Pages tagged "ASA Activism"

  • Visiting with Stephanie Landa

    Jane is a medical marijuana activist and ASA volunteer in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Recently, I joined fellow activists Ana and Chris to make our bi-monthly trek up the 5 freeway for a visit with our friend Stephanie Landa.  Stephanie, a 61 year old mother, is being held at the Dublin Federal Parks Camp, a decrepit women’s minimum security federal prison. The prison, a former World War II Japanese internment camp, sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling golden hills, between a military base and the cookie cutter condo development built to house the soldiers. This prison, however, is not like what you’d imagine.  There are no guard towers, sweeping spotlights, and high barbed wire fences surrounding this facility.  In fact, there are no fences at all. A few inmates over the years have literally just walked away, but most don’t because they hope to reintegrate into society as soon as they are done clicking off days handed down by an arbitrary Sentencing Commission. Everyone knows that if they escape and get caught, the punishment is imprisonment just across the parking lot at the infamous maximum security Santa Rita County Jail, a facility that very much looks just as you’d imagine. At the guard’s desk, we surrender our identification and empty our pockets. The guard gives us a once over, to make sure we are dressed properly (no torn jeans or open-toed shoes as we learned on a previous visit). We log our names as visitors (having already undergone Federal background checks for approval) for Stephanie Landa, Prisoner Number: 09247800, then wait patiently for her to be called. She enters the room from a separate entrance, wearing blue prisoner garb and always a smile, her right arm hangs limply at her side under the pain of her ailing shoulder. We usually sit in the outdoor visiting area and Stephanie fills us in on her life in prison. In prison, there is no privacy. Most women are housed in dormitories in lots of 40. Throughout the night, every two to three hours, guards barge into the dorms for the nightly count, shining flashlights in the eyes of women attempting to sleep. Stephanie was recently upgraded to relatively lavish accommodations: a four bunk room, but she still hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since she arrived. She has very little freedom and personal choices are usually limited to a cheese burrito or a pepperoni microwave pizza from the vending machines. All her mail is read and censored, all phone calls are listened in on, and she can trust no one because everyone is a possible snitch. The wardens pit the women against each other by rewarding any piece of incriminating information. All conversations are subject to eavesdropping; even our conversation in the outdoor visiting area is likely to be listened- in on. She is monitored like a child, having to report to certain places at certain times. She must always obey and behave according to the rules. If she rebels in any way, she will be punished.  Of course, this doesn’t stop her.  Even in jail, she continues to be an activist, for medical marijuana and for improved prison conditions. Despite all this, Stephanie jokes that she thinks she might be becoming institutionalized. She doesn’t like it there, but she is getting used to it.  Eventually, Stephanie will be back in Los Angeles , but for now, it is just a matter of waiting. Not surprisingly, Stephanie is making the best of her time and keeping busy. She is the head of the Dublin Federal Correctional Institute chapter of Toastmasters International (which has record attendance since her takeover), she makes cards to answer every letter she receives, and she has nurtured some amazing crocheting skills (I have a hat and bag to prove it!). Usually, we are able to take pictures with Stephanie, but today, the “picture lady” is unavailable. The last time we took photos, four out of five photos were confiscated by the prison officials. We had posed in front of various signs in the visiting area (Keep of the Grass, the sign for the prison, No Smoking) and apparently someone didn’t like the rare moment of personal expression. In fact, now photos can only be taken in two designated areas.  There was even now a backdrop set up.  Tighter control is constantly being placed on the smallest of freedoms. Visiting hours end at 2 PM. It’s always hard to say good bye. It’s hard to leave her behind. Sometimes Stephanie will smile and ask a guard if she can come home with us, and follow it up with an “OK, just checking.” While we leave to enjoy a nice lunch before heading home, Stephanie must go back into the dormitories, where her life is dictated. The injustice of her conviction is felt acutely. She is eleven months into the forty-month sentence doled out to her for growing medication (plants!) for sick and dying patients. Stephanie has been incarcerated since voluntarily turning herself over to federal authorities on January 4th, 2007. In 2002, after receiving the full cooperation of the SF Board of Supervisors, the SF Medical Marijuana Task Force, and San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, Stephanie, Tom Kikuchi and Kevin Gage were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency by a rogue