Pages tagged "ASA Chapters"

  • 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.
  • LA at a Crossroads

    The Los Angeles City Council will choose between two competing motions concerning medical cannabis in the near future, and the outcome will have long-term implications for legal patients in the city. One path leads to an outright ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives; while the other may settle dozens of lawsuits, complies with existing case law, and fulfils the voters’ will for a safe and regulated access program. It should be an easy choice. But everything about medical cannabis is controversial in the state’s largest city, and what happens here could have repercussions around the state and nation. That is why Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and a growing coalition of advocates, organized labor, and other stakeholders are gearing up for what may be the last battle for safe access at City Hall.



    ASA has been working with the city since 2005 to stop a ban on legal cooperatives and collectives and adopt workable regulations. This is an important, because research conducted by ASA and the experience of the last sixteen years show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints, while preserving access for patients. That is what voters want. A poll conducted by EMC Research last November demonstrated that seventy-seven percent of voters favor the regulation and control of medical cannabis.

    City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander made a motion to ban all medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city – even those that have tried in good faith to comply with the city’s troubled regulatory scheme. Council Members Huizar and Englander call their motion the “gentle ban,” because it would “allow” legal patients to grow their own medicine at home. That right is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and further protected by the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The term “gentle ban” is a face-saving euphemism. The Huizar-Englander motion would create an ordinance that bans all patients’ associations, but gives no other option to the large majority of patients who do not or cannot grow their own medicine.

    There is an alternative. Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson have introduced a competing measure that would allow for approximately one hundred patients’ cooperatives and collectives distributed throughout the city. Their motion complies with a recent Appellate Court decision, Pack v. City of Long Beach, which if upheld by the California Supreme Court, will prevent cities from authorizing conduct prohibited under federal law (like providing medical cannabis). This “limited immunity” approach may also help settle dozens of lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles and patients’ associations. Better still, the Koretz-Wesson motion would create an ordinance that finally regulates medical cannabis provision in the city – something most Angelinos still want to see.

    Which option the City Council chooses may depend on what patients and advocates do right now. The City Council could consider one or both of the motions at any time. Public outcry has prevented medical cannabis opponents on the City Council and at the City Attorney’s office from fast-tracking the so-called “gentle ban” and derailing the “limited immunity” option so far. The growing coalition of medical cannabis allies now includes the influential UFCW Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty Los Angeles patients’ associations. UFCW Local 770 hosted a press conference on the issue at City Hall last week, and their action alert for City Council Members is helping keep pressure on City Hall. The voice of organized labor is just one of many to join a growing coalition committed to defeating the “gentle ban” or overturning it with a voter referendum.

    This is a fight Angelinos have to fight, but everyone should be paying attention. If medical cannabis opponents succeed in banning patients’ cooperatives and collectives here, it will be a green light for other jurisdictions. We need to stop the momentum for bans in Los Angeles, before it reaches a critical mass. The City of Los Angeles is a trend setter, for better of for worse. Patients and advocates nationwide will suffer if the story of Los Angeles is one of confusion, delay, litigation, and finally a ban. The Koretz-Wesson motion is a chance to take back the momentum and get this influential city back on track. But it will not happen if those of us in the city do not dig in our heels and fight before the choice is made.

    What can you do? Use the UFCW Local 770’s online action alert to send a message to City Hall right now. Then plan to join the Los Angeles Chapter of ASA on Saturday to plan the next steps. The LA-ASA meeting is at 1:00 PM on Saturday, June 16, in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • California's Unity Vigil: supporting medical cannabis POWs

    The recent California Unity Conference provided an opportunity for California’s medical cannabis patients, caregivers, allies and associates to come together to initiate a successful, informative and vital discussion with our community and our lawmakers. But while we focused on the future of our movement, we also took time to mourn those we have lost.

    Sunday night before the Lobby Day, Unity Conference participants gathered at the Sacramento Federal Courthouse, coming together in vigil for medical marijuana prisoners of war, the aggressive forced closures of our state's dispensaries, and brave patients who have passed away before seeing an end to this struggle. Sacramento patients had been mobilizing weekly at the Federal Courthouse since the first week of this year, supporting each other and the victims of the drug war. But this gathering was especially bittersweet, and not just because we were joined by our brothers and sisters from across the state.

