Pages tagged "Dispensaries"

  • Trouble in Montana

    Medical cannabis patients and advocates all over the country should be paying attention to what is happening in Montana right now. The House of Representatives voted to repeal the state’s medical cannabis law on Thursday. If the Senate follows suit, Montana’s seven year old voter initiative could be gone on July 1st. The push to roll back safe access in the state comes amid hand-wringing over familiar topics – lenient doctors and a growing number of dispensaries. While patients and advocates rally to oppose the measure, the rest of the country should learn a lesson about how fragile support for medical cannabis can be.



    Passing state medical cannabis laws is the first step in a long and expensive process. Advocates must follow up with legislation and rules to fully implement the laws before our increasingly-sophisticated opponents use anecdotes of abuse, real and imagined, to erode support. Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access beginning in 2005 clearly shows that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around medical cannabis facilities. The implication is clear – regulations are our best strategy for diffusing opposition.

    The repeal of Montana’s medical cannabis initiative is not certain. Americans for Safe Access is talking with activists on the ground about solutions – a proactive media campaign, self-regulation, and old-fashioned grassroots opposition. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Helena are vetting numerous “fix it” bills to address ambivalence about the state’s rapidly expanding program. Patients there hope that cooler heads prevail, and the legislature opts for a middle ground.
  • Has the Federal Government Changed Its Policy on Medical Marijuana Enforcement or Just Changed Its Reasons for Continued Interference?

    It would appear that raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in medical marijuana states have declined since President Obama’s Justice Department issued its infamous memorandum in October 2009. But, in fact, raids have continued at an alarming pace. For example, in the 16 months since the Obama Administration’s policy change, the DEA has conducted at least 43 raids in California, Colorado, Michigan and Nevada. That’s nearly 3 raids per month on average. Although arrests were not made at all of the raids, President Obama’s Justice Department has seen fit to indict and prosecute at least 24 patients and providers in connection with those federal actions. Can this really be the result of a new federal enforcement policy? Attorneys for two of the most recently indicted cultivators from Michigan vehemently argue that their young caregiver clients were in full compliance with state law. If that’s true, do these federal actions have more to do with hostile DEA agents and bitter U.S. Attorneys -- angry that their decades-long drug war has been narrowed -- or are they based on willful deception by President Obama’s Justice Department? Maybe both. While it could be argued that some of last month’s arrests in Las Vegas, Nevada, which resulted in a total of 15 indictments, was based on the fact that Nevada law does not allow for centralized distribution. And, yet, how are patients supposed to obtain their medicine if they are too sick or lack the skill to grow it themselves? Would the DEA prefer that patients seek out their medicine from the illicit market? And, why should the federal government be able to prosecute violations of state law in federal court, where patients are prevented from using a medical marijuana defense? Did the American people envision their tax dollars going to such harmful and unnecessary federal actions, especially after a policy was issued claiming that such actions would cease? With popular American support for medical marijuana at more than 80 percent, we think not. It’s time for the Obama Administration to deliver on its promise to leave patients alone. The DEA must take a hands-off approach to enforcement of medical marijuana production and distribution. Any allegations of local or state law violations should be prosecuted in state court, and not in federal court (i.e. no more federal indictments). In addition, DEA agents should be refusing to assist local law enforcement in raids on patients and providers, period. Only after the federal government stands down on this issue will states and their localities be able to effectively implement medical marijuana laws passed by the people.
  • Steph Sherer on Patient Privacy in the Huffington Post

    ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer talks about the priority of medical cannabis patient privacy in state regulations. Read what she has to say about the proposed regulations in Colorado in "Patient Privacy Should be at the Heart of Medical Marijuana Regulations" -
    This past November, Arizona became the 15th state to adopt a medical marijuana law. Even with medical marijuana laws in nearly a third of the country, ever-increasing scientific evidence of efficacy, and popular American support at over 80 percent, patients' rights are still threatened. As long as medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, patients everywhere are vulnerable. In fact, the discordance between federal and state laws makes it especially important to protect the privacy of patients. This week, the Colorado Department of Revenue Licensing Authority will be hearing public comment on proposed regulations addressing recent amendments to the state's medical marijuana law. Leading up to these hearings, members of our organization in CO have reached out to us with legitimate concerns about their privacy as patients. Unfortunately, in the rush to regulate Colorado's burgeoning medical marijuana distribution system, it is the privacy rights of patients in particular that have so far been either ignored or disregarded. While there are many issues that the Department of Revenue must deal with, patient privacy should be at the forefront...
    Read the entire article on today’s Huffington Post.
  • Montel Williams in LA



    Talk show host and medical cannabis patient Montel Williams told the Los Angeles City Council on Friday that an amendment to the city’s Medical Cannabis Ordinance (MCO) establishing a lottery to select one hundred patients’ collectives will do little to identify the best qualified applicants. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mr. Williams met privately with City Council Members on Thursday.



