Pages tagged "Dispensaries"

  • LA advocates submit 70,000 initiative signatures

    A coalition of medical cannabis patients, providers, and organized labor submitted 70,000 signatures on Friday to qualify a voter initiative for the May ballot in Los Angeles. The Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods (CPPN), which includes Americans for Safe Access (ASA), developed the voter initiative to establish sensible regulations for medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. The proposal would limit the number of facilities in the city to those that meet certain criteria – opening date, proximity to sensitive uses, hours of operation, etc.

    Advocates are turning to the voter initiative process in Los Angeles because they are increasingly frustrated with the City Council’s progress on long-standing promises to protect access for patients. The City Council spent years creating an adopting a flawed ordinance in 2010, but numerous lawsuits (by patients’ associations and the city) rendered the measure unenforceable. After settlement talks with the City Attorney collapsed earlier this year, Councilmember Huizar introduced and quickly passed an ordinance that effectively banned all cooperatives and collectives in the city. CPPN mounted a successful voter referendum to force the repeal of the ban, but the city still has no regulations for medical cannabis.



    Research conducted by ASA proves that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints, while preserving safe access for patients. It is past time for California's largest city to enjoy the benefits of reasonable regulations. The City Council still has time to adopt a regulatory ordinance before the vote in May. A compromise ordinance, which would allow a small number of facilities in the city, was approved by the City Planning Commission last month. It is unclear if City Council Members are willing to approve it, and advocates want to be sure the voters are poised to act if the Council does not.

    A separate medical cannabis voter initiative is in the signature gathering phase right now. It is possible that the City Council will be debating the compromise ordinance while advocates are gearing up to campaign for two separate measures. If either measure is approved, it will replace the city’s ordinance. If voters approve both measures, the initiative with the highest number of votes will prevail.

    Stay tuned for an eventful winter and spring in LA!
  • Massachusetts becomes the 18th medical marijuana state; now comes the difficult work of implementation

    Earlier this month, an overwhelming sixty-three percent of Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3 and, in so doing, became the country’s 18th state to pass a medical marijuana law. Massachusetts is now the latest in a growing number of states that are choosing to implement their own public health laws, regardless of any reluctance by the Obama Administration to develop a comprehensive federal policy on medical marijuana.

    But, getting Massachusetts voters to turn out in sufficient numbers to pass Ballot Question 3 was only the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy implementation process.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has 120 days after the law is enacted on January 1, 2013 to design regulations that will help DPH implement the law. However, until the program is up and running, patients can still go see their physician to discuss medical marijuana and, after January 1st, can obtain a recommendation for its use. That way, patients can be protected, without delay, from any unnecessary law enforcement incursions.

    The new law restricts qualifying patients from possessing “more marijuana than is necessary for the patient’s personal, medical use, not exceeding the amount necessary for a sixty-day supply.” Therefore, in addition to developing a patient registration process in the first 120 days, DPH is tasked with using “the best available evidence” to determine what might constitute a 60-day supply of medical marijuana.

    DPH then has until January 1, 2014, one year after enactment, to license distribution facilities, called “nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers,” thereby making medical marijuana accessible to patients throughout the state. The law requires that in the first year DPH must license at least fourteen treatment centers, one for each county in Massachusetts, but no more than five per county and no more than 35 for the entire state.

    The law tightly restricts cultivation in the state, requiring licensed treatment centers to produce their own supply and, generally, preventing patients from cultivating themselves. However, patients who can show a financial and/or physical hardship can apply to DPH to grow their own, once those regulations are established.

    Because it’s important to involve patients throughout the implementation process, Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA), the group largely responsible for the law’s passage, will be embarking soon on a campaign to educate patients and ensure they are contributing to the development of statewide regulations. MPAA is currently preparing an FAQ for patients and concerned Massachusetts residents. Educational material will also be accessible at MPAA’s website: www.MassPatients.org, and yet-to-be-scheduled public education events are being planned over the next few months.

