Pages tagged "Dispensaries"

  • Obama (Double) Speaks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

    Finally, President Obama has spoken about his aggressive stance toward medical marijuana. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, his statements are underwhelming, inaccurate and do nothing to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. In response to a question from Rolling Stone on why his administration is conducting more medical marijuana raids than the Bush administration, President Obama failed to come clean on reasons for the breadth and intensity of the attacks, which significantly escalated since he took office.
    What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana…

    Actually, what Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008 was that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

    The shell game continued with Obama declaring that, as President, he “can’t ask the Justice Department to…‘ignore…a federal law that’s on the books.’”

    In fact, Obama has complete discretion to let local and state authorities enforce their own medical marijuana laws. When affirming that discretionary authority in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court also questioned the wisdom of going after medical marijuana patients.

    Obama then declared that his Justice Department should use “prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize [its] resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.”

    That, however, seems to beg several questions, not the least of which is “how does one determine what “things” are “really doing folks damage?” Why is that not the purview of local and state officials to enforce? And, is the federal government doing more damage than it’s supposedly preventing? Keep in mind that the damage his administration has inflicted also impacts the fiscal bottom line of local and state governments. In California, dispensary closures precipitated by the federal crackdown have robbed the state of millions of dollars in lost taxes.

    The president seems to seek cover with his comment that, “there haven’t been prosecutions” of medical marijuana users. But, even if it was true, and it’s not (all of the more than 60 people indicted on his watch use medical marijuana), this reasoning would still not justify the SWAT-style raids and the fear and intimidation they create. Nor would it justify the purging of lawful medical marijuana businesses from commercial banking institutions, or the IRS requirement that dispensaries pay taxes on gross proceeds, thereby ensuring bankruptcy, or discrimination against patients in public housing and the Veterans Administration.

    At the end of the day, whether or not Obama’s Justice Department decides to prosecute whom it considers “wrongdoers,” qualified patients are still being denied a safe and legal means of obtaining their medication.

    Even Obama’s “Drug War” excuses don’t match those of his U.S. Attorneys who are directly engaged in the attacks. The president erroneously stated that, “The only tension that’s come up” has been “commercial operations” that may be “supplying recreational users.” However, U.S. Attorneys have made little reference to targeting medical marijuana businesses because they’re allegedly selling to non-patients. The prevailing excuse has been simply that dispensaries are federally illegal or that they are too close to schools and other so-called “sensitive uses” (according to federal standards, not to local or state standards).

    Obama’s weakest rationale for continuing the assault on medical marijuana patients is that he “can’t nullify congressional law.” However, the president can realistically do a number of things to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. First of all, Obama could introduce a bill that would carve out an exception for medical marijuana patients and providers. In fact, he doesn’t even have to introduce his own legislation, he could simply throw his weight behind HB 1983, a bill that would do just that. The president could also issue an executive order, not to change federal marijuana statutes but to exclude medical marijuana so as to let the states enforce their own laws.

    Additionally, the president, through his executive powers, could also reclassify marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance -- a dangerous drug with no medical value. Yet, he and his Drug Enforcement Administration choose not to. In addition to four governors who have filed rescheduling petitions within the last year, Americans for Safe Access has a pending federal lawsuit that seeks reclassification.

    At some point, President Obama is going to run out of excuses. Until then, please join ASA in urging him to do the right thing.
  • Lynching Charlie Lynch - A New Medical Marijuana Documentary



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    As we find ourselves, yet again, under attack by the federal government, a new medical marijuana documentary tells the story of a dispensary operator arrested in 2007 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Five years later, the story of Charles C. Lynch has not died out and, in fact, is more relevant than ever.

    Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rick Ray teamed up with Brainstorm Media to release "Lynching Charlie Lynch" this past Friday. A press release issued at the time described the film this way:
    Controversial and provocative, Lynching Charlie Lynch explores the conflict between the state-permitted medical marijuana business and Federal drug law in America, and the human cost of the arbitrary and inconsistent application of the law. Through in-depth interviews with experts and advocates across the country and on all sides of the issue, Lynching Charlie Lynch finds many answers, and raises even more questions.

    Lynch was one of more than 200 Californians raided by the DEA during President Bush's 8 years in office. Yet, the Obama Justice Department has conducted more than 200 raids in at least 9 medical marijuana states in just 3 1/2 years, far surpassing his predecessor. Despite President Obama's pledge to do otherwise, he's waged an all-out assault on medical marijuana patients, the breadth and intensity of which is unprecedented in this country's history.