    At Friday’s meeting, Special Assistant to the City Attorney Jane Usher told City Council Members that they must adopt the amendments – including the lottery – in response to a Preliminary Injunction blocking enforcement of portions of the MCO. Ms. Usher said the judge has “put our feet to the fire,” and she urged the City Council to adopt the unpopular provision. Mr. Williams, who uses medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, responded:
    "Holding feet to the fire? Let me explain something to you. For the last 10 years, from morning til night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, I have absolute neuropathic pain through my feet, my shins, my side and my face," he said, his voice quavering. "You walk in and out of here every day and don't think about your feet. Mine I have to think about every second of the day."
    (quoted from the LA Times)

    Mr. Williams is to be commended for reminding City Council Members that patients need and deserve the best possible collectives. It is unfortunate that Council Members deferred again the City Attorney, and adopted a selection process that ignores longevity, performance, and goodwill. Time will tell if patients get lucky in the lottery.

    There is some good news for patients. Friday’s amendments removed the two-year sunset clause, which might have forced every collective to close in 2012. The changes also provide more protection for patients’ medical records. These are hard-won victories in the multi-year struggle to regulate safe access in the state’s largest city.

    Most importantly, the latest amendments should make a motion by City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry to ban collectives outright unnecessary. Like his predecessor, Rocky Delgadillo, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has steadfastly supported a ban on collectives. But the Parks/Perry motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith, is the first sign that banning collectives has any traction on the City Council. The latest amendments should reassure City Council Members that they can successfully regulate access to medical cannabis – without banning collectives.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has worked with officials in Los Angeles to promote sensible regulations since 2005. The adoption of an ordinance, despite its flaws, is a victory for patients. Our research and experience show that regulations reduce crime and complaints around collectives, while preserving access for legal patients. We know that this work is not finished. New lawsuits by disenfranchised collectives are inevitable, and there are still improvements to make in the state’s toughest ordinance. ASA is committed to standing up for patients in Los Angeles at City Hall and in the courtroom until this work is finished.
  • ASA protests in MI and NV

    Medical cannabis patients in Michigan are upset that the US Department of Justice wants the state to turn over the names of legal medical cannabis patients in that state. This latest escalation in federal interference and intimidation brought protesters out into the streets Lansing and Grand Rapids this week. ASA is grateful to Michigan Chapter Coordinator Robin Schneider for braving the cold weather to let lawmakers know that patients’ privacy must be protected. (Video from Las Vegas - click More.)



    Meanwhile in Las Vegas, ASA Chapter Coordinator Eric Woodson rallied in opposition to recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids and arrests in the city. According to the DEA, the most recent arrests were connected to dispensary raids conducted in September of last year. Nevada law does not provide for community-based access programs, leaving many legal patients who cannot or will not grow medicine with no legal option.

  • New Colorado Medical Marijuana Regulations Disregard Patient Privacy

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed a letter Friday, commenting on the proposed rulemaking (or regulations) for amendments to Colorado’s medical marijuana law. The State Licensing Authority of the Colorado Department of Revenue, Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division is currently accepting public input to help guide its policy efforts. Advocates applaud Colorado’s effort to improve its law by bringing greater access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients in the state. Input by the public and, more importantly, the patient community is critically important to a well functioning law. However, ASA takes issue with several provisions of the law and the current proposed rules, and is most concerned about a seeming disregard for patient privacy. In particular, the rulemaking provisions that allow law enforcement unfettered access to surveillance information is very troubling given marijuana’s legal status under federal law and the continued enforcement of those laws by the Obama Administration. In fact, the Justice Department is currently in federal court seeking the private records of several Michigan patients, after having been rebuffed by the Michigan Community Health Department. ASA is also concerned with how available private patient records are to an increasing number of people, including court clerks and other court staff. Access to this information must be extremely restricted, and medical marijuana patients, like other patients, should be able to enjoy the full protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Although the deadline for written submissions closed on Friday, there will be another opportunity to give oral comment on January 27th and 28th, starting at 9am in Hearing Room 1 of the Jefferson County Justice Center Administration and Courts Facility at 100 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden, Colorado.
  • San Diego Dispensary Operator Sentenced, Advocates Vow to Appeal

    On Wednesday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore told a crowded courtroom of patient advocates:
    “Medical marijuana is a scam.”