    According to MPAA’s Matt Allen:
    We’re here to make sure that patients are fully involved in the implementation process, and since this is a public health issue we want to make sure that patients’ needs are recognized and respected.

    MPAA is also continuing to build its base of advocates in order to begin the process of working with DPH and the state legislature so that the law will work effectively. If you’re a Massachusetts resident and want to get more involved in the law’s implementation, go to the MPAA website and fill in your contact info. Together we can make the law work for Massachusetts patients!
  • A big win for ASA in San Diego

    California’s 4th District Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of San Diego medical cannabis provider Jovan Jackson today. The decision in People v. Jackson recognizes the right of medical cannabis dispensaries to exist and provide medicine to patient-members.  The decision further clarifies that members can participate in the association though financial contributions (sales) alone. This is an important milestone, because until now, some law enforcement and law makers all have refused to acknowledge that patients can organize cooperative and collective associations that sell medical marijuana. Today’s decision may have far-reaching implications for local and state implementation and regulation of medical marijuana.



    Jovan Jackson was first arrested for providing medical cannabis in the City of San Diego in 2008. He was prosecuted for cannabis possession and sales and acquitted by the jury. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a steadfast opponent of medical cannabis, retried him on the same charges in 2009. In that case, Superior Court Judge Howard Shore denied Mr. Jackson the right to use California’s medical cannabis laws as a defense in court. Judge Shore referred to medical cannabis as “dope” and called state medical cannabis laws a “sham” during the trial.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took Mr. Jackson’s appeal last year, because we knew this case was important for the future of safe access in California. Medical cannabis opponents have argued steadfastly that every member of a patients’ association must physically participate in the cultivation of plants and that no member can buy medicine. ASA disagreed, and this was just the case to settle the issue. Relying heavily on People v. Colvin, a prior appellate decision in the California’s 2nd District, the court ruled that
    "Jackson was only required to produce evidence which would create a reasonable doubt as to whether the defense provided by the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] had been established… the collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the large membership of Jackson's collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense."

    The California Attorney General may decide to appeal the Jackson decision, and ASA will be ready to fight this case all the way to the state Supreme Court. Regardless of what comes next in court, patients should hope lawmakers are listening to court today. California votes called on state officials to “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana” when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996. State lawmakers tried to further clarify the issue when the adopted the Medical Marijuana Program Act in 2003. That bill explicitly allowed collective and cooperative associations and provided for reimbursements for medicine.  It is past time for prosecutors like Ms. Dumanis, local law makers, and state representatives to stop stall and start regulating.
  • A Plaintiff Speaks: My Quest for Safe Access

    Shortly after California passed Prop. 215 in 1996, I asked the chief physician at my county clinic for a verbal or written recommendation to use cannabis medicinally. He told me that, while he had no problem with me using cannabis for my conditions, he was afraid to make any kind of recommendation without proper authorization and guidelines. He said as long as cannabis is a Schedule I drug, he could not prescribe it to me.

    Over the years living with epilepsy and Post-Polio Syndrome, I have been prescribed and used a myriad of over and under the counter medications for pain, seizures, inflammation, nausea (Marinol), anxiety, insomnia etc. and none of the medications I have taken are as effective, tolerable and free of side-effects (both short term and long term) as cannabis.

    After being denied by my doctor, I met with the clinic director who said the same thing as every medical professional and county/state health department representative I communicated with: "As long as cannabis is a schedule I drug, I cannot help you."

    In 2002 when I heard that ASA was going to DC to protest at the Dept. of Health and Human Services for rescheduling, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to take my quest to ease my own, and other patients' suffering, to the federal government. It was my first trip to DC, but I didn’t tour the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. I did end up touring the downtown jail facility along with 14 other patients (including ASA Director Steph Sherer), from 11 different states.

