Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

    Wednesday night, the House voted on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-McClintock-Farr amendment, to end the federal crackdown on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. While the amendment failed, it received more votes than a similar bill in 2007 (when Democrats controlled the House). Thank you so much for reaching out to your representatives to support safe access. In less than a week, we generated thousands of phone calls, emails, and tweets urging Congress to adopt the bill. We came close because your voices were heard loud and clear. Make no mistake about it - this vote was a great victory for our movement. 73% of Democrats voted to end President Obama’s policy of cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. 12% of Republicans voted for this bipartisan amendment to the Justice appropriations bill, a significant increase from 2007 - even as pundits say the House has grown more conservative. Your voice counted for so much in the run up to the vote - and it will continue to make a difference. Please take a minute to let your Congressional Representative know how you feel about their vote, yea or nay, using our Online Action Center. Watch your Congressman speak safe access It was an amazing debate. A bipartisan, coast-to-coast group of nine representatives spoke strongly in favor of the amendment, and only one, Frank Wolf (R-VA), spoke against it. You are probably not as much of a C-SPAN junkie as I am, but I want to share with you five great speeches which show what this amendment was all about: protecting safe access to medical cannabis for vulnerable patients. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, spoke of his experience as an Assistant US Attorney, and how scarce resources force federal law enforcement to choose between prosecuting medical cannabis dispensaries or large-scale international drug traffickers. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, spoke for states’ rights and the needs of patients. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, spoke about the crackdowns in her district, including the recent closing of Berkeley Patients Group. Co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) quoted ASA, saying that there have been 170 raids, and praising the therapeutic value of cannabis. And co-sponsor Sam Farr (D-CA), points out that the Republican-controlled House favors states' rights on all issues - except compassionate use. Thanks again for your support, and you can look forward to more state and federal legislation for safe access in the coming months. Don't forget to thank your Representative!
  • Inland Empire: Why I'm attending the CA Unity Conference

    [caption id="attachment_2533" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Let's fill the Capitol!"]
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    Note from Steph: To make our conference more accessible, we were able to lower the cost to just $50 for both days including lunch. Please join us!

    California's voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, almost 16 years ago. I don't need to remind you that today, we are still fighting for our right to access our medicine. While we continue to work at the federal level to respect states' rights, we must ensure that the State of California respects the needs of patients when regulating marijuana.

    Last year we were given the shellacking of our lives in the State Capitol because there was no one up there to represent us. We cannot afford to make that mistake again. There are some very good bills - like AB2312 - and some very bad bills being considered. If our state legislators do not hear from us, who will they be listening to for our side of the issue?

    There is no substitute for your voice in Sacramento


    That’s why I am going, along with a busload of patients from the Inland Empire, to the California Unity Conference sponsored by the ASA-organized coalition, Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana. Yes, we are family and we are coming together to work on protecting patients’ rights to safe, reliable and local access. If you support safe access, you need to come and work with us. Purchase your tickets now for the conference, or arrange to join us for Lobby Day!

    PS: The IE bus of patients will be staying at a local Sacramento motel. If you are coming up and need a room, send an email to [email protected] if you would like to obtain one of the rooms at the place we are staying.
  • Why we fight for medical cannabis - and how Congress can help us win



    One month ago I traveled to California for an event in San Francisco. The morning before the event, I awoke to the news that the Drug Enforcement Administration was raiding Blue Sky, a dispensary in Oakland. It was heartening to see an outpouring of support for medical marijuana patients, but the dispensary was closed down and medicine was seized. The next day I visited a dear friend who is suffering from late-stage cancer, who is too ill to medicate even with a vaporizer. Though in great pain, my friend did not want to use morphine and lose her ability to communicate with the friends and family whom she loves very much.



    Thanks to California’s compassionate use law, I was quickly able to meet her caregiver at a dispensary in San Francisco where he safely purchased cannabis edibles recommended by her doctor. Within an hour of taking a medical cannabis lozenge, my friend who hadn’t eaten in three days, sat up and ate like a horse. This sight reminded me why we all fight so hard for safe access. What would I have done if this were my grandmother in Texas, which does not permit compassionate use? How could I have quickly found edibles if the DEA had closed every dispensary in the Bay Area?