    [caption id="attachment_1101" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Jovan Jackson (right) and attorney Lance Rogers at Jackson's sentencing"]
    [/caption]

    During his vitriolic rants, Judge Shore found time to sentence Jovan Jackson, a dispensary operator who was recently convicted after being denied a defense at trial. Judge Shore harshly sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail, and imposed a $5,000 fine and three years of probation, during which time Jackson is prohibited from using marijuana to legally treat his medical condition.

    Unsurprisingly, Judge Shore also denied ASA’s motion for a new trial, based on double jeopardy and the denial of Jackson’s defense. This was the second time Jackson had been tried on the same charges-- the first time he was acquitted. Not satisfied with just skirting double jeopardy laws, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis fought to exclude Jackson’s defense on the most dubious grounds. Though not written into law, nor part of the 2008 California Attorney General guidelines on medical marijuana, the court held that most or all of Jackson’s patient membership must participate in the cultivation to be afforded a defense.

    Judge Shore’s contempt for medical marijuana could also be seen in other ways than just his bombastic statements from the bench. For example, patients were required to pass through a second metal detector placed directly outside the courtroom, a requirement unique to Jackson’s hearing. And, although there was no jury to influence at Jackson’s sentencing hearing, his supporters were once again prevented from brandishing Americans for Safe Access (ASA) logos on their shirts or bags, as if doing so would injure the court’s sensibilities. Judge Shore had imposed similar restrictions during Jackson’s trial.

    Judge Shore also ignored -- at his own peril -- the recent Los Angeles Superior Court decision and its affirmation of dispensaries’ right to operate in accordance with local and state laws. To make the laws less ambiguous, the LA court recommended more decisive regulations, rather than impeding the efforts of the patient community. Contradicting Judge Shore’s interpretation of state law, the LA court ruled in its unpublished decision that the Medical Marijuana Program Act,
    “does not deal with issues like who must be involved in the cultivation…”

    The irony of San Diego’s failed efforts to adopt a meaningful regulatory ordinance is not lost on the city’s patients. The San Diego City Council has been trying unsuccessfully to pass a local law for months, a law that would license the same activity for which Jackson was just convicted and sentenced. Coincidence? Whether or not foul play can be attributed, the patient community is demanding reasonable regulations to set a standard for the area’s dozens of dispensaries to meet.

    In the meantime, ASA will be appealing Jackson’s conviction and sentencing well before he is scheduled to surrender to authorities on February 1st. ASA will also argue for Jackson’s release on bail pending appeal. Stay tuned for more from San Diego in the fight for safe access.
  • With Great Hope

    Another year is winding down and our movement has added more amazing victories to our impressive list. From taking down anti-medical marijuana AG candidate Steve Cooley to passing access regulations in Washington DC, ASA has shown the power of grassroots patient advocacy. With a new year looming, this is a great time to reflect and to think about what the future will bring. As a patient advocate, this is the time that I think about how I personally contributed to creating safe and legal access and what that commitment will look like next year. As Executive Director of ASA, it is my job and commitment to our members to look at the national landscape and to prepare our movement for the challenges and opportunities coming.  Part of that preparation this year was traveling across the country, taking the pulse of our movement by hosting five and six hour-long strategic planning meetings with our community.  In every city, I met individuals with medical conditions that made every moment of their life a struggle as well as individuals at the end of their lives - MS patients with months to live, women whose cancer had progressed passed treatment, a forty year old with ALS so severe he needed specialized equipment to communicate. Over and over again I was moved to tears by the passion and commitment of our members. Members who may not be around to see the results of their organizing but still want to be a part of change. Members who, despite great discomfort, are advocating so that YOU and I can have safe access. As a member of ASA, you are connecting these individuals into a movement. As a member of ASA, you are making sure that our patient advocates have the resources they need to be effective and strategic. We held meetings with our communities this year because we thought that was the right way to win; now we know that it’s the only way to win. Safe and legal access will only happen if WE, the movement, make it happen. We’re in a unique position this year to take your voice to the top. We have political capital built up and we’re ready to spend it. Because of our wins last year, your contribution today will go further than it ever has before. Help us take your voice to DC. We all have a role in this movement. I’ve told you about the passion and commitment of those at the end of their lives, those with the very least to gain and the invaluable role they’re playing. I believe one of my roles is to create a world where our terminally ill do not spend the last months of their lives in six-hour policy meetings and we need your contribution to make that happen. So the question now is, can you fulfill that role? Can you sacrifice a fraction of what they have given so that we can build a safer, fairer world? Thank you, as always, for your generous support. I wish for your happiness in the new year.
  • LA Patients Protest County Ban