    President Obama must be made to answer for the stark and harmful contradiction between his medical marijuana policy and his law enforcement practices. Please help keep President Obama accountable and help us pursue a sensible public health policy for medical marijuana.
  • DC Inches Closer to Safe Access, Provisionally Approves 4 Dispensaries


    The D.C. Deparment of Health's Health Regulation and Licensing Administration (HRLA) finally unveiled the names of the business that will be directly providing safe access through dispensaries to the District's medical cannabis patients. Yesterday, the HRLA announced which dispensary applicants received scores of at least 150 points during the review process. Only 4 dispensaries made the 150-point requirement, and according a District government official “[t]his list is pretty final,” meaning these 4 dispensaries will be the only providers in the District for the foreseeable future. And on top of the mere 1 dispensary per 125,000 residents, there is also the cultivation center plant limit of 95 at each of the 6 approved locations, meaning less that one plant per 1,000 District residents. However, at least now the "foreseeable future" includes includes safe access in D.C., even if it comes through the most severely restrictive program in the country. 

    Those who have followed District's slow progress towards safe access to medical cannabis know that in May 2010, the D.C. Council approved B18-622, which was and remains the most restrictive medical cannabis program approved in the country.  In the nearly 2 years since passing the bill that limits access to those living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma or severe muscle spasms have been waiting for the D.C. government to draft regulations and get the program up and running. Those with conditions such as PTSD and chronic pain were left outside the program, but there is movement from within the local patient activist community to get the Department of Health to add qualifying conditions to the D.C.'s excruciatingly short list.

    While adding qualifying conditions is something the Department must consider, perhaps the greater priority right now from them is to begin the process of accepting patient and caregiver applications and issuing the ID cards that will provide them protection from arrest. However, because the DC medical cannabis regulations require each ID card is registered to a particular dispensary, the applications cannot be submitted until the applications are known. Therefore the next step the District government must take is to grant final approval to these dispensaries.

    Given the slow but gradual progress made in D.C. over the past few months, the anticipated final approval time of late June seems realistic, but many deadlines have been blown by the District government regarding this program, including the statutory requirement for a report on patient home cultivation. Those who have fought so hard for safe access to medical cannabis in D.C. certainly have the right to be skeptical. It's now up to the D.C. government's actions are able to curb that skepticism, and ASA is continuing to work with local patient advocates to press forward.

    Safe Access DC: http://dcsafeaccess.org/

    DC Dept. of Health page on medical cannabis: http://hrla.doh.dc.gov/hrla/cwp/view,a,1385,q,578539.asp
  • Tension Builds Between Local and Federal Officials over DOJ Crackdown on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Late last year, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag successfully shut down Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), the oldest operating dispensary in California, by threatening its landlord with asset forfeiture. It didn’t seem to matter that MAMM had the staunch support of Fairfax public official and members of the community. It was, truly, the end of an icon.

    Then, news came out this week that the federal government had won in its effort to shut down Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), another historical icon in the medical marijuana community. Despite support from the Chamber of Commerce and its neighbors, BPG and its landlord were targeted by Haag for being too close to two private schools. Notably, teachers from one of the schools Haag is ostensibly trying to “protect” have spoken out in defense of BPG.

    While Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates joined the chorus of support for BPG, calling it a “high-class operation,” with “no complaints,” and “compliments from neighbors,” he stopped short of standing up to the federal government. Instead, Bates said in a statement that, “We’re really sorry to see them close up.”

    However, no sooner than it was announced that BPG would be shutting its doors, the dispensary refuted the news. In a statement issued on Thursday, BPG Chief Operating Officer said, “BPG is not closing.”
    Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees… We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon.

    Maybe they won’t have to wait for Mayor Bates to grow a spine after all.

    In contrast to Berkeley’s trepidation, other Bay Area cities have shown bold leadership on medical marijuana. Both San Francisco and Oakland have recently permitted several new dispensaries. While Haag has been threatening numerous San Francisco landlords, which has resulted in a handful of dispensary closures in the so-called “Sanctuary City,” three new facilities have just been permitted. In Oakland, four new dispensaries were licensed this week, doubling the number facilities in that city.

