Pages tagged "Americans for Safe Access (ASA)"

  • ASA responds to LA City Attorney threats

    The Los Angeles City attorney sent hundreds of letters last week threatening property owners who rent to medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. The letters tell property owners they may be subject to stiff penalties, including fines and jail time, because an ordinance passed by the City Council in July makes renting to a patients’ association a crime. Property owners are worried, and some are moving to force their tenants out. But Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Chief Council Joe Elford says the effort to intimidate property owners is premature and urges the City Attorney to wait.



    In a letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Mr. Elford points out that the California Supreme Court will soon rule on several cases that could clarify how cities can regulate medical cannabis and if they can ban cooperatives and collectives. California’s Appellate Courts disagree on these topics, so moving forward without instructions from the Supreme Court could be risky:
    "Proceeding with enforcement of the ordinance while these issues are pending is premature and may subject you to a legal response."

    Mr. Elford also points out that a voter referendum sponsored by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, of which ASA is a part, may soon render the ordinance banning cooperatives and collectives and criminalizing property owners moot:
    "… there is underway a voter referendum campaign to repeal Ordinance 182190, which is likely to have the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot in less than two weeks. Because Ordinance No. 182190 will become ineffective once the signatures have been certified by the City Clerk, it would be a waste of the City’s time and resources to implement the Ordinance."

    Patients who operate medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives should share Mr. Elford’s letter with their property owners to let them know that the ordinance making them criminals is not here to stay. Patients and advocates are going to repeal the misguided ordinance and keep working to adopt sensible regulations.
  • Medical Cannabis Reading File

    The latest news about medical cannabis from around the nation. Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • DuffyHoax Revealed - Medical Cannabis Advocates Explain It All


    On October 7, 2011, at a press conference in Sacramento, US Attorney Laura Duffy, along with several other US Attorneys, announced a statewide crackdown on medical cannabis cooperatives, collectives, gardens, and others.

    Without citing any specific violations in state law, Duffy's office claimed all were out of compliance and would be targeted for eradication including those fully licensed and regulated by local government and law enforcement.

    Since this proclamation of war on California’s medical marijuana program, Duffy’s office sent hundreds of letters to landlords threatening asset forfeiture if they did not immediately evict their dispensary tenants. As a result of these backhanded tactics, many landlords were forced to comply. Within six months, Duffy closed over 200 dispensaries in San Diego alone.



    These closures forced thousands of employees into unemployment, left hundreds of properties vacant and most importantly, left the 70,000 plus medical marijuana patients in San Diego county wondering where to get their medicine

    Duffy’s war did not stop with just closures of collectives and cooperatives. With her next move, she focused on local governments. After learning that advocates had gathered enough signatures to place initiatives to regulate dispensaries on several local ballots in the county, she began threatening council members and city staff with federal prosecution for writing laws to regulate safe access.

    This past July, Duffy fired off a threatening letter to the City of Del Mar, as well as sent DEA agents to several council meetings to intimidate lawmakers in person. Duffy's actions, as well as those of other US Attorneys across the state, are in stark contrast to what President Obama and the Department of Justice are saying.

    During his election in 2008, Candidate Obama promised he would not use Justice Department resources to target those in compliance with state law, and his administration publicly maintains this position. In addition, as recently as June, Attorney General Eric Holder, Duffy’s boss, testified before Congress that his Justice Department would only undertake enforcement action against medical marijuana organizations operating "out of conformity with state law."

    Under President Obama’s Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund has grown from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011, with $79 million going directly to California law enforcement agencies.

    Since October of last year advocates have worked tirelessly, using traditional means to fight against these attacks and to bring media attention to the issue. Lawsuits have been filed, letter drives organized, petitions signed, protests held, letters to editors written— yet nothing has worked. In fact, in San Diego the attacks seem to be getting worse and it was clear that something more radical had to be done.

    How San Diego ASA Got Involved in the Action


    San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest medical cannabis advocacy group, working with LGBT activism group Canvass for a Cause, received a letter from the San Diego Museum of Art last month, inviting both groups to participate to participate in The Yes Men’s "Yes Labs" workshop organized by the museum as part of their Summer Salon Series program.

