Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access"

  • Tennessee Congressman Calls Federal Medical Marijuana Policy “Misguided”



    Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) wrote a letter to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske on Monday, urging a change to the country’s drug policy with regard to marijuana. In addition to calling the federal policy on medical marijuana “misguided,” Cohen said, “Marijuana does not belong on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.”
    There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as these harder drugs and it should not be treated as such.

    Cohen, who has taken FBI Director Robert Mueller to task over the federal government’s policy, called for compassion in his letter to Kerlikowske:
    We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on marijuana to treat the effects of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses the benefits that marijuana provides.

    Cohen also described a personal experience he had with medical marijuana:
    I have personally witnessed a close friend who was suffering in the last days of pancreatic cancer benefit tremendously from smoking marijuana. It increased his appetite, eased his pain, and allowed him to smile. It allowed him to deal with death with a little more dignity.

    Fortunately, there is a bill currently in Congress that would reclassify medical marijuana. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is mobilizing people to urge their Members of Congress to pass HR 1983, a bill that would reclassify marijuana to Schedule III and allow states to pass their own laws.

    ASA has also taken the Obama Administration to court over its refusal to reclassify marijuana. After a 2002 petition filed by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) was denied earlier this year, ASA and the CRC filed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit. Advocates are hopeful that either Congress or the courts will push the federal government to address medical marijuana with a sensible public health policy.
  • 9.9.9. Raids Remembered



    By: Eugene Davidovich

    The month of September has eternally been etched into memories of medical marijuana patients in San Diego. September 9th, marks the second anniversary of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids; the largest one day swat style assault against medical marijuana access in San Diego County’s history.

    In the early hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2009, Dumanis’ underlings, in collaboration with local DEA agents all part of the County’s cross-jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force (NTF), were set loose on the San Diego patient community.

    Under the guise of “cracking down on illegal drug dealers,” that morning, federal and local law enforcement descended on over twenty dispensaries in the County. NTF agents seized medicine, money, patient records, and anything else they could get their hands on.

    When the dust settled, it was discovered that only fourteen of the twenty plus locations raided had signed search warrants issued against them. The rest were intimidated into letting the NTF teams in without any paperwork. The operation was designed to instill fear and chaos into the patient community and to achieve a single goal; outright eradication of access to medical marijuana in the County.

    It was also later discovered that detectives involved in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards themselves. All were obtained under aliases and by falsifying medical conditions by which they duped local doctors into issuing recommendations.

    Detectives joined dispensaries as members and began regularly purchasing medicine from them prior to the raids. This allowed them to identify key management personnel as well as to understand the layout of the facilities in preparation for the day of raids.

    Although dozens of sick and dying patients were arrested on 9/9/9, Dumanis’ office ended up filing charges against only small handful. Jovan Jackson, the director of Answerdam was among the few charged in State court. James Stacy director of Movement in Action, along with a few others were tossed over to the US Attorney’s office for federal prosecution.

    In Stacy’s case, the federal charges carried with them a threat of life in prison. After a year of fighting to be allowed to bring up the words “medical marijuana” at trial, Stacy succeeded.

    With the community’s full support and great legal representation by federal public defenders, the Federal Judge agreed Stacy was in full compliance with state law. Although an official medical marijuana defense was not granted, the Judge agreed there was no way to keep the mention of medical marijuana and Stacy’s compliance with state law out of trial which potentially could have resulted in a federal acquittal, mistrial, or outright jury nullification.

    In order to avoid further embarrassment the day before trial was to start, the US Attorney’s office made Stacy an unprecedented offer. They guaranteed no jail time and agreed to drop all charges if Stacy pled guilty to one count of cultivation.

    Overnight, Stacy went from facing the possibility of life in federal prison, to three years probation with no jail time. Such an unprecedented offer was impossible to refuse and was a clear sign of the US Attorney acknowledging the sheer failure of the raids on legitimate patients.

    Although the US Attorney technically got a conviction in that case, their offer paved the way for all dispensary operators in compliance with state laws who are charged in Federal court to either take their case to trial or demand the ‘Stacy Deal’.

    In Jackson’s case, the raid on September 9th was the second time his facility had been hit in less than a year by Dumanis’ office. The day before the second raid, on September 8, while attending a routine court hearing for charges related to the first raid, Jackson was suddenly and without explanation taken into custody.

    With Jackson in solitary confinement, Answerdam was raided for a second time on September 9th and a new case with a second set of identical charges was filed by Dumanis’ office.

    When Jackson’s first case went to trial, it lasted almost three weeks. Having been assigned a fair Judge, twelve jurors examined all the facts of the case and carefully considered them against the State’s complete medical marijuana law. As a result, they quickly and unanimously found Jackson in compliance and not guilty of all the marijuana related charges.

