called the state law “paradoxical because it allows patients registered with the state to possess the herb, but makes it illegal to obtain it.”

    Mosley agreed with defense attorneys in their allegations that prosecutors withheld important medical-related information from the grand jury that indicted Schwingdorf and Hamilton.

    Seven federal prosecutions are still pending as are another state case, which will be heard Friday by District Judge Doug Smith. An indictment against multiple operators and the vagueness of Nevada’s medical marijuana law will again be at issue this Friday.
  • Research Approved to Study Effects of Medical Marijuana on PTSD



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After a lengthy approval process, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  has granted research to study the effects of medical marijuana on people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This summer, the research group MAPS was given the go-ahead by FDA to conduct a:
    Placebo-Controlled, Triple-Blind, Randomized Crossover Pilot Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Five Different Potencies of Smoked or Vaporized Marijuana in 50 Veterans with Chronic, Treatment-Resistant [PTSD].

    The effects of medical marijuana on PTSD has been a growing area of inquiry given the difficulty of treating the condition and its prevalence among U.S. troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as others. PTSD affects as many as 7.8 percent of Americans and according to the New York Times:
    Currently, nearly a third of the 4,982 patients approved for medical marijuana in New Mexico suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, more than any other condition, according to the state’s health department.

    Preceding final approval by the federal government to conduct PTSD research using medical marijuana, the Journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience published an article in June 2011 on “The role of cannabinoids [the compounds found in the marijuana plant] in modulating emotional and emotional memory processes in the hippocampus.”

    Unfortunately, MAPS still needs approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) before it can begin trials, but Americans for Safe Access looks forward to the eventual completion of this research and the greater acceptability of using marijuana to treat a debilitating condition that affects millions of people in the U.S.