    We were arrested for blocking the entrance the HHS Building holding a 300 ft. banner with the names of 7,000 MD’s that support cannabis rescheduling. We also served notice that we wished to challenge the federal scheduling process regarding cannabis.

    Ten years later, we finally have a chance in court to challenge the government’s position that cannabis has no medical value. Being fortunate enough to live in a state that allows patients the right to use cannabis medicinally, I have experienced the benefits of using cannabis, and noted its superiority over other accepted medications. Working as a patient advocate for 15 years, I have spoke with thousands of patients who also profess its benefits.

    Recently, the federal government has stepped up efforts to close down any group or organization that tries to distribute cannabis to patients, which forces patients to purchase on the street, or go without.

    Patients in states without medical cannabis laws and states with restricted access are being forced to suffer needlessly. Cannabinoid research must be allowed to go forward. Cannabis, and the chemicals it contains, have the potential to replace many of the prescription drugs on the market today with a safer, more effective medicine.

    Recent studies prove that cannabis has the potential to be an effective medicine for many different conditions and illnesses. Doctors, nurses and patients agree that cannabis should be made available. Nearly 80% of the general U.S. population also agrees it’s time to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Red tape and preserving the status quo can no longer be an excuse to allow needless suffering and wasted resources: cannabis must be rescheduled.

    William Britt is a plaintiff in the case Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • City Council Repeals LA Ban, Now It’s Time to Regulate

    The Los Angeles City Council voted to repeal an ordinance banning medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives yesterday, clearing the way for a new ordinance to regulate hundreds of facilities in the city. The City Council adopted the ban in July after negotiations to settle dozens of lawsuits resulting from the city’s 2010 regulatory ordinance failed to produce a settlement. The repeal is the latest development in a struggle to regulate medical cannabis that dates back to 2005, when Americans for Safe Access (ASA) first engaged city staff and Council Members asking for sensible regulations to protect patients’ access and the community.

    In a separate motion authored by Council Members Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar, the City Council adopted a resolution asking the state legislature to “address inadequacies of state law” regarding medical cannabis. Some of the provision in the resolution call for the legislature to declare that financial transactions (sales) are not legal and that cooperatives and collectives must have local authorization to operate. Both of these were contentious issues in the long debate about regulations in the city, and both issues are currently before the California Supreme Court. The resolution also calls for enforcement against lenient medical cannabis doctors and a “finite list of conditions” for which cannabis can be used – a proposal that clearly violates the language of voter-approved Proposition 215. The resolution is not binding as law, and the state legislature is under no legal obligation to respond.

    I want to say a special thank you to the ASA members and friends who helped gather more than 49,000 signatures to call a voter referendum on the ban, donated their time and money, and kept believing we could win. Thanks to grassroots persistence, we have another chance to secure the proven benefits of regulations for Angelenos. Special thanks is in order for our coalition partners – the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 (UFCW), which represents works at dozens of local facilities; and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), the state’s oldest medical cannabis trade association. Both did a great job in gathering signatures, talking to City Council Members, and more.



    Patients and advocates hope that the repeal will encourage City Council Members to adopt a new ordinance with which everyone can live. Otherwise, the city may have no tools to protect patients and neighborhoods from real and imagined harm. The City Council voted to create a new regulatory ordinance when they approved a motion by Council Member Paul Koretz on the same day that they voted for the ban. Now we need city staff to move quickly to finish the ordinance, get it to committees, and back to the City Council. There is no need for further delay. The voters of Los Angeles clearly want regulations, not a ban. The debate about this ordinance may be contentious, but it is past time to live up to years of promises to regulate medical cannabis in Los Angeles.