    Cities like San Francisco and Oakland are examples of how to stand up to federal intimidation. We need more local officials to take their lead and develop local laws that recognize the needs of patients in their communities, not the fickle demands of the federal government.
  • California Court of Appeal Issues Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana

    Landmark decision denies localities the right to ban dispensaries outright Last week the California Court of Appeal issued another landmark decision on medical marijuana, which is sure to have a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the state. The Fourth Appellate District ruled in City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective that localities may not pass outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, facilities which a majority of Californian patients rely on for their medication. In its 48-page published decision, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that “local governments may impose a per se ban on medical marijuana dispensaries without contradicting state law.” This is the first time an appellate court in California has rejected the argument that local governments can use their land use authority to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating outright. The court reasoned that SB420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), allows for medical marijuana dispensaries as a matter of statewide concern, so localities cannot simply ban them. The court’s decision brings into question nearly 200 such bans across the state. Unless or until it’s appealed and taken up on review by the California Supreme Court, the Lake Forest case throws a significant wrench into the efforts of medical marijuana opponents and favors the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. That said, the Lake Forest decision was a mixed bag for the medical marijuana community. Even while agreeing with another recent landmark decision in People v. Colvin, that “a patient or primary caregiver [need not] personally [] engage in the physical cultivation of marijuana” in order to enjoy the protections of California law, the Lake Forest court held that dispensaries must cultivate all of the marijuana they sell on-site.
    [W]e conclude off-site dispensaries are not authorized by California medical marijuana law because nothing in the law authorizes the transportation and possession of marijuana to stock an off-site location.
    Unfortunately, in this regard, the Lake Forest court got it wrong. The MMPA explicitly protects patients from arrest and prosecution for transportation of marijuana when engaged in collective medical marijuana activity.  This part of the court’s decision is not only bad public policy, but has no basis in the law.
  • Landmark Court Decision Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries in California



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

    The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation. Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

    The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another. Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

    On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:
    The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

    The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:
    [The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative's products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

    However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:
    [T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

    It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.
  • Medical Marijuana Week - Day 4: Protesting the federal crack down nationwide

    During Obama’s Presidency, his administration has used a series of familiar and new tactics to interfere with state medical cannabis laws including nearly 200 SWAT-style raids leading to more than 60 indictments, threat letters to landlords and government officials, gross manipulation of the tax code, denying medical cannabis patients the right to bear arms, seizing medical cannabis related bank accounts, and much more. Today, ASA Chapters and affiliates in 9 cities and 6 states rallied outside of federal buildings and other venues across the country to tell Obama that enough is enough.

    Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, protested with the San Francisco ASA Chpater in front of his campaign appearance there. She said:
    The literal and figurative assault on medical marijuana patients currently underway by the Obama Administration is unprecedented in this country's history, despite hollow proclamations to the contrary.  The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush Administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws.



    The Obama Administration has also employed numerous federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, ATF, VA, and IRS to shut down access to medical marijuana, and cut-off services for, or otherwise discriminate against, literally hundreds of thousands of patients across the country.

    Patient advocates in San Francisco and across the country called on Obama to end his attacks on the medical marijuana community and begin to address this issue from a public health standpoint. In addition to keeping his pledge of deprioritizing enforcement, advocates are encouraging Obama to reschedule marijuana for medical use. ASA is currently litigating the rescheduling issue in the D.C. Circuit and has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's violation of the Tenth Amendment by derailing state medical marijuana laws.
  • ASA Launches Medical Marijuana Week in Response to 3 Years of Obama's Broken Promises

    UPDATE: Click here for today's detailed action alert.

    When President Obama was elected in 2008, the medical marijuana community was optimistic that the worst days of federal harassment were finally in the past. After all, he had once said, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources." This caused patients and those who provide them with safe access to their medicine to be hopeful that the 200-plus medical
    marijuana dispensary raids under President Bush would be resigned to being a terrible memory, a dark chapter in America’s past never to be repeated. Hopeful, indeed.

    For a brief time, it seemed that Obama’s campaign promises would be followed through upon, with the issuing Holder Memo, which seemed to announce a federal ceasefire in the war on patients. Ultimately, the campaign pledges and Holder Memo turned out to be broken promises, with over 170 SWAT-style raids resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, causing great distress to patients seeking safe access to their medicine. After little more than 3 years in office, Obama is not only on track to surpass two terms worth of Bush raids in just half the time, his Department of Justice has initiated a vicious attack on state sovereignty, designed to destroy the means of safe access patients have come to rely on. Americans for Safe Access is calling on patients, their loved ones, and all concerned citizens to voice their unwillingness to accept Obama’s massive assault against safe access by taking part in Medical Marijuana Week.