    When the federal government tries to stop access to medicine, they are trying to undo tens of thousands of hours work that advocates and local governments have put in to creating regulations for safe access to cannabis. The DEA wants to deny patients medicine that can dramatically improve their lives, or reduce their suffering. Without safe access to cannabis, patients and caregivers have to resort to the inconsistency of the illicit market.

    That is why Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Maurice Hinchey and Sam Farr will introduce a bipartisan amendment to deny funding to DEA raids against dispensaries operating in accordance with state law. This amendment to an Appropriations bill would not legalize marijuana, but would preserve state’s rights to allow compassionate use, and support local government decision-making.

    If you do one thing for safe access to medical marijuana this year, make it a phone call to your Representative in support of this important amendment by using our Online Action Center.

    My friend is still alive. Marijuana will not reverse the course of her illness, but thanks to high-quality cannabis products, she is alert enough to talk to her friends and family for what may be the last time. Having those precious moments with a dear friend is why I work so hard for all patients. Please join me in asking your Representative to vote Yes on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment, to preserve safe access for our friends and loved ones.
  • Medical Cannabis helps ALS Patient Outlive Support Groups and Neurologists

    Guest blog by Jahan Marcu. Cathy Jordan was on a panel with Jahan Marcu at the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference in Arizona.  Before taking the stage, she discussed the medical use of cannabis for ALS with the Vice Chair of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. Cathy Jordan first noticed something was wrong in summer of 1985 when she couldn’t pick things up. Her muscles weren’t responding. A year later, in 1986 she was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). ALS is a disease characterized by the death of motor neurons leading to loss of limb control, breathing, swallowing, speech, and widespread cellular dysfunction. Most cases of ALS are sporadic; it is not a viral or autoimmune disease. “Most people (ALS patients) start using a feeding tube because they are afraid of choking to death”, says Cathy. After her diagnosis, she was given an expiration date; In 1986, she was given 3-5 years to live/die according to her neurologist,  Dr.Fink. Nearly 3 decades later she is still alive, living with ALS. “All my docs are retiring or dead, I’ve outlived 5 support groups and 4 neurologists,” said Cathy. This actually posed a problem for Cathy, who basically lost her social security benefits because she lived passed her expiration date. The state of Florida said her ID and regular documentation wasn’t good enough to prove she was alive and to continue to receive benefits. She had to ask her neurologist at the time, to fill out paperwork to prove she was still alive. Mrs. Jordan began using Cannabis from a Florida grower to treat her ALS in the late 80’s. “Donny Clark provided my medicine, grown in the Myakka River Valley…he was busted and sentenced to life in prison, and that strain of Cannabis was lost. Years later he was pardoned on the last day of the last term of President Clinton,” says Cathy, “You know they say the fountain of youth is in Florida, maybe it was something in the soil that made this plant help me…I don’t understand why Doctors wouldn’t study me—I want to know why this is helping me.” At first Doctors would not accept Cathy’s marijuana smoking and extended life span. Regardless of what she did, “a UPENN doctor told me bluntly, I would die either from suffocation or drowning in my own fluid.” Other Doctors also thought that smoking anything would impair her lung function, and threatened to have this paralyzed women committed because she must be crazy if she thought Cannabis was helping her. “I visited a neurologist at Duke University…when I told him that I was smoking Cannabis he turned into PeeWee Herman. He didn’t know what to do with me, he was afraid. He wouldn’t even take my blood pressure because I was using an illegal drug.” “I asked my docs: would you like a drug that is neuroprotective, an antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory?,” says Cathy, “They then said Yes and asked me if I knew of one. I said yes, [it’s] Cannabis.”   There are ALS patients associations that fight for the right of patients to die with dignity, “But what about my right to life?” says Cathy. “Keeping my medicine illegal removes my right to life.” Nearly three decades later, the science has caught up with this patient. Scientists created a mouse with ALS, which was very exciting for Cathy. Research has shown that THC and other cannabinoids can benefit mice with ALS. The mounting evidence of cannabinoids halting the progression of ALS has started to change the attitudes of Doctors, prominent researchers have recently called for ALS clinical trials with Cannabis or cannabinoids. “They all agree today that I should smoke Cannabis,” says Cathy, “26 years later my original neurologist, fought [successfully] to make sure Cannabis is legal for patients in Delaware.” Researchers think Cannabis may help ALS patients relieving pain, spasticity, drooling, appetite loss, and has minimal drug-drug interactions and toxicity.
  • Obama (Double) Speaks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