    Enforcement actions against medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives in Los Angeles has already begun. There is no reason to believe that the ban’s repeal will stop the pressure. The Los Angeles City Attorney and District Attorney (DA) regard all of the city’s collectives and cooperatives as illegal, with or without a ban, and they are working to close them down. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) routinely raids facilities, and DA’s office has already prosecuted some operators. The City Council turned up the heat last month when they called in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help out. LAPD and DEA agents raided three collectives, filed civil asset forfeiture cases against three property owners who rent to medical cannabis tenants, and sent nearly seventy letters threatening other property owners.

    ASA urges cultivators, providers, staff, and patients to know your rights and be prepared to assert them in the event of a raid by the LAPD and DEA. We are going to see a lot more of that before the dust settles in Los Angeles. Patients and advocates will hold a lively and peaceful protest of the recent attacks in front of the federal building on Thursday. You can meet ASA , UFCW Local 770, and GLACA in front of the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles at 1:30 PM. The federal building is located at 255 East Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

    Thanks again for helping stop the ban. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and keep doing the kind of effective grassroots work that makes a difference. We will need you back on the phones, at City Hall, protesting on the streets… maybe even gathering signatures for a new voter initiative. Be sure to join ASA’s email list to stay up-to-date, and join us in person at the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, October 20, in the Community Room (152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • Medical Cannabis News in Review

    Is Paul Ryan's statement similar to Obama's position on medical marijuana? Is there evidence that marijuana has accepted medical uses? Are there really more dispensaries than Starbucks in LA? Recent news about medical marijuana:

    • Paul Ryan’s position on medical pot: “up to Coloradans,” and “not a high priority” for a Romney/Ryan Administration. Associated Press in the San Jose Mercury News

    • What if Obama called a real marijuana user instead of actors? Huffington Post

    • From dispensary operator to illicit dealer. Is medical marijuana being driven underground? LA Times

    • Study shows marijuana use among teens in Colorado, a medical cannabis states, dropped even as it increased nationwide. Huffington Post

    • Far fewer dispensaries in Los Angeles than ban proponents claimed, UCLA study finds. UCLA Newsroom

    • Author Martin Lee presents slideshow of seminal moments in the post-ban history of cannabis - Huff Post Books

    • Summary of research in the Daily Beast finds strong evidence of cancer-fighting effects of cannabis. Daily Beast

    • Prescribing medical professionals launch sign-on letter disputing Federal position that cannabis has no medical value, in advance of the October 16th hearing. ASA

    • Southern California’s only Sheriff-permitted dispensary closed by US Attorney Laura Duffy. San Diego ASA

    • Senior learns to bust the myths around medical cannabis. HuffPost Post 50

  • LA advocates turn to the people to stop the ban

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and coalition partners in the City of Los Angeles will submit more than 50,000 signatures on Thursday calling for a voter referendum to overturn the city’s recent ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives. It took less than three weeks to gather the signatures, and the number collected far exceeds the 27,485 valid signatures needed to trigger a citywide vote in March. This is a major victory for patients and grassroots advocates who vowed to stop the ban when the City Council adopted it on July 24. Congratulations to everyone who helped out!



    The referendum comes just in time. The ban would have become effective on September 6, but the successful petition drive puts enforcement on hold until the City Council rescinds the ban or voters have a chance to decide in March of next year. ASA and our allies on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods hope the City Council will use the extra time to move forward with a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine to create a new ordinance that will allow for a smaller number of well-regulated patients’ associations in the city.

    The City Council has been rattling sabers as the effective date of the ban approached. On August 22, the City Council approved a motion by Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry instructing the Los Angeles Police Department to cooperate with the District Attorney (DA) and Drug Enforcement Administration in closing cooperatives and collectives. This would give the DA the chance to prosecute operators for felonies (as opposed to the misdemeanor specified in the ban), and raised the specter of federal prosecution. This week, the City Council referred to committee a new motion by Council Members Ed Reyes and Herb Wesson to divert funds from the City Attorney’s Community Redevelopment Agency budget to enforcement of the ordinance banning medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives.