narcotics detective in the San Francisco Police Department, an action that was in a violation of the city’s Medical Marijuana Sanctuary Resolution. Because they were not allowed to present a medical defense in federal court, all three accepted a plea bargain and plead guilty. Despite 8 SF Supervisors and DA Hallinan writing personal letters to Judge William Alsup asking for leniency in sentencing, she was still sentenced to 41 months, Alsup admitting the sentence was improper but claiming his hands were tied. Stephanie is still a beacon of light and love, despite the circumstances. The one thing that has helped through all of this is the mail she receives. She says that she absolutely lives for mail call. Please, write to Stephanie! FCI DUBLIN SATELLITE CAMP Prisoner Stephanie Landa POW # 09247-800 5675 8TH ST DUBLIN, CA 94568
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA & Local Advocates Prevail in Orange County! From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Supervisor Bates has pulled her motion to deny collectives and cooperatives licenses from the Board’s agenda. The decision stems from input from ASA and her constituents at and following the October 30th Board of Supervisor’s meeting. This is great news for patients in that traditionally underserved county, and it also keeps the statewide momentum flowing towards regulating safe access – not preventing it. Thanks to all the patients and concerned citizens who chimed in to make a difference! We must all stay vigilant in case another threat pops up… so keep your eyes on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and other local government. Check out my November 5 blog on the last minute campaign to stop this ban at http://AmericansforSafeAccess.org/OrangeCountyBlog DEA Raids Long Beach Dispensary DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Cooperative yesterday. ASA is awaiting further details on the raid. A patient that was there claims that DEA raided LBCC 5 minutes after they opened yesterday morning. DEA took the medicine and harassed the volunteers, but we still have not heard of any arrests. Please post any news on the raid at our forum, http://www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/LongBeachRaid Tom Kikuchi Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced yesterday to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Tom Kikuchi, Stephanie Landa, and Kevin Gage, a noted Hollywood actor, accepted a plea agreement in 2003. This case drew attention because San Francisco police apparently turned her and two others over to federal prosecutors. The three had met with the city’s district attorney and police officials before beginning cultivation. For more information about the case and Tom Kikuchi's hearing, read Vanessa Nelson's article at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, Argues in Federal Court on the Data Quality Act Case This week, ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, gave oral arguments in front of Federal Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco.  Mr. Elford gave arguments seeking an answer from the HHS regarding the Data Quality Act petition.   ASA filed a Data Quality Act (DQA) petition on October 4, 2004, requesting that HHS correct its information being disseminated regarding the medical use of marijuana. The DQA requires federal agencies, like HHS, to ensure that the information it distributes is fair, objective and meets certain quality guidelines.  After numerous delays, HHS denied ASA’s petition on April 20, 2005. ASA quickly filed an appeal, and after even more delays, on July 12, 2006, HHS denied the appeal. Having exhausted its administrative remedies, ASA filed a lawsuit on February 21, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, naming HHS and FDA, and challenging the government’s violation of the Data Quality Act. An amended complaint was subsequently filed on August 17, 2007.  Mr. Elford's arguments called for an answer from HHS in a timely manor.  We expect a ruling from Judge Alsup within a few weeks. Mendocino County Supervisors Send Medical Marijuana Regulations Back to Committee This week, Mendocino County Supervisors voted to send the proposed medical marijuana regulations back to committee.  The proposed dispensary regulations which were sent back to committee put a cap on only 2 dispensaries in the large county.  It has also been criticized as having unattainable regulations which will put up roadblocks for providers and patients.  The current draft of the regulations will be amended in the Criminal Justice Committee. Just two months ago, the CJ committee made recommendations to limit the number of plants a patient is allowed to have.  In response, the same Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance calling for the county to honor the voters' wishes as specified in measure G and to keep the guidelines at 25 plants per patient. The Board of Supervisors rejected the Criminal Justice committee's recommendation to lower the County's limits to 6 mature and 12 immature plants. Activists in Mendocino County are hoping the Criminal Justice committee scraps the regulations all together.  To find out how you can help in Mendocino County and ensure safe access, please contact Bruce at:  [email protected].
  • Advocacy in a Hurry