    Finally, President Obama has spoken about his aggressive stance toward medical marijuana. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, his statements are underwhelming, inaccurate and do nothing to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. In response to a question from Rolling Stone on why his administration is conducting more medical marijuana raids than the Bush administration, President Obama failed to come clean on reasons for the breadth and intensity of the attacks, which significantly escalated since he took office.
    What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana…

    Actually, what Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008 was that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

    The shell game continued with Obama declaring that, as President, he “can’t ask the Justice Department to…‘ignore…a federal law that’s on the books.’”

    In fact, Obama has complete discretion to let local and state authorities enforce their own medical marijuana laws. When affirming that discretionary authority in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court also questioned the wisdom of going after medical marijuana patients.

    Obama then declared that his Justice Department should use “prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize [its] resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.”

    That, however, seems to beg several questions, not the least of which is “how does one determine what “things” are “really doing folks damage?” Why is that not the purview of local and state officials to enforce? And, is the federal government doing more damage than it’s supposedly preventing? Keep in mind that the damage his administration has inflicted also impacts the fiscal bottom line of local and state governments. In California, dispensary closures precipitated by the federal crackdown have robbed the state of millions of dollars in lost taxes.

    The president seems to seek cover with his comment that, “there haven’t been prosecutions” of medical marijuana users. But, even if it was true, and it’s not (all of the more than 60 people indicted on his watch use medical marijuana), this reasoning would still not justify the SWAT-style raids and the fear and intimidation they create. Nor would it justify the purging of lawful medical marijuana businesses from commercial banking institutions, or the IRS requirement that dispensaries pay taxes on gross proceeds, thereby ensuring bankruptcy, or discrimination against patients in public housing and the Veterans Administration.

    At the end of the day, whether or not Obama’s Justice Department decides to prosecute whom it considers “wrongdoers,” qualified patients are still being denied a safe and legal means of obtaining their medication.

    Even Obama’s “Drug War” excuses don’t match those of his U.S. Attorneys who are directly engaged in the attacks. The president erroneously stated that, “The only tension that’s come up” has been “commercial operations” that may be “supplying recreational users.” However, U.S. Attorneys have made little reference to targeting medical marijuana businesses because they’re allegedly selling to non-patients. The prevailing excuse has been simply that dispensaries are federally illegal or that they are too close to schools and other so-called “sensitive uses” (according to federal standards, not to local or state standards).

    Obama’s weakest rationale for continuing the assault on medical marijuana patients is that he “can’t nullify congressional law.” However, the president can realistically do a number of things to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. First of all, Obama could introduce a bill that would carve out an exception for medical marijuana patients and providers. In fact, he doesn’t even have to introduce his own legislation, he could simply throw his weight behind HB 1983, a bill that would do just that. The president could also issue an executive order, not to change federal marijuana statutes but to exclude medical marijuana so as to let the states enforce their own laws.

    Additionally, the president, through his executive powers, could also reclassify marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance -- a dangerous drug with no medical value. Yet, he and his Drug Enforcement Administration choose not to. In addition to four governors who have filed rescheduling petitions within the last year, Americans for Safe Access has a pending federal lawsuit that seeks reclassification.

    At some point, President Obama is going to run out of excuses. Until then, please join ASA in urging him to do the right thing.
  • Happy Birthday, ASA



    Ten years ago today, I stood below the biggest free-standing billboard in San Francisco and watched volunteers drop a huge banner that said “No War on Patients!” right next to one of the busiest freeways in the city. It was the beginning of a series of actions and media work in response to former Drug Czar Asa Hutchinson’s visit to the Bay Area. He was coming to town to gloat about raids at medical cannabis dispensaries and gardens, and we were determined to tell a different story. That’s how the nation’s largest medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization got its name – Americans for Safe Access v. Asa Hutchison or “ASA v. Asa.”