    The city’s rush to enforce is misguided. They can avoid more confusion, delay, and litigation by sitting back down at the table with stakeholders to hammer out a compromise ordinance that works for everyone. Patients and operators agree with the majority of Californians who support regulating and controlling medical cannabis. They just want a sincere effort from law makers and a realistic regulatory framework. The city failed on both front in 2010, when they approved an unworkable and byzantine regulatory scheme that even Council Members had trouble deciphering. The referendum gives new incentive to do a better job with the Koretz/Zine motion for sensible regulations. Let’s hope the City Council takes advantage of this opportunity, so the referendum campaign can be a victory for everyone.



    Stakeholders who want to learn more about the referendum and what comes next in Los Angeles should keep an eye on ASA’s Access Southern California Discussion Forum and plan to attend the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall, 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.), West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • ASA responds to LA City Attorney threats

    The Los Angeles City attorney sent hundreds of letters last week threatening property owners who rent to medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. The letters tell property owners they may be subject to stiff penalties, including fines and jail time, because an ordinance passed by the City Council in July makes renting to a patients’ association a crime. Property owners are worried, and some are moving to force their tenants out. But Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Chief Council Joe Elford says the effort to intimidate property owners is premature and urges the City Attorney to wait.



    In a letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Mr. Elford points out that the California Supreme Court will soon rule on several cases that could clarify how cities can regulate medical cannabis and if they can ban cooperatives and collectives. California’s Appellate Courts disagree on these topics, so moving forward without instructions from the Supreme Court could be risky:
    "Proceeding with enforcement of the ordinance while these issues are pending is premature and may subject you to a legal response."

    Mr. Elford also points out that a voter referendum sponsored by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, of which ASA is a part, may soon render the ordinance banning cooperatives and collectives and criminalizing property owners moot:
    "… there is underway a voter referendum campaign to repeal Ordinance 182190, which is likely to have the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot in less than two weeks. Because Ordinance No. 182190 will become ineffective once the signatures have been certified by the City Clerk, it would be a waste of the City’s time and resources to implement the Ordinance."

    Patients who operate medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives should share Mr. Elford’s letter with their property owners to let them know that the ordinance making them criminals is not here to stay. Patients and advocates are going to repeal the misguided ordinance and keep working to adopt sensible regulations.
  • DuffyHoax Revealed - Medical Cannabis Advocates Explain It All


    On October 7, 2011, at a press conference in Sacramento, US Attorney Laura Duffy, along with several other US Attorneys, announced a statewide crackdown on medical cannabis cooperatives, collectives, gardens, and others.

    Without citing any specific violations in state law, Duffy's office claimed all were out of compliance and would be targeted for eradication including those fully licensed and regulated by local government and law enforcement.

    Since this proclamation of war on California’s medical marijuana program, Duffy’s office sent hundreds of letters to landlords threatening asset forfeiture if they did not immediately evict their dispensary tenants. As a result of these backhanded tactics, many landlords were forced to comply. Within six months, Duffy closed over 200 dispensaries in San Diego alone.



    These closures forced thousands of employees into unemployment, left hundreds of properties vacant and most importantly, left the 70,000 plus medical marijuana patients in San Diego county wondering where to get their medicine

    Duffy’s war did not stop with just closures of collectives and cooperatives. With her next move, she focused on local governments. After learning that advocates had gathered enough signatures to place initiatives to regulate dispensaries on several local ballots in the county, she began threatening council members and city staff with federal prosecution for writing laws to regulate safe access.

    This past July, Duffy fired off a threatening letter to the City of Del Mar, as well as sent DEA agents to several council meetings to intimidate lawmakers in person. Duffy's actions, as well as those of other US Attorneys across the state, are in stark contrast to what President Obama and the Department of Justice are saying.

    During his election in 2008, Candidate Obama promised he would not use Justice Department resources to target those in compliance with state law, and his administration publicly maintains this position. In addition, as recently as June, Attorney General Eric Holder, Duffy’s boss, testified before Congress that his Justice Department would only undertake enforcement action against medical marijuana organizations operating "out of conformity with state law."

