Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • ASA Advocates Take Possession of Marijuana Plants from San Diego County Sheriff

    The following is a guest blog by Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

    District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her ‘fierce fight’ against medical marijuana patients suffered another devastating defeat this week. Advocates from the local chapter of Americans for Safe Access (SDASA), the nation’s largest advocacy group promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, successfully obtained an order from the courts for the release of five large impounded medical cannabis plants. The judge ordered the plants released to a representative of SDASA for their safe keeping.

    On Wednesday afternoon of this week, Marcus Boyd of SDASA retrieved the plants from San Diego County Sheriff’s evidence locker.

    [caption id="attachment_924" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="ASA Advocate Marcus Boyd in front of Sheriff's Department"]
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    The patient, to whom the plants belong, remains in custody for cultivating them despite all the charges in his case being dropped, and will receive his plants upon release.

    On September 2, John Palmer, a resident of Imperial Beach was arrested by Detective Michael Thomas Neumann and other members of the San Diego Sheriff's Department during a ‘routine’ probation search. Following the search and the discovery of the plants, Palmer was charged with possession, possession for sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

    At the time of the search Palmer was in full compliance with state law, in fact, deputies found Palmer's state issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card as well as another patients' doctor's recommendation posted on the wall next to the grow.

    During the search, Palmer explained to deputies that he was lawfully and collectively growing the medicine, as approved by the Probation Department. He explained that three weeks earlier he was granted a court order from a judge specifically allowing him to grow marijuana while on probation.

    Detective Neumann not being aware of the law, called the infamous local medical marijuana eradicator and ‘expert’ cultivator, Detective Steve Reed, to find out if Palmer could be charged with cultivation and possession for sale.  Detective Reed said, “medical pot? Ha! Book-em and charge-em!"

    Deputies arrested Palmer, impounded the plants and incarcerated him in the Vista jail where he remains today and is scheduled to be released on Monday October 25, 2010.

    The other patient who was collectively cultivating the plants with Palmer and whose collective grow was confiscated during Palmer's arrest was not arrested himself. After learning of Palmer's arrest he was able to quickly make contact with Marcus Boyd of SDASA in search of assistance.

    Boyd, who hosts the monthly South Bay meeting for SDASA in Imperial Beach, immediately contacted Salina Epley, Palmer’s public defender in the case, began providing assistance with the case as well as attending Palmer’ court hearings along with SDASA Advisory Board Member Terrie Best.

    During the court process, the prosecutor was insistent upon keeping Palmer in custody, despite being told by the Judge that Palmer would likely be found not guilty if the case went to trial. The Judge urged that a plea bargain be worked out.

    All plea offers from the prosecutor were unreasonable and therefore unacceptable to Palmer. A plea deal was not reached and a trial date was set for November 10th.

    On October 6th, Palmer was back in court for an evidentiary / readiness hearing. That day, after reviewing the motions filed by the public defender, the prosecutor moved to drop all marijuana related charges against Mr. Palmer.

    At a prior hearing however, the judge ruled that the prosecutor had provided sufficient evidence to violate Palmer's probation status remanding him into custody for another 20 days.

    In light of the extended jail time, the public defender conferred with her client and while officially on the record, recognized Americans for Safe Access's support in the case and formally requested the court, "immediately release the five mature plants to Americans for Safe Access's representative, Marcus Boyd, for safe keeping."

    Surprisingly, the prosecutor did not argue, stipulated to the request, and the court did not hesitate in granting the motion.

    John Palmer left the courtroom in good spirits and was very happy to have won his case. He yelled "thank you" while deputies escorted him out of court.

    Yesterday morning with the court order in hand, Marcus Boyd and Eugene Davidovich of SDASA, went to the San Diego County Sheriff’s evidence room and picked up the plants with no delay or resistance from Detective Neumann or any other law enforcement officials.

    In fact when Boyd called Detective Neumann and asked him to fax over a release of the property form to the evidence locker, Neumann replied “I don't have a problem with it and I won't stand in the way.  I'll send them whatever they need this morning.”

    [caption id="attachment_923" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Seized plants handed over to ASA advocates"]
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    When Boyd and Davidovich arrived to retrieve the property, it was found that all the plants had been clipped at the stem right above the roots. In fact the day they were confiscated, Detective Neuman, instead of transporting them and taking care of the property as required by procedure, simply cut them and stuffed them in a large paper bag, ensuring that they could not be usable when and if they were ever retrieved.