    Sometimes, medical cannabis advocates have plenty of time to prepare in advance for an important vote at their City Council or County Board of Supervisors. We can write letters and make phone calls to elected officials, prepare a speech for public comments, and even rally the troops by inviting friends and loved ones to attend a meeting.

    In other cases, however, you may have to jump and run when you learn about a challenge or opportunity in your community. That is exactly what happened last week in Orange County, when Supervisor Bates quietly introduced an ordinance that would have prohibited the County from issuing any licenses, permits, or allowances for an activity that violates local, state, or federal law. Nothing in her ordinance mentioned medical cannabis, but if adopted, it would have been a de facto ban on medical cannabis patients’ dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of Orange County. This is a tactic already used successfully in at least two Orange County cities.

    County staff failed to realize the significance of Bates’ eleventh-hour proposal for medical cannabis patients until an alert aide in Supervisor’s Norby’s office realized what was about to happen – less than twenty-four hours before the vote! Supervisor Norby has always been a strong supporter of medical cannabis, and asked his staff to contact ASA right away. News reached our office at 3 PM on Monday, October 29. By that time, there were only two hours left in the workday before the Board convened to vote at 9 AM on Tuesday morning.

    I left short telephone message for all five supervisors, then followed up with a longer email explaining that regulating collectives was a better option than banning them. I asked them to table the matter until they had a chance to read ASA’s report on the positive outcomes of regulations statewide and review LA County’s year-old ordinance. Then I called a handful of dedicated local advocates to invite them to speak at the Board meeting the next morning. Finally, I used ASA’s Southern California announcement list and new discussion forums to alert the grassroots of the challenge.

    The other speakers and I were successful in persuading the Board to table the issue for more study, giving us the time we need to sell them on the benefits of regulation. I anticipate Orange County will now follow LA’s lead towards sensible regulations, instead of San Diego’s path of obstruction. That’s good news for patients in Orange County, and a strategic victory for the statewide campaign! As an added benefit, we were able to show some grassroots support for Supervisor Norby, who recently joined ASA in calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to stand up for patients.

    The lesson from Orange County is to be prepared in advance to act quickly. Do you know where to find the telephone numbers and email addresses of your local representatives? Most cities and counties have web sites list this information. Do you know what to say if you have to speak at a meeting or to the media? (You can find talking points for issues like these on the ASA web site.) Do you know whom to call to help you out? You could organize a small group of advocates in your city to be a medical cannabis “strike force” that can act on short notice. Your local ASA Chapter is a great place to find your team.

    Perhaps the most important thing to do is to make a personal commitment to act in your community when there is a challenge or an opportunity. The outcome in your city or county may depend on whether or not you and your neighbors are prepared to take responsibility for defending patients’ rights and safe access. So get prepared, stay alert, and take action… no matter how short the notice!

  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA and Orange County Medical Marijuana Activists Achieve a Victory for Safe Access! From ASA California Campaign Director, Don Duncan The Orange County Board of Supervisors decided this week to delay a vote on banning medical cannabis collectives after Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and local advocates expressed concern about the impact on patients and the process through which the item suddenly appeared on the Board’s agenda. Supervisor Bates’ eleventh-hour motion would have prohibited the county from issuing permits, licenses, or allowances for any activity that violates federal law, a back door approach to banning collectives already used in two Orange County cities. ASA and advocates did not get word of Supervisor Bates’ motion until the afternoon before the early morning hearing. I asked the Board to table the issue to allow more time to consider how other jurisdictions are regulating collectives, including neighboring Los Angeles County. I told the Board that concerns over abuse of the state’s medical cannabis laws are valid, but that regulations are the best tool for protecting patients and communities. I left each Board Member with a copy or our report on the outcomes of regulations for collectives in cities and counties all over California and some information about what the County and City of Los Angeles are doing to effectively regulate their facilities. You can read the report at http://www.AmericansForsafeAccess.org/DispensaryReport The Board also heard from William Britt of the Association of Patient Advocates. Mr. Britt told the Supervisors that banning collectives would harm patients and was inconsistent with the Board’s decision in April to issue Medical Cannabis ID Cards mandated under CA Health and Safety Code 11362.71 (SB-420). A local patient told the Board that there is insufficient access to affordable medicine in Orange County, and this motion would only make things worse. The Board voted unanimously to continue the motion until December 4. ASA will continue to educate the Board about compassionate and sensible alternatives before that vote. Congratulations to advocates for their quick and effective response to this unanticipated vote. DEA Strikes East Bay Collective and Facilities On Tuesday, the DEA raided the Compassionate Patients Cooperative of California (CPCC) in Hayward, arresting the two operators, Winslow and Abraham Norton. The raid began in the early morning on Tuesday with the DEA shattering the collective's patients intake center glass door and then moving on to the actual dispensary next door. During that time the Norton Brothers were arrested and their homes were raided. They were taken into custody and held overnight without bail. CPCC had a permit from Alameda County, authorized by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to operate. The permit required that they follow stringent regulations and allow the Sheriff's Department to conduct monthly inspections. They did not have any permit violations during their time of operation in Alameda County. ASA activists, patients, and staff received the news via ASA's Emergency Text Messaging System and sprung into action. While a handful of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco activists came out to show their support, several CPCC collective members showed up to the collective with the intent of getting their medicine and stayed to protest the attack on safe access in Alameda County. The group of protesters drew a crowd of onlookers and local media. NBC 11, KTVU Channel 2, and the Daily Review were just a few of the many media outlets that covered the story. See video from the raid here: http://www.bayareanewsgroup.com/multimedia/iba/2007/player/?f=1030pot Alameda County Sheriff's officers were at the site of the raiding claiming to be there for "crowd control." The officers carried batons and weapons and stared the crowd down with only the yellow tape between them and the patients. The County police went so far as to post an officer on the roof of the collective with what appeared to be a tear gas gun. While the dispensary raid was happening, several other facilities in association with CPCC were raided by the DEA in a joint operation involving DEA, Berkeley PD, Oakland PD, and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. Tuesday's raids in Hayward were the third major attack on patients and providers in the Bay Area in less than a month. Bay Area activists, patients, and providers will be continuing to bolster their emergency response plans to ensure large protests at future raids. To sign up for ASA's Emergency Raid Response Text Messaging System, go to www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert ASA will report further details on the Norton brothers' status and the collective as information comes in. DEA Raids Orange County Collective and Operator's Home Yesterday, the DEA arrested Steele Smith at his home in Fullerton at 6:00 in the morning. At the same time, Smith's dispensary, C-3 Collective in Garden Grove, and one other home in association with the collective was raided. One of the collective's employees and Smith’s wife were arrested as well. They had a bail hearing today at 2:00pm in Los Angeles. ASA will continue to report further details as we receive them. Orange County ASA will be meeting on November 14th to discuss support for the Smiths and C-3 Collective. See "ASA Chapter and Affiliate Meetings" for more details.
  • DEA Raids Hayward Dispensaries, but Activists Don't Stand Down

