Pages tagged "Dispensaries"

  • RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
    We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

    One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
    The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

    Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

    Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

    On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

    If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
    [RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

    Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

    However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

    Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

    The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

    When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.
  • Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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



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

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

    Federal intimidation is the primary impediment to fully implementing state medical cannabis laws. We cannot have a well-regulated, transparent medical cannabis program until the federal government and agencies step back and let the states do their jobs. Congressman Stark’s HR 1985 is a step in that direction. Medical cannabis advocates should support HR 1985 and other new federal legislation, so that we can finally put a stop to the federal interference.
  • California Appellate Court Creates Contradictory Law on Federal Preemption of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries



     

     

     

     

     

     

    The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued an opinion yesterday in Pack v. City of Long Beach, a case involving a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance adopted last year by the Long Beach City Council. The court did not invalidate the ordinance in its entirety, but instead found that federal law preempted certain provisions of the city’s permitting scheme. In particular, the court found that the provisions of the ordinance granting permits to dispensaries through a lottery system at a significant, recurring fee, are preempted by federal law.

    Notably, the court made a distinction between a permitting or licensing scheme and an ordinance that would merely protect such facilities against local civil or criminal prosecution. This leaves open the possibility that Long Beach could comply with the court’s decision simply by making semantic changes to its ordinance, requiring “registration” rather than “permits” or “licenses.”

    The Long Beach decision expressly disagrees with two published decisions on federal preemption by the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, one in County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML and another in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim. Because of this appellate conflict, the Long Beach decision is not binding on trial courts outside of the Second Appellate District. Sadly, this ruling creates more uncertainty about localized medical marijuana distribution, instead of resolving it.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argued against federal preemption in the Long Beach case by filing an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief in June with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Unfortunately, the court disregarded those arguments and chose to throw a wrench into the implementation of California’s medical marijuana law.

    ASA will, in all certainty, file a request for depublication of the Long Beach decision, which is not yet final. There is a possibility that the California Supreme Court will grant review of the decision or depublish it, especially since it is our belief that the court applied an incorrect preemption analysis.
  • Rhode Island Governor Chafee Buckles to Federal Intimidation as He Puts the State’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Limbo



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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

    Placing this issue on the ballot is a great step in the right direction, and will hopefully restore the rights of Montana patients established under Initiative 148.  However, the work is far from over.  Our opposition has made it clear that the scope of Initiative 148 is too broad, and now it is up to the patient community in Montana to educate the greater public on why SB423 is not the “regulatory” answer.
  • California Gov. Brown Vetoes SB 847!

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    I am happy to report that California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed SB 847, a bill by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that would have required medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from residential zones! The Governor’s veto comes after a groundswell of opposition from members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other medical cannabis advocates. I want to say a special thank you to everyone who visited legislative offices, made phone calls, wrote letters, and sent emails. Well done!



    The veto of SB 847 shows that grassroots participation makes a difference. We have some big challenges to overcome at the state and local levels, and ASA is already working on next year’s California Campaign.  We have just finished a statewide tour to talk with organizers, and are launching a new effort to coordinate grassroots support for ASA’s draft state legislation. Our goals are to defend patients’ civil rights, authorize cooperatives and collectives, and finally protect medical cannabis cultivators.

    I need your help right now, so that we can start preparing for the next steps. Can you make a special contribution to ASA to build on today’s momentum?

    In addition to the statewide tour, ASA also launched a new Activist Training Center this summer with the goal of building skills in our grassroots base. And we have kicked off our innovative Think Tank and Policy Shop to offer unprecedented professional support to local organizers. If we can mobilize a well-trained and motivated base, the veto of SB 847 will be the first of many victories in California.

    Please take a moment right now to make a one-time or recurring donation to ASA, so we can keep the momentum going in our direction!

    Thanks again for your work to stop SB 847!
  • RAND Corporation says dispensaries don't cause crime



    UPDATE October 11 - The RAND Corporation bowed to politcal pressure for the LA City Attorney's Office and removed this study "until the review is complete." Ironically, the RAND Corporation's wen site says that "RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures." Apparently not in every case!

    The RAND Corporation, an influential public policy think tank, issued a report today debunking the commonly-held misperception that medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) attract crime to the neighborhoods in which they are located. In what the authors call “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” the right-leaning RAND Corporation found no evidence that hundreds of MCDCs in Los Angeles caused an increase in crime. The report echoes research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience in communities nationwide. Policy makers should see this groundbreaking report as a green light to adopt sensible regulations to protect legal patients and communities – while preserving safe access to medicine.



    The RAND Corporation report surveyed crime statistics around six hundred MCDCs in Los Angeles County, but failed to find any correlation between the facilities and an increase in crime. In fact, the report showed an increase in crime in some communities only after MCDCs closed. This would not be a surprise for Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who told Los Angeles City Council Members in 2010 that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that MCDCs attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

    The misperception that MCDCs attract crime has serious consequences for patients. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal for fifteen years, lawmakers recently voted to bar legal MCDCs from locating within six hundred feet of residential uses or zones - on top of an existing statute that bars the facilities from being the same distance from schools. The rationale? Public safety. Onerous regulations in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, and other states stem from the same bias. The RAND Corporation report is a welcome answer to this pervasive misconception.

    Medical cannabis is legal in sixteen sates and the District of Columbia, but stigma and disinformation too often stymie regulations that could make the good intentions of voters and lawmakers a reality for patients. Policy makers should listen to what the RAND Corporation has to say today about crime and MCDCs, and to what ASA has been saying about the necessity of well-regulated community-based access to medical cannabis since 2002. We must put aside the groundless assertion that MCDCs attract crime, and move quickly to fully implement state medical cannabis laws.

    Download a copy of the RAND Corporation report, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with a Case Study of Los Angeles Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime.”

    Download a copy of ASA’s report, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation.”
  • Indictments Thrown Out by Nevada Judge, Who Said the State’s Medical Marijuana Law “Makes No Sense”



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Nevada trial court judge threw out an indictment Monday against Leonard Schwingdorf and Nathan Hamilton, two medical marijuana dispensary operators arrested in federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement raids on several Las Vegas facilities last year. This was the first legal disposition since the Obama DEA raided at least 5 area dispensaries on September 8, 2010, indicting 15 people as a result.

    When dismissing the indictments, Nevada District Judge Donald Mosley called the state’s law “mind boggling.” Judge Mosley further questioned the legislature’s failure to craft a law that benefits patients:
    [W]hy don't they (the Legislature) make up their mind if they want to make it legal or not…I can't make any sense out of this law.

    Judge Mosley also asked about the law:
    Are people supposed to give it away? I mean it just makes no sense.

    Although all 15 indictments stemming from last year’s raids were initially filed in federal court, only 7 remain as federal cases. The rest of the indictments, two of which were tossed earlier this week by Judge Mosley, were transferred to state court.

    According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, defendants have called the state law “paradoxical because it allows patients registered with the state to possess the herb, but makes it illegal to obtain it.”

    Mosley agreed with defense attorneys in their allegations that prosecutors withheld important medical-related information from the grand jury that indicted Schwingdorf and Hamilton.

    Seven federal prosecutions are still pending as are another state case, which will be heard Friday by District Judge Doug Smith. An indictment against multiple operators and the vagueness of Nevada’s medical marijuana law will again be at issue this Friday.