    The plants were immediately rushed to Kim Twolan, the founder of Mother Earth Co-op located in Mission Hills.  Twolan, who is also a SDASA Advisory Board member and serves on San Diego City's Medical Marijuana Task Force after thorough examination and several attempts to revive the plants, pronounced them dead upon arrival.

    Palmer intends to file a claim for the damaged property upon being released from custody on Monday.

    SDASA member and local criminal defense attorney Melissa Bobrow has agreed to help Palmer with the property damage claim against the county.
  • Register to Vote

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) urges everyone to register to vote on or before Monday, October 18, the deadline to register for the November mid-term elections in most states. You can get a voter registration card in most Post Offices, or contact local officials. We need everyone out at the polls this year! Voters in several states will cast ballots on medical cannabis issues this year. Arizona voters will have a chance to approve a medical cannabis initiative that fixes wording flaws in the state's 1996 initiative that left it unenforceable. Voters in Oregon will decide on an initiative to make dispensing centers legal. South Dakotans have a chance to establish protections for patients. And in California, the low-profile race for attorney general has high stakes for safe access, as one candidate supports statewide standards for collectives, while the other has vowed to arrest operators, even those in compliance with all local regulations. Voters in California and Colorado will have to decide on dozens of local ballot measures that will tax, regulate, or ban access to medicine. Check with you local voting officials to see if your city has medical cannabis on the ballot.
  • Persistence pays off in Los Angeles

    [caption id="attachment_871" align="alignleft" width="119" caption="Paul Koretz"]
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    (UPDATE October 19 - The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on the Hahn-Koretz amendment to the Medical Cannabis Ordinance this morning, apparently because Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised by post-moratorium collectives. A District Court judge will hear oral arguments in the consolidated medical cannabis lawsuits on November 3. A vote on the amendment is scheduled for November 4, but advocates expect further delay.)

    Sometimes it is hard to see the results from grassroots advocacy, but medical cannabis supporters in Los Angeles just got some concrete evidence that persistence pays off. In response to pressure from constituents, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn introduced a motion on Friday to make an important change in the city’s controversial medical cannabis ordinance. If adopted, the motion will allow dozens of legal collectives deemed ineligible by the City Clerk to seek registration – and that means more access to medicine for patients.



    The controversy stems from a narrow interpretation of the ordinance, which prohibits changes in ownership or management. The City Clerk ruled last month that dozens of collectives were ineligible to register because they “changed” management. In most cases, however, the only “change” was in how many people were listed on different forms – including paperwork dating back to 2007. The City Attorney promptly filed lawsuits to close the collectives. Advocates have been talking with staff and City Councilmembers for weeks about the need to reinstate legal collectives that can show continuity of management.  

    Americans for safe Access (ASA) invests a lot of time and resources in grassroots advocacy because we know it pays off. A small army of lobbyists and lawyers are working to make changes to the ordinance to benefit their clients. Until now, City Councilmembers have been steadfast in resisting calls for amendments. But grassroots pressure has succeeded in creating the first opportunity for progress. We have to keep up those phone calls, emails, and letters. We need to keep making our voices heard inside and outside City Council Chambers. This motion must still be approved by the City Council, and there are many more changes that need to be made to make this ordinance work for medical cannabis patients.

    Read more about being an effective grassroots advocate in  ABC’s of Citizen Advocacy.
  • CA Assembly Rejects SJR 14