    The goal of the workshop as the email explained was, "to identify a concrete, media attention grabbing idea and then figure out an approach towards making it come to fruition."

    Upon accepting the invitation, another email from the museum asked San Diego ASA to have at least a few hundred dollars available to turn the project into a reality.

    The next email read, "Despite the fact that the museum provides you with The Yes Men, the space, and meals, we do not want this cost to be a deterrent. Therefore, the Museum will contribute $100 in seed money to get you on your way."

    The workshop was scheduled for July 23rd and 24th at Agitprop, an art gallery in North Park.

    The Workshop


    The opportunity to execute an action holding Duffy accountable with help from The Yes Men and with the support of local arts community, could not have come at a more appropriate time. Not only were advocates looking for new summer activities to take on as part of Americans for Safe Access's summer program www.CampWakeUpObama.com, but the first day of the workshop, several members had to miss a part as they were Downtown organizing a protest against Duffy’s attempt to close the sole permitted dispensary in the county.

    The workshop began with introductions and an awe inspiring presentation of previous artistic actions organized by ‘The Yes Men’. The day then shifted into group discussions of causes everyone cared about and actions that could be taken right here in San Diego in support of those causes. After a few brainstorming sessions the group reached consensus to focus on the medical cannabis issue first. A plan was hashed out and Tuesday July 31st was set as the day of action. It became clear that through satire and art the chapter would bring attention to Duffy’s reign of terror.

    The plan was that a series of satirical press releases would be issued to media first claiming Duffy would target pharmacies for closure using asset forfeiture proceedings, similar to her track record with medical marijuana dispensaries, followed by another press release from Duffy claiming the first was a hoax and the perpetrators would be prosecuted. Then, a fake organization called FAC – the Federal Accountability Coalition would take credit for both satirical releases. Finally, the real advocates behind the project would step forward and claim responsibility in a fourth an final release.

    The Day of the Action


    On July 31st, a command center was set up in the heart of Hillcrest. The day began at 7:04am with the first press release sent to the media from [email protected], an email address chosen to resemble the real Duffy’s but be clearly phony, stating that the US Attorney will be shutting down pharmacies for their high volume of sales of controlled substances, the same rationale used by US Attorneys to close medical cannabis dispensaries.
    These pharmacies are not only about providing medicine to the sick. They are part of a pervasive for-profit industry that facilitates the distribution of drugs for illegitimate use. Doctors are prescribing unneeded medication; kids are overdosing on aspirin; police are finding pill bottles at junior high schools. Addiction and abuse of these drugs are serious problems in our communities and parents have come to me with their concerns. These pharmacies have provided not just medication - prescription and otherwise - but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and often irreparable harm to our youth.” said Duffy.

    At 7:34am, local San Diego CityBeat reporter Dave Maass, tweeted: “I wonder if the real looking press release I got from a fake looking email might be a product of The Yes Men workshop with mmj activists.” (@DaveMaass).

    While other media outlets, including the LA Times, were digesting the first release and trying to understand which pharmacies were being targeted, an actor playing "Deputy US Attorney of Narcotics and Logistics, Mr. Shiner" (a name selected randomly) was available by phone to answer questions.

    "Yes we are shutting them down," said Shiner while answering one of the calls, "Prosecutorial discretion means Duffy decides how and when to enforce laws."

    In the hour following the first release and while "Mr. Shiner" was answering inquiries from media, several Cease and Desist notices were posted by actors at five pharmacies in town. Although the fake press release said twenty locations were being targeted, only five actual notices were posted on the front doors of [email protected] claiming the first release was a hoax and that the perpetrators would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Analogous to the first release, the second had a spokesperson as well. This time, it was an actor playing Mr. Steven T. Fredrickson (another randomly chosen name). "Mr. Fredrickson" answered calls and email from media outlets and discussed the strict enforcement action he was planning on taking against the perpetrators of the first release. "They will be thoroughly punished,” he told reporters "we will be issuing another statement in the near future."