    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is ten years old today. Your support and participation have helped us score many victories since those early days. We have provided legal support to tens of thousands of patients, promoted more compassionate laws nationwide, and helped to end media bias and public ambivalence on this issue. Your participation and support have helped make it happen. Can you help us celebrate? We are asking members and friends to send us pictures and videos of ASA-related activities or experiences that we can share at anniversary celebrations and other events this year. You can email your picture or video to [email protected] or upload it using our new iPhone app.

    Can you remember when there were only a handful of patients and dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area? Now there are legal patients in sixteen states and the District of Columbia. You have helped ASA bring patients’ voices to the table in the local, state, and federal campaign for safe access to medical cannabis. We want your stories to be a part of the celebration this year.

    Thank you for supporting ASA. I look forward to seeing you at anniversary celebrations all year!
  • Trial Court Reverses Medical Marijuana Convictions of Two Joes



    Faced with an extremely hostile trial court judge, medical marijuana dispensary operators Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron were convicted of marijuana sales after Long Beach Superior Court Judge Charles D. Sheldon initially deprived them of a medical marijuana collective defense and later gave them only one day to prepare such defense. Judge Sheldon later recused himself from the case after he admitted to sending a congratulatory letter to the prosecutor. Further extreme bias by Judge Sheldon can be found in the trial transcript, which reveals that he repeatedly sustained prosecution objections to the introduction of defense evidence, but did not sustain a defense objection until page 1004 of the transcript of the proceedings.

    Many, including me, expected the convictions to be reversed on appeal, due to Judge Sheldon's actions. Instead, the two Joes got a far earlier reversal of their convictions, as Long Beach Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani cited a number of improprieties by Judge Sheldon -- including complimenting the prosecutor, while being extremely rude to the defense team, before the jury -- in granting the two Joes' motion for a new trial. Judge Comparet-Cassani dubbed this a "terrible, terrible, terrible trial." Hopefully, there will be no need for a second one.
  • DC Inches Closer to Safe Access, Provisionally Approves 4 Dispensaries


    The D.C. Deparment of Health's Health Regulation and Licensing Administration (HRLA) finally unveiled the names of the business that will be directly providing safe access through dispensaries to the District's medical cannabis patients. Yesterday, the HRLA announced which dispensary applicants received scores of at least 150 points during the review process. Only 4 dispensaries made the 150-point requirement, and according a District government official “[t]his list is pretty final,” meaning these 4 dispensaries will be the only providers in the District for the foreseeable future. And on top of the mere 1 dispensary per 125,000 residents, there is also the cultivation center plant limit of 95 at each of the 6 approved locations, meaning less that one plant per 1,000 District residents. However, at least now the "foreseeable future" includes includes safe access in D.C., even if it comes through the most severely restrictive program in the country. 

    Those who have followed District's slow progress towards safe access to medical cannabis know that in May 2010, the D.C. Council approved B18-622, which was and remains the most restrictive medical cannabis program approved in the country.  In the nearly 2 years since passing the bill that limits access to those living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma or severe muscle spasms have been waiting for the D.C. government to draft regulations and get the program up and running. Those with conditions such as PTSD and chronic pain were left outside the program, but there is movement from within the local patient activist community to get the Department of Health to add qualifying conditions to the D.C.'s excruciatingly short list.

    While adding qualifying conditions is something the Department must consider, perhaps the greater priority right now from them is to begin the process of accepting patient and caregiver applications and issuing the ID cards that will provide them protection from arrest. However, because the DC medical cannabis regulations require each ID card is registered to a particular dispensary, the applications cannot be submitted until the applications are known. Therefore the next step the District government must take is to grant final approval to these dispensaries.

    Given the slow but gradual progress made in D.C. over the past few months, the anticipated final approval time of late June seems realistic, but many deadlines have been blown by the District government regarding this program, including the statutory requirement for a report on patient home cultivation. Those who have fought so hard for safe access to medical cannabis in D.C. certainly have the right to be skeptical. It's now up to the D.C. government's actions are able to curb that skepticism, and ASA is continuing to work with local patient advocates to press forward.