    We Sacramento area advocates recently learned the crushing news of the passing of our dear friend and activist Joy Cole. Among numerous projects that Joy had spearheaded with our local ASA Chapter, Sac Patients, was organizing the weekly candlelight vigil group. Joy had also stood up in support of POWs Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer, rallying before their surrender to federal marshals while ASA organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials in 10 medical marijuana states, as part of our “Sick & Tired” campaign. Despite the effects of battling cancer, Joy was a constant voice for patient rights - whether behind a sign, behind a microphone before city and county officials, or behind a pen, writing to lawmakers and newspaper editors.

    Unity Conference gatherers took a moment of silence for all of our brothers and sisters who can longer fight for safe access, having lost their life or their freedom. We closed the evening inspired to continue the momentum of our movement.

    We hope you have the opportunity to find inspiration in supporting fellow patients and standing up for medical cannabis prisoners and those awaiting trial. Check out Supporting POWs in ASA's training center. Reach out to local ASA Chapters, Ambassadors and Allied Organizations to coordinate court support, and if you live in California, sign up to receive ASA's California Roundup, a weekly email highlighting news and actions from around the state.

    Courtney Sheats is ASA’s Sacramento Community Liason.
  • CA Unity Conference: You Can Still Be a Part of History

    ASA’s California Unity Conference was a huge success. For two days, 200 advocates learned about the steps our movement needs to take to be successful, met and networked with advocates from their regions, and trained in a variety of tools to advance our cause. On the third day, an unprecedented 300 patient advocates stormed the Sacramento Capitol to bring our message directly to the lawmakers. It was an inspiring moment.


    If you couldn’t attend our conference, you can participate virtually. Below you can watch the video by lawmakers encouraging us to lobby our representatives. You can download our workbook as a PDF, and use it to learn how to speak effectively to your elected representatives - in California and beyond.

    The crowning achievement of the conference was our mass lobby day, when 300 activists from across the state lobbied their representatives in support of AB2312 and SB1182. We had constituents from 70 of the 80 Assembly Districts and 36 of the 40 Senate districts - a statewide turnout that in the past has only been matched by California’s heaviest-hitting interest groups. Our medical cannabis advocates were well-trained and well-informed, and we showed Sacramento that patients are a political force to be reckoned with!

    You can multiply our efforts

    Even if you could not be there to talk to your representatives in person, you can lobby for sensible statewide regulation from the comfort of your own home. Go to ASA’s Online Action Center to look up your California Assemblymember and Senator, and email and call them to ask them to support AB2312 and SB1182. Please do so this week, as the vote will happen by Friday night. It is your support that will multiply the work of the advocates at the conference, and bring safe access to California.

    Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the conference, our movement has made a giant step forward. We will be building on this success in other parts of the country as the struggle for safe access continues. Stay tuned, and thanks for your support!

  • Sonoma Advocates Host Election Forum

    Note from Steph - This is an awesome way to inform your community while educating candidates and your future elected representatives. Kudos to Kumari and Sarah Shrader for arranging this forum!
    [caption id="attachment_2646" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="Sonoma County"]
    [/caption]Candidates for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will voice their views on medical marijuana in a public forum to be held tomorrow, Wednesday May 23rd, at the Sonoma County Central Library located at 3rd and E Streets in Santa Rosa. The Forum is hosted by the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana (SAMM) and the Sonoma County Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), and will be facilitated by Santa Rosa attorney, Joe Rogoway. The event begins at 5pm and goes until 7:30pm.

    The forum presents an opportunity to hear candidates’ positions on a number of relevant, local, medical cannabis issues. A question and answer period will follow the candidates’ statements. Admission is free and the public is invited. Wheelchair accessible. Refreshments provided.

    This is an exciting and important election because 3 of the 5 seats on the Board are open. There are 11 candidates vying for these 3 seats. The Primary Election on June 5th will determine the top 2 candidates for each seat, and those candidates will face off in the November 6th final election. Whoever wins those 3 seats in November will determine the future of medical cannabis in our county.