    Fifty medical cannabis patients and advocates protested in front of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ meeting this morning in response to the Board’s 4-1 vote to ban medical cannabis collectives in unincorporated communities. Protesters cheered as motorists honked in support, including one Los Angeles Police Department squad car. Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed the ban earlier this year, in response to concerns over public safety and a handful of non-permitted collectives in the county.



    The Board voted unanimously to adopt regulations in 2006, but the Regional Planning Commission has never issued a Conditional Use Permit for medical cannabis. Today’s ban is part of a statewide effort by law enforcement and medical cannabis opponents to push back on safe access. Orange County banned collectives at the same time as Los Angeles County, and Supervisors in Riverside County have abandoned plans to repeal the county’s ban. Fresno and Santa Barbara counties may not be far behind.

    Today’s protest in Los Angeles is the first step in what may be a long campaign to change Supervisors’ minds. Americans for safe Access (ASA) and advocates are planning to counter opposition to medical cannabis by keeping the need for regulations on the front burner. They will be speaking at Board meetings, writing elected officials, and visiting county offices to keep the pressure on.  Advocates who wish to help should attend the LA-ASA chapter meeting on Saturday, December 18.

    Read the ASA Press Release for today's protest on the ASA website.
  • "Driven to the back alleys"

    LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and his colleagues on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission just overturned a ban on raves at the LA Coliseum. The Commission enacted a ban this summer after a 15-year old girl died of a drug overdose at a dance party with over 185,000 attendees. The LA Times reported Supervisor Knabe’s rationale for lifting the ban:
    "There's a way to do it right where we protect the public and allow this opportunity to take place," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who serves on the commission and said he preferred regulating raves at the publicly owned venue rather than see them "driven to the back alleys."
    Supervisor Knabe’s logic is sound, but his actions are inconsistent. Just nine days earlier, the Supervisor voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ collectives in the unincorporated communities of the county. He and his colleagues adopted the ban despite overwhelming opposition from community members, who asked instead for tighter regulations (the same kind the Commission will impose on raves). The advocates’ rationale was the same as the Supervisor’s. A ban just pushes medical cannabis back into the shadows, and that is bad for legal patients and their communities. So what is going on? Massive dance parties, where dangerous drug use is commonplace, are better regulated than banned. But legal medical cannabis patients’ collectives are too dangerous to regulate? That does not make sense. Research conducted by ASA and our experience over the last fourteen years tell us that sensible regulations for collectives reduce crime and complaints.  In fact, collectives can make a neighborhood safer. Oakland City Administrator Barbara Killey says the neighborhoods around her city’s regulated collectives are “some of the safest areas of Oakland now… since the ordinance passed." So why should legal collectives be “driven to the back alleys,” as Supervisor Knabe says? They should not. If Supervisors are worried about public safety, they can do what the Commission did – improve regulations. If they are worried about the small number of non-permitted collectives now operating in the county’s jurisdiction, they can take appropriate enforcement action. An outright ban, however, does nothing to protect public safety of stop non-permitted facilities. It only prevents legal patients’ collectives from obeying the law. The City of Los Angeles is slowing winnowing the number of collectives inside city limits, and many other cities in the county have bans or protracted moratoria on new collectives. There has never been a better time for the county to issue permits for qualified and well-vetted applicants pursuant to the sensible regulations adopted in 2006. Unfortunately, the decision to ban collectives raises doubt about whether or not legal patients and unincorporated communities will ever realize the proven benefits of regulations. That is a shame. At the end of the day, it will be legal patients who are “driven back to the alleys,” and that is not what LA County voters want. Los Angeles County patients and advocates will protest in front of the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 7, when the Supervisors will vote on final approval of the ban.