    Shortly after the second release was sent out, the real Laura Duffy scheduled a press conference for 11:00am to discuss the fake releases. Meanwhile, Shiner's and Fredrickson's phones were ringing off the hook, with reporters trying to figure out who was behind the hoax.

    Although not planned for, Duffy’s press conference spurred the idea of sending an actor to deliver the third release directly to the media gathered at the press conference.

    Duffy stood outside the federal courthouse in front of a dozen cameras grumbling about the fake releases. Interrupting her speech, the actor walked up to the media and said, "Laura Duffy is a Benedict Arnold, nothing but a Benedict Arnold!" and passed out the third release, in which the Federal Accountability Coalition claimed responsibility.

    This third release scolded Duffy for her wasteful attack on state’s rights, as well as insubordination of federal government, President Obama, and attorney general Holder. The release criticized her insubordination, raised concerns of her rogue efforts, and raised fears of Duffy targeting farmers' markets and people’s right to bear arms next. The statements in the release were so sensational that even more media attention was brought to the action as a result.

    Once all copies of the release were handed out, he walked away, the media following him for several blocks. The mere presence of FAC caused all the cameras to shift focus away from Duffy and to the actor, as a result entirely spoiling her press conference.

    After the third release went out, an actor playing Dexter Haight (another randomly chosen name) took calls and answered reporters' questions.

    By this time, there were already multiple articles online about the hoax and the action was taking over local news coverage for the day. Various news outlets were running stories about the action, some of them mixing up real quotes from Duffy with quotes from fake releases, and all of them focusing on this organization called FAC.

    The FAC had not only an email and phone number, but, to appear credible, there was also a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube Account, which were all getting a lot of traffic. The website and FAC press release included links to a video where Dexter Haight claimed responsibility for the hoax on camera.

    The Youtube page had interviews with various people, including a pharmacist, a CVS store manager, and a patient who supposedly patronized the stores shut down by Duffy’s actions. As the actor playing Dexter was fielding dozens of calls and emails from media about the hoax, it became clear that the best way to finish off the day was for FAC to hold a press conference at which the full reveal would take place. FAC then announced that a press conference would be held at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park at 2pm that day to discuss all the details of the hoax.

    The media showed up in full force. There were multiple cameras, photographers, and a stand with microphones. The press conference started promptly at 2pm with the actor playing Dexter Haight coming up to the stand and announcing, “My name is Dexter Haight, I am with the Federal Accountability Coalition. I am here to announce that my name is not Dexter Haight, I am an actor.” After Dexter spoke, advocates took the stage and discussed in detail the horrors of Duffy’s actions and why they had gone to such great lengths to bring this issue to light.

    Just as this final press conference began, the 4th and final press release was sent out, explaining that medical cannabis activists were behind the hoax.
    "Just as the closure of retail pharmacies, like CVS or Walgreens, is poor public health policy, so is the federal government’s crackdown on medical cannabis dispensaries," said Eugene Davidovich of San Diego ASA. "Pharmacies, like medical cannabis dispensaries, play an essential role in our communities as they help the sick and dying treat and manage various medical conditions," continued Davidovich. "Laura Duffy and the Obama Administration have no place interfering in the implementation of state law by shutting down dispensaries that thousands of patients rely on."

    Since the final release, multiple articles have been published by various news outlets covering the action as well as Duffy’s response. Duffy, however, instead of considering changing her stance on cannabis, has since threatened jail time for those she calls "the hoaxers" and has announced to the media that the FBI has been brought in to investigate; more waste of taxpayer dollars and another boneheaded move by Duffy’s office.

    With this action and other actions that took place that week throughout the state, Duffy and other US Attorneys are on notice that any person who interferes with medical cannabis patients and/or providers will continue to be subject to coordinated grassroots response by the public at large, in local and national forums.

    It is time to end this war on patients, let science lead public policy, and allow states to protect their most vulnerable citizens.