    Under President Obama’s Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund has grown from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011, with $79 million going directly to California law enforcement agencies.

    Since October of last year advocates have worked tirelessly, using traditional means to fight against these attacks and to bring media attention to the issue. Lawsuits have been filed, letter drives organized, petitions signed, protests held, letters to editors written— yet nothing has worked. In fact, in San Diego the attacks seem to be getting worse and it was clear that something more radical had to be done.

    How San Diego ASA Got Involved in the Action


    San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest medical cannabis advocacy group, working with LGBT activism group Canvass for a Cause, received a letter from the San Diego Museum of Art last month, inviting both groups to participate to participate in The Yes Men’s "Yes Labs" workshop organized by the museum as part of their Summer Salon Series program.

    The goal of the workshop as the email explained was, "to identify a concrete, media attention grabbing idea and then figure out an approach towards making it come to fruition."

    Upon accepting the invitation, another email from the museum asked San Diego ASA to have at least a few hundred dollars available to turn the project into a reality.

    The next email read, "Despite the fact that the museum provides you with The Yes Men, the space, and meals, we do not want this cost to be a deterrent. Therefore, the Museum will contribute $100 in seed money to get you on your way."

    The workshop was scheduled for July 23rd and 24th at Agitprop, an art gallery in North Park.

    The Workshop


    The opportunity to execute an action holding Duffy accountable with help from The Yes Men and with the support of local arts community, could not have come at a more appropriate time. Not only were advocates looking for new summer activities to take on as part of Americans for Safe Access's summer program www.CampWakeUpObama.com, but the first day of the workshop, several members had to miss a part as they were Downtown organizing a protest against Duffy’s attempt to close the sole permitted dispensary in the county.

    The workshop began with introductions and an awe inspiring presentation of previous artistic actions organized by ‘The Yes Men’. The day then shifted into group discussions of causes everyone cared about and actions that could be taken right here in San Diego in support of those causes. After a few brainstorming sessions the group reached consensus to focus on the medical cannabis issue first. A plan was hashed out and Tuesday July 31st was set as the day of action. It became clear that through satire and art the chapter would bring attention to Duffy’s reign of terror.

    The plan was that a series of satirical press releases would be issued to media first claiming Duffy would target pharmacies for closure using asset forfeiture proceedings, similar to her track record with medical marijuana dispensaries, followed by another press release from Duffy claiming the first was a hoax and the perpetrators would be prosecuted. Then, a fake organization called FAC – the Federal Accountability Coalition would take credit for both satirical releases. Finally, the real advocates behind the project would step forward and claim responsibility in a fourth an final release.

    The Day of the Action


    On July 31st, a command center was set up in the heart of Hillcrest. The day began at 7:04am with the first press release sent to the media from [email protected], an email address chosen to resemble the real Duffy’s but be clearly phony, stating that the US Attorney will be shutting down pharmacies for their high volume of sales of controlled substances, the same rationale used by US Attorneys to close medical cannabis dispensaries.
    These pharmacies are not only about providing medicine to the sick. They are part of a pervasive for-profit industry that facilitates the distribution of drugs for illegitimate use. Doctors are prescribing unneeded medication; kids are overdosing on aspirin; police are finding pill bottles at junior high schools. Addiction and abuse of these drugs are serious problems in our communities and parents have come to me with their concerns. These pharmacies have provided not just medication - prescription and otherwise - but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and often irreparable harm to our youth.” said Duffy.

    At 7:34am, local San Diego CityBeat reporter Dave Maass, tweeted: “I wonder if the real looking press release I got from a fake looking email might be a product of The Yes Men workshop with mmj activists.” (@DaveMaass).