    In the 1st district, there are 6 candidates contending for Valerie Brown's seat. In the 3rd district there are 2 candidates including incumbent Shirlee Zane. The 5th district has 3 candidates including incumbent Efren Carillo. Candidates have been asked to complete a survey in advance; their responses will be made available to attendees and all inquiring parties.

    The Board is a key decision maker for local medical cannabis policies. It determines guidelines for possession and cultivation; sets dispensary regulations; and approves dispensary permits, consistent with state laws, Prop. 215 and SB420. Members of the Board also approve the budgets for the Sonoma County Sheriff and District Attorney offices.

    SAMM was formed in 1996 after California voters passed into law Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act of l996" which allows Californians to use marijuana as medicine. Sonoma County voters supported the initiative by more than 70%. ASA is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Sonoma chapter of ASA has been active for almost 10 years, and holds monthly meetings that are open to the public.

    Through the years, SAMM and ASA have worked with the Sheriff's Office, District Attorney, Department of Health, City Councils, County Board of Supervisors, Sonoma County Medical Association, and the Narcotics Task Force. They have worked together to establish policies and ordinances for medical marijuana patients, caregivers, small cooperatives, and medical cannabis dispensing collectives. Both are non-profit, volunteer, educational organizations. Neither distributes cannabis. More information about SAMM can be found at www.samm.net.
  • San Francisco: Why I'm Attending the CA Unity Conference

    Note from Steph: The conference agenda has been posted online. I can't wait to see you in Sacramento!

    Why am I attending the California Unity Conference? Because the federal government continues to undermine state and local medical marijuana laws - resulting in the closure of some of San Francisco’s oldest and best-regulated dispensing collectives, and scaring patients who fear reprisal from law enforcement just for using their medicine. We are being put to the ultimate test to see whether or not our community has the strength and adversity to protect and defend safe access. Right now, support from our elected representatives is jeopardized because of misinformation being spread by our opponents. We must stop these attacks on medical cannabis and take back the momentum for patients.

    How do we stop this? By informing legislators of the facts. The truth is that regulated dispensaries benefit communities by providing access for the most seriously ill and injured, and reduce crime in the vicinity when well-regulated. The use of medical marijuana under the care and supervision of a licensed medical professional consistently carries 80% support in nation-wide polling, but only small minority have actually taken action. Our opponents are a well-funded, very vocal minority. So we need our majority of supporters to be very vocal! That means all of you!

    Are you ready for this fight? I am. Join hundreds of medical cannabis patients and advocates for the California Unity Conference in Sacramento May 19-21, to shape the state’s medical cannabis laws during this legislative cycle and beyond, and learn how to create successful pro-patient actions in your community.

    Why do we fight? Because all patients deserve safe access to medicine. No matter where you live in California, or in the USA, ASA works tirelessly to implement common-sense regulations that will allow safe access for patients. Discrimination of medical cannabis patients must stop now: they deserve same rights as any other patient. So let’s tell our state reps to stop spreading lies and playing politics with patients’ lives.

    I've watched other causes succeed with less support. I know we can win this; but it will take a large number of people. We've already seen what we can accomplish with our SF United Campaign. On April 3rd, we rallied over 600 people on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to save safe access. We managed to get a statement from the mayor, we helped the San Francisco Democratic Party adopt a resolution, and we confronted and got a statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) condemning the escalated attacks on state-compliant medical marijuana businesses. Now envision thousands of medical cannabis supporters descending on the State Capitol. Can you imagine the impact that will have?

    Be a part of winning this fight - join us this weekend!

    Tony Bowles is a Core Member of the San Francisco Chapter of ASA. He was a plaintiff in ASA’s successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol.
  • Why Regulated Dispensaries Should be Welcomed, not Worrisome, in DC and throughout the Nation

    Last week, two Washington, D.C. Area Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) voted unanimously in support of dispensary permit applicants who received provisionally sufficient scores by the District Department of Health to operate in their neighborhoods. Two additional medical cannabis dispensary applicants will have their applications considered at ANC meetings later in May. Some in these neighborhoods have expressed fear over negative perceptions about what medical cannabis dispensaries mean in terms of community impact; however, the best evidence available suggests that dispensaries are a benefit, not a risk, to public safety.