    The San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access would like to extend a thank you to all the advocates who took part in this wildly successful expression of art and satire, with a special thank you to Canvass for a Cause, The Yes Men, Agitprop and the San Diego Museum of Art for making this action possible.

    More Information


    San Diego Chapter of ASA - www.SafeAccessSD.org

    Canvass for a Cause - www.canvassforacause.org

    Eugene Davidovich is a Steering Committee Member of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
  • Report: Federal asset forfeiture fund balloons while oversight is lacking

    On the heels of introduction of HR 6335, the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Right Protection Act, by Barbara Lee (D-CA) in Congress last week, safe access advocates might want to take a look at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) July 12, 2012 report on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF). What the GAO discovered is that the Department of Justice has expended over $1 billion for the past several years on forfeiture, but reporting data remains elusive for Congressional oversight and public scrutiny.

    For those unfamiliar with the AFF and how it pertains to medical cannabis, check out some of ASA’s earlier work on this topic. But even those who have been following this issue may be interested to know that the AFF has 3 goals:

    1. to punish and deter criminal activity;

    2. to enhance cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies “through the equitable sharing of assets recovered through this Fund;” and

    3. to produce revenues in support of future law enforcement investigations and related forfeiture activities.


    To connect the dots for how this relates to medical cannabis, the DOJ is using civil forfeiture (and thereby sidestepping Constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants) to seize property that is associated with legal activity authorized by state and local law, in an effort enhance cooperation with with law enforcement agencies that permit the activity in question. So the only practical purpose the AFF has when applied to medical cannabis dispensary properties is to secure revenue for other DOJ projects.

    Costs obscured by lousy reporting and lack of oversight

    The cost of how much the DOJ spends in this utterly absurd effort is obscured by the lousy reporting process has for outside oversight. The GOA specifically recommended that “provide more detailed information to Congress as part of the AFF's annual budget process, clearly documenting how DOJ determines” key data. The reason for this is that the reporting data does not appear to have breakdowns for civil and criminal forfeiture, merely some anecdotal examples. However, by checking the tables that are provided, on can see that the AFF revenue has increased nearly 350% since 2003, from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011. Perhaps more disturbing is the amount of money that it costs the DOJ to run the AFF. Since 2007, expenditures on the AFF have exclipsed a billion dollars each year, reaching a high of $1.3 billion in 2011.

    This is one of many areas where the Obama Administration has fallen asleep when it comes to respecting the rights and dignity of medical cannabis patients, caregivers and providers. In addition to illuminating the AFF reporting process, the DOJ is also embarrassing the United States every day by maintaining marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, asserting that marijuana has no medical value. This lack of transparency and respect is precisely why Congress should give HR 6335 full hearings.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • LA patients move to stop the ban



    The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives on July 24. Now patients are taking the case for safe access to the streets with a voter referendum to repeal the ban. If we gather 27,485 signatures from registered voters in the next thirty days, the City Council will be forced to choose between repealing the ban themselves and calling a costly special election for voters to decide. Paid and volunteer signature gatherers will be on the streets this week. City Council Members will soon learn if there is enough grassroots support for safe access to force their hand. Patients and advocates are betting there is.



    Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, helped organize the voter referendum and is committed to its success because the ban is bad for patients. The large majority of legal medical cannabis patients in Los Angeles rely on cooperatives and collectives for safe and reliable access to the doctor-recommended medicine they need to treat the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and other serious conditions. Closing the facilities means patients will do without their medicine or buy it from the dangerous and unregulated illicit market. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996, and it is contrary to polling that shows that 77% of Californians still support regulation and control of medical cannabis.

    City Council Members made a commitment to regulation in 2008, but controversy and political conflict stymied their efforts. Conflicting decisions for the California Appellate Courts have confused the issue, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has consistently touted a ban only viable option. But City Council Members do have a choice. On the same day they approved the ban, the City Council also approved a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine asking the City Attorney to create a new ordinance tightly regulating a smaller number of facilities. The City Council would do well to expedite that effort instead of trying to enforce the ill-conceived ban.