    In Jackson’s second trial however, Dumanis managed to hand pick Judge Howard Shore, a former prosecutor and traditional prohibitionist who blocked Jackson from using the medical marijuana defense in state court. This time, the jury only saw a redacted version of the laws which specifically excluded the language about collectives and cooperatives, the very language which jurors from the first case relied on in finding Jackson not guilty.

    Having been denied knowledge of the previous trial and unable to apply the medical marijuana defense, jurors in the second trial were forced to convict him. Jackson’s second case is currently under appeal by Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.

    Two years later and without question, Operation Green Rx has been an utter failure and colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Aside from Stacy and Jackson, the vast majority of the patients raided on 9/9/9 have not been charged, prosecuted, or even summoned for a court appearance. All the money, cannabis, and other personal property seized that day has not been returned, and those patients who attempted to get their property back through the courts, were told by Dumanis’ office that felony charges would be filed if they tried.

    After realizing that her eradication campaign failed, instead of working with patients to find common ground, Dumanis renamed the operation from ‘Green Rx’ to ‘Green Dope’ to better match her rhetoric of “going after drug dealers” and in the meantime, instructed the NTF Raid Teams to keep their focus on individual patients cultivating medicine, rather than mass raids, and to especially target those contributing their excess to the dispensaries.

    Stemming from raids and investigations conducted by Dumanis’ office post Green Rx and in connection with the new and improved ‘Operation Green Dope’, several cases are already making their way to trial.

    Dumanis recently announced her candidacy for the City of San Diego’s 2012 Mayoral race. If elected she would become Mayor of the largest jurisdiction in the County and a City which over 180 dispensaries as well as over 50,000 medical marijuana patients call home.

    In recent statements in response to media inquiries about her attacks on patients, Dumanis continues to dupe voters, still publicly claiming to support medical marijuana and justifying her incessant attacks on access as fighting “nothing but illegal drug dealers”.

    Patients, caregivers, advocates and concerned citizens, are committed to fight Dumanis’ bias driven war, and will not rest until the she is held accountable and the public is made aware of her track record on this issue.

    As a direct result of Dumanis’ actions, September 9th, will always be remembered as a dark day in San Diego’s medical marijuana history and one that will continue to serve as a clear example of the failed war on medical marijuana patients.

    For more information contact Eugene Davidovich at [email protected]
  • California Governor Signs Bill Recognizing Legality of Medical Marijuana Distribution



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today recognizing the legality of local distribution centers and the right of municipalities to regulate the much-needed provision of medical marijuana to hundreds of thousands of patients across the state. AB1300, which was authored by California Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys), takes effect on January 1st. The bill establishes that state law:
    [S]hall not prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing local ordinances that regulate the location, operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective.

    Although Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opposed Blumenfield’s bill for not going far enough to protect the operation of more than 1,000 storefront dispensaries and delivery services across the state, it does at least recognize their legitimacy and the need of patients to access these modes of distribution.

    ASA will continue to litigate in the courts and lobby state legislators to establish a more protective policy with regard to storefront distribution. Currently, more than 50 California localities have ordinances regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, and more than 90 local governments are considering such regulatory laws. Research conducted by ASA found that dispensary regulations not only benefit the thousands of patients across the state, but also help to reduce crime and improve the neighborhoods surrounding such facilities.
  • Michigan Appellate Court Severely Limits Access to Medical Marijuana, Lansing Mayor Blasts Decision



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Tuesday, Michigan’s Court of Appeals ruled in People v. Compassionate Apothecary that the sale of medical marijuana was illegal under state law, outlawing an important method of distribution relied on by thousands of Michigan patients. According to the City Pulse, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero blasted the ruling today as “a terrible setback” and “ridiculous law,” claiming that the judges “subverted the will of the people rather than facilitated it.” Lansing and other cities in Michigan have already adopted regulations licensing the same distribution facilities just banned by the appellate court.

    Since voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, patients have been struggling to find safe and legal ways to access their medication. Several cities including Ann Arbor, Lansing, Traverse City and Ypsilanti had forged ahead, adopting ordinances regulating local distribution so that legal protection would exist for patients and providers. But Tuesday’s decision undermines those local laws and an estimated 400 dispensaries that were operating across the state, generally without incident.

