Pages tagged "DEA"

  • California State, Local Elected Officials Blast Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this month, in response to federal attacks by California’s U.S. Attorneys, several local and state officials spoke out against the aggressive interference in their medical marijuana laws. State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) held a press conference with patients and advocacy groups, including Americans for Safe Access. The message was clear: the federal government must “stand down.”

    On October 19th, Senator Leno stated the following:
    I urge the federal government to stand down in its massive attack on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will have devastating impacts for the state of California. At a time when resources are precious and few, federal officials have chosen to waste time and money in an ambush that will harm countless patients who will no longer be able to safely access doctor-prescribed treatments. Our federal dollars, especially during a down economy, would be better spent on activities and programs that save jobs and help people in need. Instead, this ill-timed offensive would have no positive impacts on our state and would only force more Californians into unemployment.

    Assembly member Ammiano also declared that:
    Instead of supporting state efforts to effectively regulate medical marijuana in accordance with Prop 215, the Obama administration seems committed to re-criminalizing it. This destructive attack on medical marijuana patients is a waste of limited law enforcement resources and will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. I urge President Obama to reconsider this bad policy decision and respect California's right to provide medicine to its residents.

    In a separate statement, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) also blasted the decision to shut down licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city:
    Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients. There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney’s Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Like S-Comm, our law enforcement agencies – both state and local – should not assist in this unnecessary action. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives.

    Most recently, California Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke out against the recent federal crackdown:
    Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. … While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.

    Even local officials are speaking up. Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen called the federal raid on a medical marijuana collective licensed by the county, “outrageous.” Supervisor McCowen said in a written statement, “if the federal government truly wants to protect public safety,” it should change its strategy of:
    [R]aiding medical marijuana growers who are doing everything they can to operate in full compliance with state and local law.

    Perhaps the feds should take heed, lest more officials from across the state speak up in defense of patients and state law.
  • Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Reschedule Cannabis



    Today, in a joint effort between Congressional Representatives and Americans for Safe Access, several members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The letter, headlined by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and signed by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA), noted that California was only the latest state hit in the federal government's campaign against medical marijuana.
    This year alone has seen aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven medical marijuana states, as well as threats of criminal prosecution by U.S. attorneys against local and state public officials. It is our strong position that local and state governments must be allowed to develop, implement and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis.

    The members of Congress further stated that:
    [I]t is more urgent now than ever to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.

    Specifically, they requested that the Obama administration either reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug or that they publicly support the adoption of legislation that would remove cannabis from its current place in Schedule I. The letter comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's most recent attempt to circumvent California's 15 year old medical cannabis law.

    In the beginning of October, California's four U.S. attorneys sent letters to at least 16 landlords and property owners who rent buildings or own land where dispensaries provide safe access to medical cannabis, notifying them that they were violating federal drug law. The letters warned that the dispensaries must shut down within 45 days or the landlords and property owners will face criminal charges and confiscation of their property - both real and personal - even if they are operating legally under the state's medical cannabis law.

    This latest instance of federal interference is in stark contrast to the spirit if not the precise letter of the Obama Administration's policy on medical cannabis and though the DOJ is now claiming that President Obama had no prior knowledge of these latest enforcement tactics, the signers of the Farr-Rohrabacher letter urge the President to show respect for patients and their providers by changing federal policy and providing them with safe access to their medicine rather than pushing them back into the illicit market. Whether or not their pleas fall on deaf ears remains to be seen.
  • California Medical Association Says U.S. Has “Failed Public Health Policy” on Medical Marijuana, Urges Rescheduling



    The first broad marijuana policy statement by a state medical association has become a hot topic of conversation, repeatedly referring to the current federal approach as a “failed public health policy.” Indeed, the October 14, 2011 official policy statement by the California Medical Association (CMA) is gathering significant interest from medical marijuana advocates as well as the broader reform movement. While certain portions of the statement focus on full legalization, the CMA has geared its policy recommendations for those in Washington with the power to reschedule medical marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

    The prevailing theme of the CMA policy is that marijuana’s current placement under Schedule I of the CSA has directly and severely hindered researchers from fully establishing marijuana’s medical value. Specifically, the CMA states without equivocation that:
    [C]annabis must be moved out of its current Schedule I status.