    It is not acceptable to close all of the patients’ associations in the city just because some are located or operated in a manner that is problematic. Instead, the City Council should work with stakeholders to develop workable regulations. Research shows that cooperatives and collectives do not cause crime. In fact, research conducted by ASA shows that sensible regulations actually reduce crime and complaints around access points. Los Angeles can join more than fifty other cities and counties in finding a way to protect patients’ access and neighborhoods – if they have the political will to do it. Let’s hope a successful referendum and vote to repeal the ban is just what they need to make it happen.

    ASA is joined on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, the referendum’s campaign committee, by representatives from the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), which represents some of the city’s oldest and most reputable patients’ associations, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, which represents workers in local cooperatives and collectives.

    Please join me on a conference call to discuss the referendum campaign and how you can help on Monday, August 13, at 6:00 PM.  Call (832) 431-3335 and dial 1618568 to join the conversation.

    Make plans to join the Los Angeles ASA chapter on Saturday, August 18, to get the latest updates on the referendum and the ongoing effort to adopt a good ordinance in Los Angeles. The LA-ASA meeting is between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.) in West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • Medical Marijuana Patient Norman Smith Passes, But Not Without a Fight

    Last Saturday, a memorial service was held for Norman Smith, 64. I never met Norman in person, but I feel like I got to know a part of him before he passed. Norman was a fighter, yet he seemed to face the difficulties in life with grace and acceptance. In 2009, Norman was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and spent the rest of his years in treatment.

    Norman was also a medical marijuana patient. For nearly two years, Norman took part in a rare clinical trial to combat his liver cancer. During the trial, Norman smoked medical marijuana as an adjunct to his treatment, and was the only patient out of 60 to have a successful remission, earning him the moniker of “Miracle Man.”

    In September 2010, Norman became eligible for a liver transplant at Cedars-Sinai, where he was receiving treatment and where he obtained a recommendation for medical marijuana from his oncologist. However, Norman was removed from the transplant list by Cedars in February 2011 after testing positive for marijuana.

    In August 2011, Norman stopped smoking medical marijuana in order to adhere to Cedars’ requirements, which were remarkably stringent: 6 months of drug abuse counseling and random drug testing. Americans for Safe Access tried to intervene by urging Cedars to change its policy and by bringing attention to Norman’s plight. Tragically, despite compelling publicity from media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and Reason TV, and Norman’s compliance with the hospital’s 6-month requirement, Cedars refused to put him back on the transplant list.

    After he stopped smoking marijuana, Norman’s cancer returned and he was subjected to further chemotherapy instead of being given a transplant for which he should have been eligible, but for his medical marijuana consumption. Norman fought as long as he could and eventually passed this July.

    One of the many redeeming qualities about Norman was his selfless interest in helping others forgo what he had to go through. Unfortunately, Norman was not alone in being denied organ transplants at Cedars and many other hospitals across the country. Most recently, Toni Trujillo was kicked off the kidney transplant list at Cedars-Sinai for her medical marijuana use.

    Notably, over the past four years, there have been numerous reports of patients being purged from transplant lists across California, as well as in other medical marijuana states like Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. In 2008, Seattle resident and medical marijuana patient Timothy Garon died after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center. A year later, in 2009, Big Island resident and medical marijuana patient Kimberly Reyes died at Hilo Hospital after being denied a liver transplant.

    Norman, Timothy, Kimberly, Toni and all of the other patients who have benefited from medical marijuana deserve better from our health care system. Norman knew best how politics have trumped science and medicine, and he paid for it with his life.