    Mayor Bernero called the decision a victory for the War-on-drugs approach, “which will help keep marijuana sales in the neighborhoods and back alleys.” Statistics show that the vast majority of patients rely on centralized distribution centers for their medication, mainly because it is difficult and expensive to grow indoors. In the face of this demand for safe access by the state’s most vulnerable residents, Michigan has shown a deplorable lack of compassion and foresight. Because this legal prohibition on distribution will push patients into the illicit market, it will increase the risk of harm to patients and in so doing will directly contradict the efforts of law enforcement.

    Advocates applaud the leadership of local officials like Mayor Bernero, yet more are needed to stand up for the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. In looking ahead, Mayor Bernero put the ball in the state legislature’s court:
    The way forward is simple -- our state lawmakers need to step up to the plate and write a law that is clear and concise and that respects the will of the people of Michigan as expressed in their overwhelming support for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    Advocates are currently working to develop a response. The tens of thousands of Michigan patients who rely on local distribution will not stand idly by while their rights are taken away. Whether through the courts, the legislature or by referendum, patients will seek a remedy to gain safe and legal access to medical marijuana.
  • Trial Court Denies Challenge to Anaheim Ban on Dispensaries for a Second Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In an anticipated trial ruling in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Chafee denied a challenge to Anaheim’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries after he was reversed by the Fourth Appellate District one year ago. In this week’s unpublished decision, which has no precedential value, Judge Chafee decided that the Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”) does not forbid a city from banning “mass distribution” of medical marijuana through storefront dispensaries. However, under the MMPA qualified patients and their primary caregivers are not subject to criminal sanctions for sales where they associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical use.

    The trial court’s emphasis on “mass distribution” has no basis in the law and is contradicted by the State Attorney General Guidelines, which interpret the MMPA as permitting storefront medical marijuana distribution facilities. When the Fourth Appellate District reversed Judge Chafee in 2010, the court held that state law was not preempted by federal law and that federal law could not be used as a means to ban local distribution, but ultimately sent the case back to Judge Chafee for further factual development. The case is expected to be appealed, leaving open the possibility of another reversal.

    Americans for Safe Access filed an amicus brief on behalf of Qualified Patients Association in 2010 and will likely be involved in the second appeal.
  • Alabama Patient Advocates Confirm Legislator to Introduce ASA Model State Bill



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The recently formed patient advocacy group Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition has confirmed State House Representative K.L Brown (R-Calhoun) as the lead sponsor of its proposed Alabama Medical Marijuana Patient’s Rights Act (AMMPRA). Advocates had attempted to push through legislation earlier in the year, but the bill (HB 386) died in committee this past spring. The latest proposal, however, represents a fresh start with new bill language. The AMMPRA is based on model state legislation designed by the new Think Tank at Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

    This model state legislation, and the Think Tank that created it, comes from a new phase of ASA advocacy. We call it ASA 3.0 and the aim is to equip patient advocates with new tools to lobby local, state and federal governments. The "Medical Cannabis Think Tank" -- providing activists the support they need to analyze pending or proposed legislation and to lobby for the best laws possible -- is only one of the new features of ASA 3.0. To support lobbying efforts across the country, ASA has also unveiled its new "Online Training Center," with more than 4 hours of educational streaming video and over 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets. ASA's program also includes an improved "Raid Response Center" to better prepare for aggressive federal interference.
  • It's About Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After nine years of delay, the DEA finally denied the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) petition to reschedule marijuana.  While this may superficially seem like a setback, it now allows us to get a more fair hearing in federal court.  We even had to to file a lawsuit in federal court to compel any action on this decision, so it is a step in the right direction that we received a final administrative action on the rescheduling petition to set the stage for a court battle.  Now, we can present our evidence to a tribunal that will listen.

    Already, Time posted an article concluding that science demonstrates the following:
    if an appeals judgment were based on scientific evidence, rather than political considerations this time around, it's easy to imagine a very different outcome.

    Similarly, the International Business Report posted an article entiled, "Did U.S Government Miss the Mark with Medical Marijuana Ruling?"  You can guess the answer (or click on the link for the result).  The short of it is that we are getting a chance in court and we need to make the most of it.  And we will.
  • Celebrating Independence Day with an Unhealthy Dependence on the Federal Government



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    More by a confluence of circumstances than by design, the federal government made clear this past week its intolerance to medical cannabis as well as its intolerance to the independence of local and state governments to decide their own public health policies. The irony of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing formal threats against the autonomy of local and state officials on the eve of Independence Day is not lost on many who are paying attention to this latest power grab by the federal government.

    When was the last time you remember local and state officials being threatened en masse with criminal prosecution by the federal government for implementing their own public health laws? This egregious attempt by the fed to seize unwarranted authority over the states should be a concern not only to the medical cannabis patient community, but also to those who believe in the importance of local autonomy in a federalist system of democracy.