    Notably, the CMA points out that Schedule I classification of cannabis is the principle reason the growing body of international evidence in favor of medical marijuana’s efficacy has been limited in the U.S. to approximately one dozen clinical trials. The CMA ultimately recommends that:
    Rescheduling cannabis will allow for further clinical research to determine the utility and risks of cannabis.

    By urging the federal government to reclassify marijuana out of Schedule I, the CMA are in effect stating that marijuana does in fact have medical value. While some may choose to play up the reference to “risks,” the CMA was confident enough in medical marijuana’s safety to have issued an August 2011 “Physician Recommendation of Medical Cannabis,” which provides guidance to doctors on how they may treat their sick and dying patients with medical marijuana. In other words, the CMA has asserted that marijuana, even in the absence of FDA approval, is safe enough for physicians to recommend to their patients.

    The CMA policy recommendation to reclassify marijuana is one that ASA not only supports, but has also been actively working to implement. As part of the Coalition for Rescheduling  Cannabis (CRC), ASA has appealed a July 2011 denial by the DEA of the CRC rescheduling petition. With this policy statement by the CMA, patients and advocates have gained an important champion on the critical issue of federal rescheduling of marijuana. The question now becomes, will Washington officials listen to doctors' orders?
  • The Ongoing Saga of Federal Interference in Washington State & Push Back from Congress



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this year, on April 21st, the Washington State legislature passed SB 5073, a bill that would have established a licensing system for the dozens of medical marijuana distribution centers that existed to provide much-needed medication to thousands of patients throughout the state. Notably, the legislature passed the bill after Governor Christine Gregoire sought and received feedback from the Obama Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby wrote that growing facilities, dispensaries, landlords, financiers, and even state employees “would not be immune from liability under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).” In other words, anyone remotely connected to the production and distribution of medical marijuana could be criminally prosecuted under federal law. Yet, the legislature must have seen through these threats of intimidation because it passed SB 5073 anyway.

    Less than a week after SB 5073 was passed, on April 27th, U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking “further clarification” on the Justice Department’s position on “federal prosecution in states that have enacted laws authorizing medical use of marijuana.” Specifically, Congressman Inslee sought clarification on whether the Justice Department would really “prosecute a state employee who is operating in full compliance with SB 5073.” Unfortunately, nearly 6 moths later, Congressman Inslee is still waiting for a response.

    Not-so-coincidentally, a day after the congressman sent his request for clarification, the federal government conducted several aggressive law enforcement raids in Spokane, Washington and later indicted multiple dispensary operators under federal law. A day after that, Governor Gregoire vetoed the parts of SB 5073 that included the establishment of medical marijuana production and distribution regulations.

    Apparently, this was a thought-out, well-conducted strategy by the Obama Administration to undermine the efforts of Washington State legislators to establish sensible public health policy with regard to medical marijuana. And Washington is not alone. Similar derailments of public health policy happened in Arizona, California, Montana, and Rhode Island, to name a few.

    Thursday, Congressman Jay Inslee sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Holder, reminding him that the Justice Department has:
    [F]ar more critical functions than preventing some of our Nation’s most vulnerable residents from getting the relief they need.

    Once again, Congressman Inslee asked for:
    [A] detailed justification as to why the Justice Department is focusing such a substantial portion of its limited resources in this area.

    This is yet another example of the push back from federal legislators on President Obama’s confusing war against medical marijuana. He would do well to respond and, better yet, President Obama should reconsider his harmful and indefensible policy.
  • Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Friday, President Obama’s Justice Department (DOJ) made clear its motivations to disrupt and undermine California’s medical marijuana laws. However, advocates argue that last week’s announcement by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys, which included threats against property owners, comes after months of aggressive DOJ attacks in several medical marijuana states. SWAT-style raids and threats of criminal prosecution against local and state officials has become emblematic of Obama’s policy on medical marijuana, a far cry from his pledge on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

    Yet, just as Obama’s confusing war on medical marijuana has reached a fever pitch, condemnation could be heard from several state and federal officials in California. Some state legislators and members of Congress are refusing to be intimidated by this latest round of threats from the federal government. Congressional members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), as well as State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) all decried the recent DOJ announcement in California.