    Justin Alan Ryan is an independent professional and medical cannabis advocate, activist, and patient from Texas living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Beginning early in the morning, October 30, 2007, the DEA raided several locations connected to Compassionate Patients' Cooperative of California (CPCC). Medical Cannabis supporters from around the SF Bay trekked to a far southeast outpost of our thriving safe access community after receiving SMS messages from ASA's alert system. In addition to various federal agents, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department came in tow, at least twenty strong by noontime, though the facility being raided has been issued a license by the county. In contrast to a raid that occurred in LA the day of our mobilization to the governor's office, these officers were slightly more laid back, presented less of a unified front, and after some time in many cases were joking and laughing, maybe at us, who knows. A number of folks on our side of the tape observed that a small group of women present within the law enforcement faction were assigned the duty of sweeping up the broken glass from a door that probably could easily have been opened without force, which is perhaps representative of how out of date the opposition to our issue are in every aspect of existance. Due especially, I'm sure, to the time of day this raid was executed, at least a handful of patients joined the protest when they found they couldn't get any medicine at CPCC, and many apparent patients drove away without stopping, sporting alarmed and surprised looks. By the time we had been out for a couple of hours or more, the numbers of officers grew, eventually including a fellow proudly sporting an automatic teargas gun, roughly aimed at a group of less than ten nonviolent protestors, a staff member of a county supervisor, and a couple of television cameras. All in all, I'd say our community responded very well given the time of the raid, it's just a shame that having great community support won't increase the level of access for patients in this remote area of the SF Bay, our best hope for now is probably that it can keep the operators out of prison.
  • A Sad Day in Montana, and across the Country - In Remebrance of Robin Prosser