    Whenever the Unknown Enters your Community, it’s Natural to Worry About the Impact 
    The worry of some District residents (as well as those in each state that adopts a new medical cannabis law) of dispensaries coming into their community is natural. For those who are concerned, the reality is actually different than the fears. As research by UCLA concludes (PDF), dispensaries are actually wonderful neighbors because crime is reduced in areas surrounding well-regulated dispensaries, regardless of the existing crime level prior to the dispensary’s arrival. More specifically, “Dispensaries with security cameras and signs requiring a [patient registration identification] card had significantly lower levels of violence within 100 and 250 feet.”

    What Public Officials Have to Say About Well-Regulated Dispensaries
    Americans for Safe Access has prepared a white paper with testimonials from lawmakers, police chiefs and other municipal officials (PDF) from locations where medical cannabis dispensaries have been implemented and are well-regulated. Sebastopol CA Police Chief Jeffrey Weaver reported, "We've had no increased crime associated [with Sebastopol's medical cannabis dispensary], no fights, no loitering, no increase in graffiti, no increase in littering, zip." In much larger Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck observed that, "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and that the claim that dispensaries attract crime "doesn't really bear out." Concerning community fear of the unknown, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos noted, "The parade of horrors that everyone predicted has not materialized."

    D.C.’s Public Safety Dispensary Regulations are Among the Strictest in the County
    The District of Columbia’s regulations have very stringent dispensary security requirements compared to any existing state regulations, which can be found here on pages 72-80 (DOC). In addition to the high security standards, ASA’s white paper highlights the fact that very few people - only those with appropriate registration cards - will be allowed to enter dispensaries, and that there are criminal penalties for those who sell or even give away medical cannabis acquired from a dispensary.

    The instinct of community residents to want to preserve and promote public safety in their neighborhoods is laudable. Residents with that goal should be open to the best evidence available about public safety. When it comes to medical cannabis dispensaries, their impact on community public safety ought to be welcome, not a cause for alarm.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director. Read ASA's complete white paper on DC's regulations and dispensary safety (PDF).
  • Oregon: Dwight is Not Right for Patients



    There has never been a clearer opportunity to demonstrate support for medical marijuana than the current race for Oregon Attorney General, which features two Democrats with decidedly different views on safe access to therapeutic cananbis. This campaign and the media it has generated is important for the national perception it creates that

    1. there is a medical marijuana movement and

    2. that our movement will act unified enough to make a difference in an election.


    This campaign is the first time any of the US Attorneys who led attacks on state legal co-op gardens has ever had to consider the marijuana vote. Dwight Holton has consistently sided with the tough on crime crowd and boasts endorsements from the group responsible for passing Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentences law.

    Judge Ellen Rosenblum – with 22 years on the bench and 14 more as a prosecutor and an attorney – says she will protect patients and uphold Oregon’s voter-approved law. That law passed in 1998, five years before her opponent Dwight Holton moved to Oregon.

    Recent polls show Rosenblum with a healthy lead. But with 60% of the vote yet to be cast, Holton can still make a comeback.

    Every vote matters in this race. Please share this on Facebook and tell all of your friends. It’s too late to mail in your ballot. You must find one of Oregon’s drop-off sites in your community. Vote Rosenblum for Oregon Attorney today.

    Jim Greig is an ASA organizer in Eugene, Oregon.
  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

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

    [caption id="attachment_2533" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Let's fill the Capitol!"]
    [/caption]

    Note from Steph: To make our conference more accessible, we were able to lower the cost to just $50 for both days including lunch. Please join us!

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

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

    There is no substitute for your voice in Sacramento


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

    PS: The IE bus of patients will be staying at a local Sacramento motel. If you are coming up and need a room, send an email to [email protected] if you would like to obtain one of the rooms at the place we are staying.