    In a statement issued to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Congressman Rohrabacher called the DOJ effort “a waste of scarce federal resources.” In a separate statement issued to ASA, Congressman Farr had this to say:
    Medical cannabis continues to be prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses, as a means to minimize their pain and support their recovery. For that reason it is important that patients continue to have safe access to the medication they need. California has adopted clear regulations that allow patients to do just that, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing those resources on those who sell illicit drugs.

    State Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ strategy was a waste of precious resources at a time of fiscal crisis:
    They’re wasting money they don’t have. This is not the issue of the day. This doesn’t create jobs. This does not keep the security of the nation intact. It doesn’t clean the environment. If anything, they should be demonstrating leadership in resolving the conflict between federal and state laws. Until we deal with that, we’re going to be going around in circles here.

    Assembly member Tom Ammiano had perhaps the strongest words of condemnation in a press release issued shortly after the DOJ press conference on Friday. Ammiano said that the attack on medical marijuana would cost the state “millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives.”
    I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine.  [Friday’s] announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton.  It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws -- whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted?  Change we can believe in?  Instead we get more of the same.

    Notably, Congressman Rohrabacher’s statement had a prescriptive solution:
    [The DOJ announcement] underscores the need for Congress to pass H.R. 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.

    He’s right. People across the country should contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 1983, a bill that would reclassify medical marijuana and allow states to develop, implement and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.
  • Push Back on the Federal Attack



    The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a major new crackdown on medical cannabis patients, providers, growers, and property owners on Friday. US Attorneys told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento that every medical cannabis patients’ cooperative and collective in California is illegal and must close within forty five days – even if they are obeying state law. The DOJ also dusted off a Bush-era tactic by expanding their crackdown to property owners who rent to medical cannabis providers and growers. The DOJ has already started sending letters threatening to prosecute property owners and confiscate their real estate using federal civil asset forfeiture laws.



    The Obama Administration’s about face on medical cannabis in California should be a wakeup call for medical cannabis patients and providers in every state. The new crackdown represents the most visible evidence yet of a national medical cannabis backlash. Banks are closing accounts, the Internal Revenue Service is squeezing providers, and state access programs are on hold. And of course, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to raid medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens.

    Opponents are reacting to the expansion of safe access in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, and to moves by state and local governments to implement medical cannabis laws with meaningful regulations. Federal law enforcement and other opponents know they must move now, or risk having medical cannabis permanently entrenched in local and state law. If patients and advocates fail to check the federal escalation in California, we can expect to see these same tactics in every state where medical cannabis is legal.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and advocates to redouble their commitment to the grassroots campaign for safe access. We need to make our voice heard at City Hall, in our state legislatures, and in the District offices of federal lawmakers right now. Elected officials need to know they cannot sweep safe access away, and they also need to know there is a safe political space for supporting medical cannabis. ASA provides a free Advocates Training Center to hone skills in direct advocacy, community organizing, media relations, and more.

    ASA also calls on the nascent medical cannabis industry, and the industries that support it, to marshal their substantial financial resources to support the patients’ movement for medical cannabis. Lawyers, consultants, bankers, real estate professionals, merchant service providers, business equipment dealers, and others are needed in the campaign for safe access right now.

    The solution to this newest challenge is political. If we rise to the occasion, we can push back this federal attack on medical cannabis and swing the pendulum back in our direction. But to do it, we need the time and resources of our constituency. ASA urges everyone who cares about medical cannabis to join the fight today.