    While other media outlets, including the LA Times, were digesting the first release and trying to understand which pharmacies were being targeted, an actor playing "Deputy US Attorney of Narcotics and Logistics, Mr. Shiner" (a name selected randomly) was available by phone to answer questions.

    "Yes we are shutting them down," said Shiner while answering one of the calls, "Prosecutorial discretion means Duffy decides how and when to enforce laws."

    In the hour following the first release and while "Mr. Shiner" was answering inquiries from media, several Cease and Desist notices were posted by actors at five pharmacies in town. Although the fake press release said twenty locations were being targeted, only five actual notices were posted on the front doors of [email protected] claiming the first release was a hoax and that the perpetrators would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Analogous to the first release, the second had a spokesperson as well. This time, it was an actor playing Mr. Steven T. Fredrickson (another randomly chosen name). "Mr. Fredrickson" answered calls and email from media outlets and discussed the strict enforcement action he was planning on taking against the perpetrators of the first release. "They will be thoroughly punished,” he told reporters "we will be issuing another statement in the near future."

    Shortly after the second release was sent out, the real Laura Duffy scheduled a press conference for 11:00am to discuss the fake releases. Meanwhile, Shiner's and Fredrickson's phones were ringing off the hook, with reporters trying to figure out who was behind the hoax.

    Although not planned for, Duffy’s press conference spurred the idea of sending an actor to deliver the third release directly to the media gathered at the press conference.

    Duffy stood outside the federal courthouse in front of a dozen cameras grumbling about the fake releases. Interrupting her speech, the actor walked up to the media and said, "Laura Duffy is a Benedict Arnold, nothing but a Benedict Arnold!" and passed out the third release, in which the Federal Accountability Coalition claimed responsibility.

    This third release scolded Duffy for her wasteful attack on state’s rights, as well as insubordination of federal government, President Obama, and attorney general Holder. The release criticized her insubordination, raised concerns of her rogue efforts, and raised fears of Duffy targeting farmers' markets and people’s right to bear arms next. The statements in the release were so sensational that even more media attention was brought to the action as a result.

    Once all copies of the release were handed out, he walked away, the media following him for several blocks. The mere presence of FAC caused all the cameras to shift focus away from Duffy and to the actor, as a result entirely spoiling her press conference.

    After the third release went out, an actor playing Dexter Haight (another randomly chosen name) took calls and answered reporters' questions.

    By this time, there were already multiple articles online about the hoax and the action was taking over local news coverage for the day. Various news outlets were running stories about the action, some of them mixing up real quotes from Duffy with quotes from fake releases, and all of them focusing on this organization called FAC.

    The FAC had not only an email and phone number, but, to appear credible, there was also a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube Account, which were all getting a lot of traffic. The website and FAC press release included links to a video where Dexter Haight claimed responsibility for the hoax on camera.

    The Youtube page had interviews with various people, including a pharmacist, a CVS store manager, and a patient who supposedly patronized the stores shut down by Duffy’s actions. As the actor playing Dexter was fielding dozens of calls and emails from media about the hoax, it became clear that the best way to finish off the day was for FAC to hold a press conference at which the full reveal would take place. FAC then announced that a press conference would be held at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park at 2pm that day to discuss all the details of the hoax.

    The media showed up in full force. There were multiple cameras, photographers, and a stand with microphones. The press conference started promptly at 2pm with the actor playing Dexter Haight coming up to the stand and announcing, “My name is Dexter Haight, I am with the Federal Accountability Coalition. I am here to announce that my name is not Dexter Haight, I am an actor.” After Dexter spoke, advocates took the stage and discussed in detail the horrors of Duffy’s actions and why they had gone to such great lengths to bring this issue to light.