    Norman will not be forgotten, and his wish that no one else follow in his footsteps is a rallying cry for the rest of us to change harmful policies such as those indefensibly upheld by Cedars and hospitals like it.
  • Cannabis News Around the Nation

    Two weeks of medical cannabis news in review.
    • Congresswoman Introduces Bill to Protect Landlords of Compliant Medical Marijuana Businesses - ASA PR
    • Michigan court rules localities cannot use federal law as an excuse for violating state laws protecting medical cannabis patients - The Detroit News
    • Case on Benefits of Marijuana Heads to Court - Huffington Post
    • LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl comes out at as a medical cannabis patient - LA Times
    • Detailed Rules for Medical Marijuana Proposed in Maine - Kennebec Journal
    • Pharmacy Shutdown Hoax Revealed - San Diego ASA
    • Medical Marijuana Advocates Mourn Pot Club Closures with Mock Funeral - SF Weekly
    • Arizona prosecutors urge Governor Jan Brewer to end the medical marijuana program, citing threats from federal prosecutors. The Governor declined to intervene - Arizona Republic
    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • Lee's HR 6335 Would End the Assault on Landlords in the War on Safe Access

    There are many who suffer the "collateral damage" of the war on safe access to medical cannabis. Patients who must suffer or break the law to obtain medicine, as well as their loved ones and providers are some of the more well known victims in this federal assault. However, the overzealous actions of US Attorneys at the Department of Justice (DOJ) have brought to light another group suffering from our utterly nonsensical federal medical cannabis policy - the landlords who lease property to dispensaries.

    On Thursday, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced HR 6335 (text), the  the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act. The bill would stop the seizure of property from landlords of state law-compliant medical marijuana businesses, and was introduced less than a month after US Attorney Melinda Haag began forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of Harborside, the well-known dispensary who's Oakland location is in Lee's district.

    Facing Peril Unforeseeable Based on Prior Federal Rhetoric

    Landlords in states with medical cannabis laws have every reason to believe and expect that when a business presents them with a legitimate business license issued by the state and/or local municipality, that such a business is not breaking any laws merely for existing. In fact, based upon President Obama's instance that he was no longer going after medical cannabis patients and that we no longer have a "war" on drugs, it's perfectly understandable that the average person would not think twice about leasing such a property to medical cannabis dispensary.

    Not only do these landlords have every right to expect that these businesses are OK to lease to, the cost to the landlord to get such a property ready to lease to another customer can be quite expensive. Furthermore, in a time when commercial property owners have a hard enough time finding any tenants, these landlords have made business decisions based on the presumed reliable income that dispensary-tenants provide. When you consider that each crime study regarding dispensary neighborhoods indicates that these facilities are assets rather than liabilities to the community, the wisdom of the DOJ forfeitures is questionable at best.

    US Attorneys Running Roughshod Over Justice

    Speaking of US Attorneys and "questionable" legal thoughts, check out US Attorney Melinda Haag's bizarre and unhinged rational for issuing forfeiture proceedings against Harborside. If sheer size and number of retail sales for things within the Controlled Substances Act was sufficient basis for forfeiture at Harborside, why isn't every CVS, Rite Aide and Walgreens of similar size to Harborside being raided as well. Based on their size, something illegal must be afoot! (Maybe US Attorny Duffy will take up that charge...)

    Civil asset forfeiture is a rather extreme government tactic which some have noted treads dangerously close to offending at least four US Constitutional Amendments, the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th. It forces property owners to prove their innocence rather than have the government prove guilt. Property owners have no right to an attorney or a jury trial in these proceedings. Many have said civil forfeiture should be done away with all together, but if it is to exist, the government must be judicious in its application.

    Lee's HR 6335 Would End this Tactic Against Safe Access

    Americans for Safe Access thanks Congresswoman Lee and the cosponsors of HR 6335 for protecting the property rights of land owners who rent to state-approved and law abiding medical cannabis dispensaries. Contact your Representative today and urge them to cosponsor this much-needed safe access legislation.

     
  • Support HR 6335 to protect patients' access

     

    [caption id="attachment_2990" align="alignleft" width="150"]
    US Rep. Lee[/caption]

    The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is trying to confiscate property used to cultivate or provide medical cannabis to patients, even when it is legal under state law. Americans for safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, needs your help today stop them.

    Take a minute right now to ask your US Representative to co-sponsor and support HR 6335, the “States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act.”

    US Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a HR 6335 last night to stop federal intimidation in the seventeen states and the District of Columbia where medical cannabis is already legal. HR 6335 will prevent the DOJ from using federal civil asset forfeiture laws against medical cannabis cultivators and providers who are in compliance with their state’s medical cannabis laws.