    Are you an ASA member? Join today!
  • CA Congressman Stark Pushes Back on IRS

     

    [caption id="attachment_1949" align="alignnone" width="180" caption="Congressman Pete Stark"]
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    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is playing hardball with medical cannabis providers in California and Colorado, and Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) is moving to stop them. Using a provision of federal law adopted to fight large-scale drug trafficking, the IRS is disallowing tax deductions for ordinary business operating expenses like payroll, rent, and insurance. The result is a massive tax burden for providers – making it essentially impossible to operate. Congressman Stark explains why the IRS tactic is bad for patients and unfair:
    We need to fix the tax code so that medical marijuana dispensaries may operate like the legitimate businesses that they are. If they cannot take the deductions allowed to every other legal business, the medical marijuana industry will cease to exist and patients will suffer. It seems ridiculous that we'd go after these dispensaries, which help people manage illness, when companies including Exxon, which pollutes the air, effectively paid no taxes last year. Our priorities need adjusting and our tax code needs an update, which is why I introduced the Small Business Tax Equity Act.



    Congressman Stark’s bill, HR 1985, would exempt medical cannabis providers who are operating legally under their state’s law from a provision in Title 26 of the US Code, which forbids tax deductions for expenses incurred in “trafficking in controlled substances.” Congressman Stark recognizes that this section of the US Code was never intended for legitimate, state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is supporting HR 1983 in hopes of protecting patients’ access in every state where it is already legal.

    Disallowing ordinary business deductions is just one more tactic the federal government is using in an effort to roll back medical cannabis. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to raid providers. Banks are under federal pressure to close medical cannabis accounts, and federal officials just seized accounts in Sacramento. And now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is getting in the game. That agency recently decreed that medical cannabis patients cannot own guns or ammunition!

    Federal intimidation is the primary impediment to fully implementing state medical cannabis laws. We cannot have a well-regulated, transparent medical cannabis program until the federal government and agencies step back and let the states do their jobs. Congressman Stark’s HR 1985 is a step in that direction. Medical cannabis advocates should support HR 1985 and other new federal legislation, so that we can finally put a stop to the federal interference.
  • Rhode Island Governor Chafee Buckles to Federal Intimidation as He Puts the State’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Limbo



    Rather than acting as the champion of Rhode Island’s Medical Cannabis Program, Governor Lincoln Chafee has failed the medical cannabis community by halting the legislated licensing of dispensaries.  Governor Chafee’s failure to effectively implement H5359, the state’s dispensary licensing law, passed overwhelmingly by the legislature, will continue to have a negative effect on those patients who struggle to find adequate and consistent access to medical cannabis.



    Attempting to validate his failure to stand behind Rhode Island’s medical cannabis law, Governor Chafee stated:
    Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect.

    However, Jesse Stout, founder of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, is encouraging the medical cannabis community to act:
    Patients and activists who are angered by Chafee’s backsliding should call his office at 401-222-2080 and demand that he follow state law and issue 3 medical marijuana compassion center licenses as planned

    A public outcry has also occurred as a result Chafee’s reluctance. A rally of more than 80 people was held this past Saturday to protest the Governor’s decision to abort. Some legislators have even spoken out. Rhode Island Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Providence) said, “we would urge the governor to follow the law.” According to the Providence Journal, Slater said he is willing to sit down with Chafee to work on a solution.

    While federal interference in state medical cannabis laws is possible, this type of cowering will only invite interference in Rhode Island by establishing a political climate where the even the state is questioning the legitimacy of legal access for patients.

    Hundreds of Rhode Island patients who suffer from severe and debilitating conditions are still unable to obtain the medication they desperately need because they are unable to grow it for themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them.  Product consistency as well as access to concentrates and other forms of medical cannabis has also been difficult and dangerous for patients without the option of specialty shops that would otherwise provide products and services these patients desperately need.

    But for threats from the Obama Justice Department, Governor Chafee had planned to implement the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries this year.  It is shameful that the Governor is turning his back on the thousands of patients across his state who need this law, and the legislature who worked so hard on a plan to license these facilities in communities where access to medical cannabis is needed.  Furthermore, it is not the purview of Governor Chafee to aid the Obama Administration in enforcing federal law. Rather, he is responsible for enacting laws passed by the state.
  • MT Patient Advocates Put Repeal of Medical Marijuana Restrictions on Ballot for 2012



    Patient advocates in Montana, including members of Americans for Safe Access, were successful this week in gathering enough signatures to overturn SB423, an extremely restrictive medical cannabis bill that took away many of the patients’ rights enshrined in Initiative 148, passed by 62 percent of voters in 2004. Since its passage last session, SB423 has threatened to reduce the number of patients who can qualify for protection under the state law by 90 percent. It also eliminated virtually all access to localized distribution, forcing thousands of patients into the illicit market.



