Pages tagged "Arizona"


AZ Supreme Court gets it right. Are other states listening?

The Arizona Supreme Court overturned a law this week that made it a crime to drive with any detectable amount of an illegal drug in your blood, including medical cannabis. This is an important victory for patients in Arizona, and we hope, the beginning of a more rational national conversation about medical cannabis and driving while impaired. Patients are at risk when lawmakers ignore the science of medical cannabis use and criminalize those who are obeying state medical cannabis laws.

Regular medical cannabis users will almost always have metabolites for cannabis in their blood or urine. Metabolites are simple compounds that remain in the body after we digest and otherwise process food, drugs, or other substances. Cannabis use is usually detected in a blood or urine test by screening the sample for metabolites of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active compounds in cannabis. These metabolites can remain in blood or urine for days to weeks depending on numerous factors. That means a regular medical cannabis user will test positive for metabolites long after he or she is potentially impaired to a degree that could affect driving.

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Another State Appellate Court Holds That the Police Must Return Medical Marijuana That Was Seized from a Qualified Patient

Although the case of Arizona v. Okun arises out of Arizona, the patient whose marijuana was seized is from California.  While driving across the California-Arizona boarder at Yuma, qualified California medical marijuana patient Valerie Okun was stopped at a border patrol checkpoint and her medical marijuana was seized.  Because Arizona law includes protections for medical marijuana patients from other states, the charges against Okun were dropped, so she asked for her marijuana back, and the cops refused.  This had been an all too familiar story in California as well, until the Court of Appeal resolved the issue in favor of medical marijuana patients in the Americans for Safe Access-litigated case Garden Grove v. Superior Court (Cal. App. 2007) 68 Cal.Rptr.3d 656.

As in California’s Garden Grove opinion and Oregon’s State v. Kama (Or. App. 2002), the court found that state law mandates the return of marijuana where it is shown that it is lawfully possessed under the state’s medical marijuana laws.  Relying on these cases, the court held that federal law does not require a contrary outcome, since a federal immunity provision, 21 U.S.C. section 885(d), provides immunity to state and local police who lawfully administer state law relating to controlled substances.  Thus, the immunity provision allows for harmony between state and federal laws.  The Okun court went on to deny standing to the State of Arizona in arguing that federal law preempts state law.

Chalk up another victory to medical marijuana patients who have been harassed by the police.

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.

 

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.

Gov. Brewer Orders Arizona to Start Processing Dispensary Applications

The good news that came out last week for Arizona medical cannabis patients got even better today. Having a week to digest the impact of having her lawsuit thrown out of federal court on Jan. 4th, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer has announced she will not re-file. More significant (and quite a pleasant surprise) was the following statement by Brewer:

“I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."


This is fantastic news, although any credit given to Brewer needs to be put in context. The AZ Governor has actively worked to prevent the program, and even qualified her encouraging statement above by saying, “[i]t is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203.” With that in mind, it will be important to keep an eye on the response Brewer gets back from U.S. Attorney forArizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, asking for federal government’s position on state employees regulating dispensaries. However, last week’s resounding dismissal of Brewer’s case should be indicative that regardless of Scheel’s response, the program must still move forward.

Medical cannabis dispensaries will finally be coming to Arizona. It’s still a question of when, but it looks like they’ll be arriving much sooner than anyone previously expected.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this entry stated that AZ would begin processing applications prior to completion of the state-level lawsuit. Applications will not be processed until completion of this lawsuit. Thank you to those who pointed out the error.

Proposition 203 and Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/prop203/

Pending Lawsuit: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/CompassionFirst-v-Arizona.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Judge Tosses AZ Governor Brewer's Attempt at Blocking Voter Initiative

In a major victory for safe access in the Grand Canyon state, a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who must now implement the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).


Brewer’s lawsuit was technically filed under the guise of protecting state workers from federal prosecution, but in reality was a thinly veiled attempt to thwart the will of the majority of Arizona voters who passed the AMMA in 2010. In fact, the lawsuit bordered on the absurd, as it attempted to utilize 20 fictitious defendants as part of the basis for the case.  However, Brewer’s refusal to fully implement AMMA has not stopped her from collecting nearly $3 million in fees from the approximately 19,000 Arizonans who have registered as patients. What’s more is Brewer’s own lawsuit admits that she, along with “employees and officers of the State of Arizona have a mandatory duty to implement and oversee the administration of the AMMA,” (emphasis added).

Not only does Americans for Safe Access agree with the Governor’s assertion that the Arizona government has a mandatory obligation to implement the AMMA, but on behalf of patients and caregivers, we demand the swift implementation of the program. For some Arizonans, yesterday’s victory came years, months, weeks, or perhaps even mere days too late. Now is the time for Governor Brewer to act so that no more patients in Arizona suffer needlessly as the expense of political posturing.

Ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton (contains the text quoted above from Brewer's lawsuit): http://www.scribd.com/doc/77175415/Mmj-Lawsuit-Dismissed

Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/rules/index.htm#statutes

Victory in Arizona!

Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, making that state the 15th to legalize medical cannabis. Supporters are celebrating the results after ten days of uncertainty during which victory seemed to be slipping away. Patients and advocates deserve congratulations. Proposition 203 is an important step forward for Arizona and in the state-by-state march to bring safe access to patients nationwide. Adopting state initiatives and passing legislation is a crucial step, but we can see from our experience that state medical cannabis laws do not necessarily translate into support from the state’s Congressional delegation. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal since 1996, long-time Senators Feinstein and Boxer have yet to pick up the mantle of safe access. Control of the US House of Representatives has shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans. This will test the Obama Administration’s evolving policy on state-based answers for medical cannabis. It is more important than ever that Americans for Safe Access (ASA) bring an educated and empowered constituency with real solutions to the table. We have to show policymakers how to bridge the divide between federal and state laws regarding medical cannabis – and prove that there is a safe political space to make it happen. Let’s celebrate our victory in Arizona; and then get down to the hard work of moving Congress and changing federal law. We still have a lot of work to do in ending the arrests and prosecutions of patients, ending the ban on research, and creating an access plan for the entire nation. Suggested Action: Email the US Senate Judiciary Committee about confirmation hearings for DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

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.