    There are, however, historical demons in our states’ rights closet too, not the least of which is the amalgam of state laws enacted to resist federal desegregation efforts during the Civil Rights era. However, there must be ways to protect people from harm and bigotry using our federalist system of government, without ceding omnipotence to the fed and giving up the rights of states and their localities to care for the health and welfare of their people. There is no doubt that the fed is attempting to set a precedent that will allow them to usurp control from local and state governments and inhibit their ability to pass their own public health laws.

    This is a time to rise up in opposition to the federal government and its abuse of authority. This is not a time to cower and buckle to intimidation. The States of Arizona, California, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington have either suspended or gutted parts of their medical cannabis programs in response to threats from U.S. Attorneys.  However, the State of Delaware recently passed the country’s 16th medical cannabis law, including the licensing of distribution centers, despite awareness by the legislature and Governor Jack Markell that the new law contradicted parts of federal law. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to regulate and license medical cannabis distribution centers in his state despite a threatening letter sent by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin to Vermont’s Public Safety Commissioner.

    If local and state officials want to maintain their independence, they must take a cue from the States of Delaware and Vermont and stand up to the federal government. Governors, state attorneys general, legislators, county supervisors, city council members and others must join together and fight back against this latest encroachment.

    To be sure, medical cannabis patients are not going away. If the federal government refuses to recognize the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and develop a sensible public health policy, then states must be allowed to do so in its place. As we celebrate our freedom from government tyranny on this July 4th, let’s also be resolute in our stand against tyrannical acts by the Obama Administration.
  • Maine Moves to Protect Private Patient Records

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    There has been much concern lately in the medical cannabis community related to the issue of patient privacy.  As Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids occurred in Michigan, Montana, and Washington, federal agents have seized hundreds of patient records.  Most recently, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brenneman, Jr. ruled that the Michigan Department of Community Health must turn over several patient records to the DEA for further investigation of "possible drug crimes," despite that state’s patient privacy law.  The notion that federal investigations should give the government unfettered access to protected patient information is extremely problematic and a violation of federal and state rights to privacy. Despite this overt invasion of privacy, Americans for Safe Access intends to appeal Brenneman’s ruling in order to protect patient privacy in Michigan.

     

    Some positive progress is also being made in other states. On June 24, 2011, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed into law LD 1296, which eliminates the requirement of doctors to disclose personal, medical or other identifying information about medical cannabis patients to the state.  This law provides legal protection to medical cannabis patients and keeps their information private.  This law also limits the ability of police to take property from patients, requiring them to return any unlawfully seized property within seven days.  "LD 1296 was a huge success in a Republican era and brought our law back to its initial intent of patient privacy and voluntary registration.   The Maine Civil Liberties Union's presence was incredible," stated Charles Wynott, of Maine's Medical Marijuana Patients Center.

    Patient privacy is an important ethical and public health issue of our time, regardless of whether patients benefits from the use of medical cannabis. We must not lose sight of upholding those rights for all patients, but because cannabis is still illegal  under federal law we must especially preserve those rights when medical cannabis patients are involved.  At a time when many states are taking steps backwards with regard to medical cannabis laws, Maine has set a wonderful precedent by stepping forward in spite of federal pressure to do otherwise.

  • Congress to AG Holder: Let States Implement Medical Marijuana Laws without Federal Interference



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week urging him to re-avow his commitment to an October 2009 memorandum that de-emphasized federal enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

    The 2009 memo was drafted by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and sent to all of the U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states. Since then, some of those same U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 states, threatening some of them with criminal prosecution if they implement licensed production and distribution systems.

    According to The Hill, Frank and Polis in their June 20th letter pointed to the stark divide between federal policy and practice:
    Recent actions by United States Attorneys across the country have prompted states to deny patients safe and reliable access to their medicine.

    Further emphasizing this point, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to Oakland, California City Attorney John Russo in February stating that the Justice Department:
    will enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

    Letters sent to lawmakers in the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington have killed, derailed or suspended the implementation of local medical marijuana laws. Frank and Polis responded to this intimidation by explaining how obstructing medical marijuana laws needlessly expends precious federal resources and “harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.”
    There are now hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in states where the medication is legal. These patients will either purchase medical marijuana safely at state-regulated entities or seek it through unregulated channels in the criminal market.

    Any day now, Holder is expected to announce a “clarification” to the Ogden memo. Patients and supporters are encouraged to contact his office and let Holder know that the federal government should let local and state governments implement their own medical marijuana laws and to focus on developing a federal policy that recognizes marijuana’s medical efficacy. Anything less would be a disservice to our most vulnerable.