    Things would be bad enough if the Obama DOJ had merely doubled Bush’s rate of raids, but instead, US Attorneys have escalated hostilities against safe access to include threats to public officials and landlords. Officials in at least ten states have no doubt experienced a chilling effect on their sovereignty after received threatening letters, such as the City Councils for Chico and Eureka California. This past week, Governor Markell of Delaware announced the suspension of the state's recently passed medical marijuana program. Even the US Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, once considered relatively amicable towards medical marijuana has sent similar threat letters, boldly proclaiming them as “not a bluff.” Americans for Safe Access has filed a 10th Amendment lawsuit against the DOJ for their coercive tactics that have derailed medical marijuana legislation in several states. In a separate federal legal action, ASA has recently filed a brief in its petition against the arbitrary and capricious refusal by the government to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

    Now is the time to tell the White House that enough is enough. Americans for Safe Access is launching Medical Marijuana Week with an action alert to call the White House and demand that Obama end using federal resources to undermine state laws, and stop putting politics before science by acting immediately to reclassify marijuana as medicine. Remind President Obama about his campaign broken campaign promises, because if patients, their loved ones, and concerned citizens do not tell Obama that his medical marijuana policy must change, it will never improve. After calling the White House today, please continue to join ASA’s Medical Marijuana Week actions, culminating in several local rallies on Thursday February 16, 2012, and keep the pressure on Obama until his policy promotes safe access.

    ASA's Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

    Action Alert to Call the White House: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7065

     

     

     
  • CA Supreme Court Grants Review to Pack and Riverside, Local Lawmakers Should Take Note

    The California Supreme Court has made a move that should improve safe access by granting review for two controversial medical marijuana cases decided by lower appellate courts in 2011. As a result of this move, both Pack v. City of Long Beach (link to ASA blog on Pack), and Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, are effectively decertified until the court reaches its final decision, a process which some expect to go on for two years, as Ross v. RagingWire took two years to decide.

    The decisions by the lower appellate court in both of these cases have been harmful for patient access to medicine, but the Pack fallout has been particular damaging. The Pack ruling in October set off a firestorm of cities and counties moving to ban dispensaries throughout the state, even beyond the Second District of the CA Court of Appeals where the case was decided. These panicked reactions by lawmakers have resulted in weakened availability to medicine for Californian patients. As is stands now, Pack and Riverside are now dead letters.

    California Cityand County legislators should take note of the impact of this move by the state high court before moving forward with any further legislation as a result of lower court’s Pack ruling. A city or county presently considering a dispensary ban based upon Pack, such as the largest city in the state, ought to recognize that they would be undermining patients’ ability to obtain medicine they need, all in reaction to a case that no longer has legal authority. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Pack and Riverside decisions, making rash policy changes that are harmful to the health of Californians following the decertification of Pack seems like an unnecessary proposition at best.

    CA Court of Appeals Pack decision: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Pack_v_Long_Beach.pdf

    CA Court of Appeals Riverside decision: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E052400.PDF
  • Gov. Brewer Orders Arizona to Start Processing Dispensary Applications

    The good news that came out last week for Arizona medical cannabis patients got even better today. Having a week to digest the impact of having her lawsuit thrown out of federal court on Jan. 4th, AZ Gov. Jan Brewer has announced she will not re-file. More significant (and quite a pleasant surprise) was the following statement by Brewer:

    “I have directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin accepting and processing dispensary applications, and issuing licenses for those facilities once a pending legal challenge to the Department's medical marijuana rules is resolved."


    This is fantastic news, although any credit given to Brewer needs to be put in context. The AZ Governor has actively worked to prevent the program, and even qualified her encouraging statement above by saying, “[i]t is well-known that I did not support passage of Proposition 203.” With that in mind, it will be important to keep an eye on the response Brewer gets back from U.S. Attorney forArizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, asking for federal government’s position on state employees regulating dispensaries. However, last week’s resounding dismissal of Brewer’s case should be indicative that regardless of Scheel’s response, the program must still move forward.

    Medical cannabis dispensaries will finally be coming to Arizona. It’s still a question of when, but it looks like they’ll be arriving much sooner than anyone previously expected.

    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this entry stated that AZ would begin processing applications prior to completion of the state-level lawsuit. Applications will not be processed until completion of this lawsuit. Thank you to those who pointed out the error.

    Proposition 203 and Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: http://www.azdhs.gov/prop203/

    Pending Lawsuit: http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/documents/dispensaries/CompassionFirst-v-Arizona.pdf