    The California Assembly failed to adopt SJR 14 by only four votes on Monday (see votes). We are disappointed by this outcome, but I want to thank the hundreds of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) members and supporters who called their representatives in the Assembly over the last ten days to support the resolution. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff in the offices of California Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who worked tirelessly until the very last minute to get the votes we needed. SJR 14 was resolution sponsored by ASA and authored by Senator Leno calling for an end to federal interference in state medical cannabis laws and for the development of a comprehensive national policy to provide safe access. We hope to send a new resolution to the President, lawmakers, and the administrative agencies in the next legislative session, so that we can help shape the evolving federal policy on medical cannabis. The window of opportunity for SJR 14 this year was narrow. Resolutions usually go to the back of the line when lawmakers in Sacramento are running out of time. It was even tougher this year. A historic financial shortfall and impasse on the budget have dominated the final days of the legislative session. Even last minute support from the influential National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was not enough to galvanize Assemblymembers around the resolution. SJR 14 should have been a winner in a Democratic legislature – it costs nothing, does not change state law, and calls for action only in the federal arena. Unfortunately, ambivalence about medical cannabis is at a high water mark in Sacramento. Even legislators with a track record of support are worried about increasingly unpopular collectives, lenient doctors, or patients that “don’t look sick.” That is why some of the twelve silent Assemblymembers withheld their support for SJR 14. We are seeing a more sophisticated legislative effort from our opponents in Sacramento. Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) introduced a law enforcement-sponsored bill to limit locations for collectives. AB 2650 was initially cut and pasted straight from the unreasonable ordinances adopted this year in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Senator Ron Calderon’s (D-Montebello) fist bill sought to tax all cannabis at the same rate as tobacco (SBX6 16), and his latest effort establishes a tight licensing requirement – but without specifying fees or providing any legal protections for growers (SB 1131). These initiatives and others like them will be back in the next session. We still have to fight to protect the ground we have gained since 2003, and   work even harder to make progress on licensing, taxation, and collective regulation next session.  There is a lot to do. We should already be building our base, shoring up relationships in the legislature, getting strong legislative proposals together, and building coalitions for next session. I want to call on ASA members and medical cannabis advocates in the state to rededicate their time, attention, and financial resources the campaign for safe access in California. If we rediscover the energy and commitment that brought us this far, we can overcome these challenges and make real progress towards realizing the voters’ mandate for medical cannabis in California and finally changing federal law.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil Applauds New Documentary Film “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer”

    A new documentary by Len Richmond, “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer,” is starting to turn heads. Dr. Andrew Weil recently reviewed Richmond’s film, calling it “excellent,” and last week answered a question about medical cannabis on his web site.
    [E]xciting new research suggests that the cannabinoids found in marijuana may have a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. A number of studies have shown that these compounds can inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. In part, this is achieved by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow. What's more, cannabinoids seem to kill tumor cells without affecting surrounding normal cells. If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.
    Though not referenced in Dr. Weil’s answer, much of the recent investigation into inhibiting cancer growth using cannabis comes from Dr. Sean D. McAllister, of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and medical cannabis researcher Jahan Marcu, who is also on the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Richmond’s film is narrated by Emmy-winning actor Peter Coyote and has a host of medical cannabis experts, including Dr. McAllister, Dr. Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Integrative Oncology at UCSF, Dr. Robert Melamede, University of Colorado Biology Chairman and ASA Advisory Board member, as well as researchers from Spain and Israel. Richmond’s film asks:
    Could the chemicals found in marijuana prevent and even heal several deadly cancers? Could the tumor-regulating properties of “cannabinoids” someday replace the debilitating drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation that harms as often as it heals?
    The film also includes a bonus comedy puppet short, “Kurt Cannabis Meets Connie Cancer,” with the voices of Roseanne Barr and Malcolm McDowell. Drawing attention to the federal government’s outdated position that “marijuana has no currently accepted medical use,” Dr. Weil concluded in his review of Richmond’s film:
    If we need more evidence that our current policy on cannabis is counterproductive and foolish, here it is.
    Richmond’s film will be screening at the Sausalito Film Festival on Sunday, August 15th, at 1:30 pm, followed by a panel discussion on cannabis and cancer with Richmond, Dr. Donald Abrams, Dr. Jeffery Hergenrather, Dr. Sean McAllister. For additional information, go to Len Richmond’s web site: http://LenRichmondFilms.com.
  • CA Senate Committees Approve AB 2650

    Two California Senate committees approved a bill this week that will require a 600-foot buffer zone between medical cannabis collectives and schools statewide. AB 2650 was approved by the Senate Health Committee and the Local Government Committee over the objection of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other medical cannabis advocates. However, ASA and allies can claim a victory in the bills march towards final approval by the Senate. The initial draft would have required a 1,000-foot buffer zone around a laundry list of sensitive uses. Pressure from the medical cannabis community forced the author, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), to retreat to the less onerous provision. AB 2650 is expected to win final approval in the Senate this session. Cities and counties can adopt smaller buffer zones before January 1, 2011, when the new legislation takes effect. Local governemnt retains the right to adopt larger buffer zones at any time. The bill is sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), a law enforcement lobbyist group that opposes medical cannabis.
  • City Attorney Joins Vigil for LA Victims

    Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was one of more than sixty people who gathered last night for a candlelight vigil for the victims of two violent attacks at medical cannabis collectives this week.  Two people were killed and one was seriously injured in two separate incidents on Thursday. The tragedies occurred in the midst of ongoing controversy about the city’s tough new medical cannabis ordinance. Trutanich told a reporter from West Coast Cannabis Magazine that he understood this was “not something [the victims] brought on themselves,” and said the police department would not rest until the murderers were brought to justice. Trutanich’s words are reassuring for patients and the victims’ loved ones, who fear this human tragedy may be politicized by medical cannabis opponents in the often emotional debate about regulating safe access in Los Angeles.  Fear of crime around medical cannabis facilities fueled efforts to adopt the state’s toughest medical cannabis ordinance earlier this year, but Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told City Councilmembers and the media that reports of increased crime around collectives did not bear out. Unfortunately, Thursday’s tragedies differ little from similar crimes that occur at convenience stores, gas stations, or grocery stores in Los Angeles. These murders are not medical cannabis crimes. Trutanich is correct to keep the blame on the perpetrators, instead of the victims. His presence at last night’s vigil and sensible comments speak volumes to patients and advocates, most of whom take issue with his adversarial posture towards medical cannabis. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) would like to commend the City Attorney on his presence, and extend our heart-felt sympathies to the families of the victims. We call on the Los Angeles Police Department and City Council to do everything in their power to bring the murderers to justice, and ask that anyone who can help in their arrest or prosecution cooperate fully in that effort.
  • Troubling Trend of $1 Million Bails in Medical Marijuana Cases

    A troubling trend of excessive bails in medical marijuana cases has begun to occur over the past month. The operators of a long-standing Santa Barbara dispensary, currently held on $1 million bail each, are the latest victims of this unprovoked attack on medical marijuana providers. On Friday, the Santa Barbara Police Department and Sheriff’s Department raided HortiPharm, a medical marijuana dispensary operated by Joshua and Dayli Braun. Police also raided a restaurant owned by Dayli Braun, and several other locations, seizing large amounts of medical marijuana and growing equipment, and arresting a total of 7 people. According to reports received today by Americans for Safe Access, the District Attorney has issued a warrant for HortiPharm’s bookkeeper and also intends to hold him on $1 million bail. Less than three weeks ago, on May 26th, a San Fernando Valley dispensary operator was held on $1 million bail after Sheriffs from Los Angeles and Ventura raided two of his distribution facilities and Ventura County home. Needless to say, holding people on $1 million bail is rare and typically reserved for people accused of seriously violent acts, not for those simply providing medicine to patients. In theory, we are supposed to be protected from unreasonable bail under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Arguably, the excessive bails we are seeing in recent medical marijuana cases are a violation of those rights. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office claims that HortiPharm violated the terms of the Compassionate Use Act, but has failed to provide any evidence. And, do such claims even justify holding people on million dollar bails? Two recent acquittals of dispensary operators by jury trial in San Diego have shown that criminal prosecution may not be the best way to address the issue of medical marijuana distribution. Local officials in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura and elsewhere would do better to approach alleged local or state law violations with civil, not criminal, actions. Keeping people needlessly locked up using excessive bail is not the right approach for a public health issue like medical marijuana.
  • Calaveras Sheriff Brazenly Engages in Identity Theft to Entrap Medical Marijuana Provider