    Although a lawsuit was partially successful in rolling back some of the restrictions imposed by SB423, it was unable to nullify the entire bill. Not wanting to rely completely on the courts, patient advocates began a signature drive to put the legislation on the ballot.

    It is now up to the voters to reject the onerous provisions of SB423 in its entirety in order to pave the way for more sensible regulation and reform.  Local activist and medical cannabis attorney, Chris Lindsey, commented on the progress made by the reformation committee stating that:
    We had a voter-approved law that was repealed by our state's politicians. When they were unable to come up with a complete ban, they cooked up a law that punishes people who wanted to participate in the medical marijuana program. The current law does not protect patents and those who provide to them. What we need is smart regulation, not a punitive law that works against the rights of Montana citizens.

    Lindsey speaks on behalf of thousands of patients whose access has been seriously compromised with the passage of SB423, and who agree that smart regulation is needed to resurrect safe and legal access to their medication.

    Placing this issue on the ballot is a great step in the right direction, and will hopefully restore the rights of Montana patients established under Initiative 148.  However, the work is far from over.  Our opposition has made it clear that the scope of Initiative 148 is too broad, and now it is up to the patient community in Montana to educate the greater public on why SB423 is not the “regulatory” answer.
  • Setting Precedent for Patients and Providers in San Luis Obispo County



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this month, two medical marijuana patients were acquitted of all charges in a case that is likely to affect numerous other similar pending cases. Deip Paul and Steven Brown were found “not guilty” of several felonies after only two hours of jury deliberation. The September 7th verdict finished off a two-week trial, which Superior Court Judge John Trice called:
    [a]n historic ruling for San Luis Obispo County, the first of its kind I believe, that I'm sure will have a large repercussions on currently ongoing trials.

    This victory for patients should be taken in context. Although the California coastal county of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is known for its vineyards, rolling hills, and the serenity of the Pacific Ocean, over the years law enforcement has been terrorizing the medical marijuana patient community.

    With the case of Charles C. Lynch, law enforcement attempted to scare and intimidate county medical marijuana patients and providers by federally prosecuting Lynch for operating his Morro Bay dispensary, despite city approval and business community support. The SLO Sheriff and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided Lynch in 2007.

    Then in 2009, the San Luis Obispo Narcotics Task Force (NTF) started an investigation of Paul, a Cal Poly student who suffers from debilitating migraines, after he reported a burglary to the police. In February 2009, NTF officers followed Paul who was meeting with his medical marijuana provider. The two were arrested and charged with possession, possession with intent to sell, transportation, and conspiracy to sell marijuana. A third defendant, Cory Wolin, faced similar charges, but took a plea deal by testifying against his friend Paul.

    While Paul and Brown were getting prosecuted, NTF Commander Rodney John led a series of criminal enforcement actions in December 2010 against patients and their providers, mainly the operators of delivery services, which were spurred by the hostility against storefront medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. These raids resulted in several arrests and subsequent prosecutions.

    Once the case finally made it to trial more than two years later, the jury weighed whether Paul and Brown were within their rights as qualified patients to engage in an exchange of money for medical marijuana, and if the amount of marijuana and money involved were “reasonable” under the law. The courtroom was packed with supporters during the trial; the strong solidarity was evident.

    Despite Commander John’s testimony in the Paul/Brown trial, his evidence failed to convince the jury. This does not bode well for John’s other nine cases that are winding their way through the SLO Superior Court. The New Times reported this week that, “District Attorney Gerald Shea may have to consider differently which cases to pursue.” A motion to dismiss several of the cases was scheduled to be heard today.

    Paul and Brown are now seeking the return of their wrongfully seized property, still in police custody.