    Just as this final press conference began, the 4th and final press release was sent out, explaining that medical cannabis activists were behind the hoax.
    "Just as the closure of retail pharmacies, like CVS or Walgreens, is poor public health policy, so is the federal government’s crackdown on medical cannabis dispensaries," said Eugene Davidovich of San Diego ASA. "Pharmacies, like medical cannabis dispensaries, play an essential role in our communities as they help the sick and dying treat and manage various medical conditions," continued Davidovich. "Laura Duffy and the Obama Administration have no place interfering in the implementation of state law by shutting down dispensaries that thousands of patients rely on."

    Since the final release, multiple articles have been published by various news outlets covering the action as well as Duffy’s response. Duffy, however, instead of considering changing her stance on cannabis, has since threatened jail time for those she calls "the hoaxers" and has announced to the media that the FBI has been brought in to investigate; more waste of taxpayer dollars and another boneheaded move by Duffy’s office.

    With this action and other actions that took place that week throughout the state, Duffy and other US Attorneys are on notice that any person who interferes with medical cannabis patients and/or providers will continue to be subject to coordinated grassroots response by the public at large, in local and national forums.

    It is time to end this war on patients, let science lead public policy, and allow states to protect their most vulnerable citizens.

    The San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access would like to extend a thank you to all the advocates who took part in this wildly successful expression of art and satire, with a special thank you to Canvass for a Cause, The Yes Men, Agitprop and the San Diego Museum of Art for making this action possible.

    More Information


    San Diego Chapter of ASA - www.SafeAccessSD.org

    Canvass for a Cause - www.canvassforacause.org

    Eugene Davidovich is a Steering Committee Member of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
  • LA patients move to stop the ban



    The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives on July 24. Now patients are taking the case for safe access to the streets with a voter referendum to repeal the ban. If we gather 27,485 signatures from registered voters in the next thirty days, the City Council will be forced to choose between repealing the ban themselves and calling a costly special election for voters to decide. Paid and volunteer signature gatherers will be on the streets this week. City Council Members will soon learn if there is enough grassroots support for safe access to force their hand. Patients and advocates are betting there is.



    Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, helped organize the voter referendum and is committed to its success because the ban is bad for patients. The large majority of legal medical cannabis patients in Los Angeles rely on cooperatives and collectives for safe and reliable access to the doctor-recommended medicine they need to treat the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and other serious conditions. Closing the facilities means patients will do without their medicine or buy it from the dangerous and unregulated illicit market. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996, and it is contrary to polling that shows that 77% of Californians still support regulation and control of medical cannabis.

    City Council Members made a commitment to regulation in 2008, but controversy and political conflict stymied their efforts. Conflicting decisions for the California Appellate Courts have confused the issue, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has consistently touted a ban only viable option. But City Council Members do have a choice. On the same day they approved the ban, the City Council also approved a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine asking the City Attorney to create a new ordinance tightly regulating a smaller number of facilities. The City Council would do well to expedite that effort instead of trying to enforce the ill-conceived ban.

    It is not acceptable to close all of the patients’ associations in the city just because some are located or operated in a manner that is problematic. Instead, the City Council should work with stakeholders to develop workable regulations. Research shows that cooperatives and collectives do not cause crime. In fact, research conducted by ASA shows that sensible regulations actually reduce crime and complaints around access points. Los Angeles can join more than fifty other cities and counties in finding a way to protect patients’ access and neighborhoods – if they have the political will to do it. Let’s hope a successful referendum and vote to repeal the ban is just what they need to make it happen.

    ASA is joined on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, the referendum’s campaign committee, by representatives from the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), which represents some of the city’s oldest and most reputable patients’ associations, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, which represents workers in local cooperatives and collectives.

    Please join me on a conference call to discuss the referendum campaign and how you can help on Monday, August 13, at 6:00 PM.  Call (832) 431-3335 and dial 1618568 to join the conversation.

    Make plans to join the Los Angeles ASA chapter on Saturday, August 18, to get the latest updates on the referendum and the ongoing effort to adopt a good ordinance in Los Angeles. The LA-ASA meeting is between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.) in West Hollywood, CA 90046.