    Safe Access DC: http://dcsafeaccess.org/

    DC Dept. of Health page on medical cannabis: http://hrla.doh.dc.gov/hrla/cwp/view,a,1385,q,578539.asp
  • Patient Cultivation Passes NH Senate

    When the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 409 last week, perhaps the most noteworthy component of the story was overlooked. Bucking the unfortunate and ill-advised trend of “recently” passed bills in east coast states like New Jersey and Delaware, and the District of Columbia, the New Hampshire Senate made the compassionate and pragmatic decision to include patient cultivation in their medical cannabis bill. This is one of the most encouraging state legislative developments for medical cannabis to take place in 2012.

    The use of the quotations around “recently” in the prior paragraph was deliberate to illustrate what happens when states refuse to include patient cultivation rights with their medical cannabis programs. Both DC and and New Jersey passed their medical cannabis laws about 2 years ago, and both places have been extremely slow to implement their medical cannabis programs. Progress with New Jersey program has been moving with all of the swiftness of a turtle walking sideways. In fact, the painfully slow implementation has caused at least one patient to sue the state for relief.  Result: no safe access in New Jersey.

    In DC, things have moved slightly quicker pace, but only in the sense that ketchup drips faster than molasses. Nearly 23 months since the DC Council passed its medical cannabis law (which was originally passed by DC voters in 1998 [or 173 months ago!]), cultivation centers were at long last officially awarded. Now DC patients must await for the District to approve the dispensary locations (which are facing NIMBY scrutiny by Councilmembers), establish the registry system for obtaining patient ID cards, and hope that the less than 600 plants permitted by the District program (6 locations, 95 plants each) can support the medical cannabis needs of community with 3% adult HIV infection. That’s over 15,000 potential patients from just one of the extremely narrow approved qualifying conditions. Add in DC's cancer, glaucoma, and MS populations, and one can easily predict that the DC dispensaries are going to resemble the completely bare shelves of a Soviet Union-era supermarket. Result: no safe access in DC.

    The Delaware law? Their bill that lacked patient cultivation rights was nixed by executive order in February when  Gov. Merkell caved under the pressure a US Attorney threat letter, mere months after he signed the law. Result: no safe access in Delaware.

    Yet the state that approved medical cannabis during the same time frame as NJ, DC and DE that from the outside might appear to have the most tumultuous medical cannabis program is actually the one that is best serving patients. Those who qualify as patients in Arizona now have the right to grow their own medical cannabis, in spite of the several medical cannabis lawsuits brought forward by or against Governor Jan Brewer. The state even hosts a website that lets residents know who is eligible to cultivate. Result: Unlike patients in NJ, DC, and DE, Arizonan patients have legal access to medicine.

    Patient cultivation rights are certainly not the only component of an ideal medical cannabis law, but without the right for patients to grow their own medicine, patients are forced to rely slow moving bureaucracies, or worse, the black market, to obtain the medicine they need.
  • California Court of Appeal Issues Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana

    Landmark decision denies localities the right to ban dispensaries outright Last week the California Court of Appeal issued another landmark decision on medical marijuana, which is sure to have a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the state. The Fourth Appellate District ruled in City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective that localities may not pass outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, facilities which a majority of Californian patients rely on for their medication. In its 48-page published decision, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that “local governments may impose a per se ban on medical marijuana dispensaries without contradicting state law.” This is the first time an appellate court in California has rejected the argument that local governments can use their land use authority to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating outright. The court reasoned that SB420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), allows for medical marijuana dispensaries as a matter of statewide concern, so localities cannot simply ban them. The court’s decision brings into question nearly 200 such bans across the state. Unless or until it’s appealed and taken up on review by the California Supreme Court, the Lake Forest case throws a significant wrench into the efforts of medical marijuana opponents and favors the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. That said, the Lake Forest decision was a mixed bag for the medical marijuana community. Even while agreeing with another recent landmark decision in People v. Colvin, that “a patient or primary caregiver [need not] personally [] engage in the physical cultivation of marijuana” in order to enjoy the protections of California law, the Lake Forest court held that dispensaries must cultivate all of the marijuana they sell on-site.
    [W]e conclude off-site dispensaries are not authorized by California medical marijuana law because nothing in the law authorizes the transportation and possession of marijuana to stock an off-site location.
    Unfortunately, in this regard, the Lake Forest court got it wrong. The MMPA explicitly protects patients from arrest and prosecution for transportation of marijuana when engaged in collective medical marijuana activity.  This part of the court’s decision is not only bad public policy, but has no basis in the law.