    It is a sad day for the people of Montana, medical marijuana advocates, and people anywhere who are sympathetic to the plight of the sick and dying. Robin Prosser, a Missoula, Montana medical marijuana patient, and a powerful activist fighting for the rights of patients, took her life on October 18. She will be remembered in the struggle for a compassionate and humane federal policy on medical marijuana. Robin was a fighter. She encountered many obstacles, but many victories along the way. In 2002, she sustained a 60-day hunger strike in order to bring attention to her need  for medical marijuana, as well as a need for the protection of patients. In 2004, Robin was charged with possession of an illegal substance and paraphernalia, but managed to fight the charges and continue to use medical marijuana. Arguably, the attention Robin gave to the issue in the preceding years helped to pass I-148, the Montana Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) of 2004. However, even with the passage of the much-needed MMMA, Robin's troubles were not over. In 2007, a UPS package was intercepted from her registered caregiver by the DEA. The package was her twice-monthly shipment of 20 grams of medical marijuana. Though no federal charges were ever filed against Robin, the action by DEA agents was a clear attempt to intimidate her and others. In fact, the DEA's involvement is representative of increased attacks on patients in states with medical marijuana laws. It is part of a last-ditch effort to avoid a federal policy change. I had a chance to talk with Robin shortly after the DEA seized her medical marijuana and she informed me at the time that she had no other way to obtain the medicine she relied on to treat her severe pain and nausea caused by an immunosuppressive disorder she had endured for more than 20 years. Robin was rightfully angry and despondent. It is a shame that we have lost another activist in this struggle. It is shameful that the DEA either cannot see the harm it is inflicting, or is cognizant of the consequences of its actions but refuses to change course. Regardless, it's a tragedy. Robin will be missed, but we must carry on her strong activist conviction.
  • ASA's Trip to LA: Protest, DEA Raid & Interviews

    ASA's trip to LA two weeks ago for the rally calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Patients' Rights was apparently well documented. On Thursday, hundreds of patients and advocates rallied outside of Governor Schwarzenegger's Los Angeles office: Later that night, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. ASA and LA activists jumped into motion and coordinated a protest outside of the dispensary: During the weekend, Dean Becker interviewed me for a documentary he's working on, and I discussed the increase in raids and ASA's response to DEA actions (my interview follows the one with Dr. Mitch Earlywine):
  • News From Dallas: ASA on the Road

    ASA Participates in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's National Conference! This week, ASA Executive Director, Steph Sherer, Government Affairs Director, Caren Woodson, and I traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the annual National Multiple Sclerosis Society's 2007 National Conference in an effort to continue to build a coalition of condition-based groups and expand ASA MS Patients' Union. We staffed our educational outreach exhibit and discussed safe access to marijuana with a receptive audience of people living with MS, their family-members, caregivers, and advocates. We also were afforded the opportunity to broaden our knowledge about both the National MS Society and the innovations in Multiple Sclerosis research and treatment. The overall reception from conference participants has been very encouraging. Many people remembered us from last year's conference. Others were introduced to medical cannabis as treatment for symptoms associated with MS for the first time. Building on the momentum generated from an article published earlier this year by InsideMS, "Considering Cannabis," We have been introducing several MS Society chapter leaders, members, and staff to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and it's ability to treat several symptoms associated with MS. Since ASA participated in last year's conference, the National MS Society has implemented a Cannabis Task Force, led by MS expert, Dr. Alan J. Thompson, to, "review published studies on medical marijuana and make recommendations." Read more about the objectives of the task force in the Considering Cannabis article. Click here to read more about ASA's Patients' Unions.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    Arcata City Council and Local Activists Reach a Working Compromise for Safe Access This week, Arcata City Council voted unanimously to establish a medical marijuana working group in an effort to protect the community and patients' rights. Humboldt County ASA and other local activists attended the meeting in support of the effort, while voicing concerns about regulations. This effort came about as a compromise between local medical cannabis supporters and the city council. Earlier in October, members of the council had expressed concerns about lack of security and safety regulations at medical cannabis grow houses. Rather than taking drastic measures to ban medical cannabis grow houses, at the urging of the community, the council decided to implement a working group to assess the need for and then begin to develop regulations. The medical cannabis working group will first examine the community's need for regulations, while being mindful of patients' rights. They will then focus on establishing a task force which will develop zoning regulations and guidelines for medical marijuana grow houses. Read more about the new working group in the Eureka Reporter. Landlord Letters Come to Orange County In continuation of the DEA's recent trend targeting innocent third parties, this week, landlords in Orange County received asset forfeiture letters. These letters threaten to confiscate the landlords' properties if they do not cooperate with the DEA and evict dispensing collective tenants. The DEA, once more, has chosen to victimize an innocent third party, property owners, in its ongoing war on medical cannabis. This trend of targeting innocent people has been seen in other Southern California cities such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach. We need a political fix for this problem in the immediate future. The DEA is continuing to go to drastic measures like these to undermine California state law. This is yet another reason Governor Schwarzenegger needs to stand up for patients' rights and defend California's medical marijuana laws. Click here to send a message to the Governor urging him to stand up for patents' rights. We must put an end to the mindless victimization of innocent citizens! To sign up to receive the weekly round up by email, click here.