    Stooping to a new low, local law enforcement in California has resorted to identity theft in order to entrap, arrest and prosecute law-abiding medical marijuana providers. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department has admitted to using the physician’s recommendation and identity of legal medical marijuana patient Robert Shaffer in order to entrap and arrest Jay Smith, operator of the local “K Care Alternative Collective” dispensary. The Sheriff’s Department was in possession of Shaffer’s documentation as a result of an unrelated arrest. Despite complying with state law by refusing to sell Deputy Sheriff Steve Avila any medical marijuana before verifying the recommendation that he fraudulently used, Smith is still being prosecuted for felony marijuana sales and transportation. Surprisingly, at a recent hearing, Calaveras County Superior Court Judge Douglas Mewhinney overlooked Smith’s compliance with the law and said there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Shaffer’s physician, Dr. Philip A. Denney of Carmichael, verified that Shaffer was indeed a patient when K Care contacted Dr. Denney’s office after Deputy Avila deceptively used Shaffer’s valid medical marijuana recommendation. Dr. Denney, upset that his patient, Robert Shaffer, did not authorize such use of his medical records, told The Record that the investigation against Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
    Dr. Philip Denney: The prosecution of Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
    Calaveras Sheriff Dennis Downum defended the actions of Deputy Avila, but seemed confused about the letter of the law. In an appearance before the Calaveras Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Downum claimed erroneously that, “to provide medical marijuana to someone, there has to be a caregiver relationship.” In fact, if Sheriff Downum had brushed up on the law, he would have realized that for Smith to be in compliance with state law, he must operate as a collective or cooperative, not as a “caregiver.” While Sheriff Downum has no excuse to be ignorant of the law he’s upheld to enforce, Calaveras District Attorney Jeff Tuttle has no excuse to falsely prosecute Smith based on the same flawed interpretation of state law. In an interview with the Calaveras Enterprise, Tuttle echoed Sheriff Downum and said that his “understanding of the law is that…you have to be a primary caregiver to provide [patients] with marijuana.” In response to accusations of impropriety, District Attorney Tuttle said:
    Law enforcement officers and investigations are allowed to do many things that as citizens we would be penalized criminally for, but the reason they are is that they are doing it as part of an investigation. They can mislead people, they can lie they can try to trick people.
    Smith’s attorney, Ean Vizzi, called Tuttle’s assertions “absolutely incorrect,” not knowing whether Tuttle was just “mistaken or [if] he’s purposefully ignoring the law.” Sheriff Downum and Distriact Attorney Tuttle should not be let off the hook so easily. At best, they have seriously misinterpreted California’s medical marijuana law, and at worst the Sheriff could be responsible for “investigatorial misconduct” against Smith and Shaffer. If it’s determined that the Sheriff’s Department has violated any ethical or legal standards by assuming Shaffer’s identity to entrap Smith, the case against Smith should be promptly dismissed and Sheriff Downum should have to face the legal consequences.
  • Advocates Decry DEA Obstruction to Medical Marijuana Research - Obama Can and Should Regain an Adherence to Scientific Principles

    Only days before President Bush is to leave office, his administration has dealt yet another blow to scientific integrity by refusing to implement the recommendations of DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner and open up the production of cannabis (marijuana) for research purposes. For more than 40 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has maintained a monopoly on the cultivation of cannabis for Food & Drug Administration-approved scientific studies. Instead of opening up research on the medical properties of cannabis, the Bush administration has chosen to hide its head in the sand and obstruct the advancement of this important therapeutic substance. In June of 2001, University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Lyle Craker, an experienced research botanist, applied for a license to cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved studies. After nine days of testimony from many experts and administration officials, Judge Bittner issued a set of recommendations in February 2007, concluding that the current sole-supply of cannabis by NIDA was insufficient for the level of research that cannabis deserves and that expanded research was "in the public interest." After nearly two years of delay, acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart issued a ruling today that refuses to implement Judge Bittner's recommendations. This refusal by Leonhart to adhere to her own DEA Administrative Law Judge is especially disappointing and insensitive in light of strong Congressional support for expanded research and a desire to dismantle the current monopoly on research cannabis production. In 2008, forty-five members of Congress sent a letter to then-DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, urging her to accept Judge Bittner's recommendations and calling the federal monopoly on cannabis production "unjustified." Incoming president Barack Obama has an opportunity to correct this shortsighted position that fails to recognize medical and scientific precedent. Rather than turn a cold shoulder to the reams of scientific studies pointing to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, president-elect Obama has the opportunity to develop a sensible policy with regard to medical cannabis research. In addition, since acting-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has shown little capacity for understanding the need for more research into cannabis, Obama should appoint a candidate to head the DEA that can grasp the importance of advancing this important medicinal substance. To be sure, anything less will perpetuate the outdated position of the Bush Administration and deny hundreds of thousands of Americans a medicine that has been shown to be effective at treating innumerable illnesses and the side effects of toxic treatments.