    This is not a hypothetical threat. The DOJ has already initiated civil asset forfeiture proceedings against the property owner of California’s largest medical cannabis patients’ collective, and the threat of additional federal action has sent shock waves through the medical cannabis community nationwide. Numerous providers’ associations have already been closed or evicted in response to federal intimidation.

    Federal civil asset forfeiture laws were created to target large-scale narcotic traffickers, but the DOJ is using these draconian measures to target legally-organized and operated medical cannabis associations. This is fundamentally unfair, and we have to stop it. HR 6335 will prevent the DOJ for misusing the powerful and controversial civil asset forfeiture laws against medical cannabis patients, cultivators, and providers whose conduct is legal under state law.

    Please help ASA stop this injustice. States should be free to permit and regulate the medical use of cannabis. This may eventually lead to a national policy that protects legitimate patients from prosecution and the dangers of the illicit market – if we stop the federal intimidation now. Ask your US Representative to co-sponsor and support HR 6335 today.

    ASA is committed to stopping the federal interference and intimidation, so that patients can have safe access to medicine. But we need your help to fight this battle in Congress, the federal courts, and in the states. Can you please make a contribution of $35, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford to help ASA pass HR 6335 and accomplish our other important work?

    Download a copy of the bill and ASA's Fact Sheet to learn more. Thank you for supporting HR 6335 and ASA.
  • SF patients get creative to protest feds



    Hundreds of ASA members and allies staged a funeral procession through the streets of San Francisco yesterday to protest the closing of the Vapor Room, one of the city’s venerable and legally-permitted medical cannabis patients’ collectives. Protesters with full funeral regalia marched from Vapor Room in the Lower Haight-Ashbury District to Federal Building downtown. But they made a special stop along the way.

    The march stopped briefly at an alley for a little creative street theatre. Activists produced a giant puppet depicting US Attorney Melinda Haag, who orchestrated the current federal crackdown in the San Francisco Bay Area, and performed a satirical ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new “dispensary” for patients: the alley! The oversized action – complete with a long red ribbon, big ceremonial scissors, and the larger-than-life puppet – sent an unmistakable message to the crowd and the media. Closing legally-permitted patients’ associations sends legal patients back to the alleys to find the medicine they need. (More pictures after the jump...)





    The Vapor Room was forced to close after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) threatened the landlord with civil asset forfeiture charges. Civil asset forfeiture is a procedure by which the federal government can confiscate property used to commit a crime. The law was intended to fight large-scale drug trafficking operations; but in this case, the “crime” is providing medical cannabis in accordance with state law! Threats of civil asset forfeiture are a central component of the latest federal crackdown on medical cannabis, which started with a press conference with Ms. Haag and her colleagues last October.

    Unfortunately, they are not just making threats. The DOJ filed civil asset forfeiture actions against another model Bay Area patients’ association last month. Harborside Health Center, the largest medical cannabis facility in the state, is facing a tough fight in federal court now that their property owner is in the federal crosshairs. Federal pressure on Harborside Health Center and other kinds of federal intimidation drew hundreds of protesters to a rally in front of Oakland City Hall during a recent fundraising visit by President Obama.



    San Francisco ASA members and their allies are to be commended for staging a creative and effective action. Events like this one dramatize the issues surrounding the federal crackdown for the community and the media, and that is important to getting the message out. A funeral march, coffins with flowers, a giant puppet, over-sized scissors, and the rest also make great photo opportunities for image-hungry reporters.

    It behooves all of us fighting the federal attack on medical cannabis to be creative in how we tell our story. We are going to need the most effective messages and vehicles for messages that we can get. Do not underestimate the power of one good image in the public eye. Keep up that good work, and we will keep changing minds and winning allies in the fight for safe access!

    Thanks to ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer for coming all the way from Washington, DC, for this event. ASA staff members Courtney Sheats, Tony Bowles, and Hunter Holliman were also present.