Pages tagged "Dispensaries"

  • 9.9.9. Raids Remembered



    By: Eugene Davidovich

    The month of September has eternally been etched into memories of medical marijuana patients in San Diego. September 9th, marks the second anniversary of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids; the largest one day swat style assault against medical marijuana access in San Diego County’s history.

    In the early hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2009, Dumanis’ underlings, in collaboration with local DEA agents all part of the County’s cross-jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force (NTF), were set loose on the San Diego patient community.

    Under the guise of “cracking down on illegal drug dealers,” that morning, federal and local law enforcement descended on over twenty dispensaries in the County. NTF agents seized medicine, money, patient records, and anything else they could get their hands on.

    When the dust settled, it was discovered that only fourteen of the twenty plus locations raided had signed search warrants issued against them. The rest were intimidated into letting the NTF teams in without any paperwork. The operation was designed to instill fear and chaos into the patient community and to achieve a single goal; outright eradication of access to medical marijuana in the County.

    It was also later discovered that detectives involved in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards themselves. All were obtained under aliases and by falsifying medical conditions by which they duped local doctors into issuing recommendations.

    Detectives joined dispensaries as members and began regularly purchasing medicine from them prior to the raids. This allowed them to identify key management personnel as well as to understand the layout of the facilities in preparation for the day of raids.

    Although dozens of sick and dying patients were arrested on 9/9/9, Dumanis’ office ended up filing charges against only small handful. Jovan Jackson, the director of Answerdam was among the few charged in State court. James Stacy director of Movement in Action, along with a few others were tossed over to the US Attorney’s office for federal prosecution.

    In Stacy’s case, the federal charges carried with them a threat of life in prison. After a year of fighting to be allowed to bring up the words “medical marijuana” at trial, Stacy succeeded.

    With the community’s full support and great legal representation by federal public defenders, the Federal Judge agreed Stacy was in full compliance with state law. Although an official medical marijuana defense was not granted, the Judge agreed there was no way to keep the mention of medical marijuana and Stacy’s compliance with state law out of trial which potentially could have resulted in a federal acquittal, mistrial, or outright jury nullification.

    In order to avoid further embarrassment the day before trial was to start, the US Attorney’s office made Stacy an unprecedented offer. They guaranteed no jail time and agreed to drop all charges if Stacy pled guilty to one count of cultivation.

    Overnight, Stacy went from facing the possibility of life in federal prison, to three years probation with no jail time. Such an unprecedented offer was impossible to refuse and was a clear sign of the US Attorney acknowledging the sheer failure of the raids on legitimate patients.

    Although the US Attorney technically got a conviction in that case, their offer paved the way for all dispensary operators in compliance with state laws who are charged in Federal court to either take their case to trial or demand the ‘Stacy Deal’.

    In Jackson’s case, the raid on September 9th was the second time his facility had been hit in less than a year by Dumanis’ office. The day before the second raid, on September 8, while attending a routine court hearing for charges related to the first raid, Jackson was suddenly and without explanation taken into custody.

    With Jackson in solitary confinement, Answerdam was raided for a second time on September 9th and a new case with a second set of identical charges was filed by Dumanis’ office.

    When Jackson’s first case went to trial, it lasted almost three weeks. Having been assigned a fair Judge, twelve jurors examined all the facts of the case and carefully considered them against the State’s complete medical marijuana law. As a result, they quickly and unanimously found Jackson in compliance and not guilty of all the marijuana related charges.

    In Jackson’s second trial however, Dumanis managed to hand pick Judge Howard Shore, a former prosecutor and traditional prohibitionist who blocked Jackson from using the medical marijuana defense in state court. This time, the jury only saw a redacted version of the laws which specifically excluded the language about collectives and cooperatives, the very language which jurors from the first case relied on in finding Jackson not guilty.

    Having been denied knowledge of the previous trial and unable to apply the medical marijuana defense, jurors in the second trial were forced to convict him. Jackson’s second case is currently under appeal by Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.

    Two years later and without question, Operation Green Rx has been an utter failure and colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Aside from Stacy and Jackson, the vast majority of the patients raided on 9/9/9 have not been charged, prosecuted, or even summoned for a court appearance. All the money, cannabis, and other personal property seized that day has not been returned, and those patients who attempted to get their property back through the courts, were told by Dumanis’ office that felony charges would be filed if they tried.

    After realizing that her eradication campaign failed, instead of working with patients to find common ground, Dumanis renamed the operation from ‘Green Rx’ to ‘Green Dope’ to better match her rhetoric of “going after drug dealers” and in the meantime, instructed the NTF Raid Teams to keep their focus on individual patients cultivating medicine, rather than mass raids, and to especially target those contributing their excess to the dispensaries.

    Stemming from raids and investigations conducted by Dumanis’ office post Green Rx and in connection with the new and improved ‘Operation Green Dope’, several cases are already making their way to trial.

    Dumanis recently announced her candidacy for the City of San Diego’s 2012 Mayoral race. If elected she would become Mayor of the largest jurisdiction in the County and a City which over 180 dispensaries as well as over 50,000 medical marijuana patients call home.

    In recent statements in response to media inquiries about her attacks on patients, Dumanis continues to dupe voters, still publicly claiming to support medical marijuana and justifying her incessant attacks on access as fighting “nothing but illegal drug dealers”.

    Patients, caregivers, advocates and concerned citizens, are committed to fight Dumanis’ bias driven war, and will not rest until the she is held accountable and the public is made aware of her track record on this issue.

    As a direct result of Dumanis’ actions, September 9th, will always be remembered as a dark day in San Diego’s medical marijuana history and one that will continue to serve as a clear example of the failed war on medical marijuana patients.

    For more information contact Eugene Davidovich at [email protected]
  • California Governor Signs Bill Recognizing Legality of Medical Marijuana Distribution



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today recognizing the legality of local distribution centers and the right of municipalities to regulate the much-needed provision of medical marijuana to hundreds of thousands of patients across the state. AB1300, which was authored by California Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys), takes effect on January 1st. The bill establishes that state law:
    [S]hall not prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing local ordinances that regulate the location, operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective.

    Although Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opposed Blumenfield’s bill for not going far enough to protect the operation of more than 1,000 storefront dispensaries and delivery services across the state, it does at least recognize their legitimacy and the need of patients to access these modes of distribution.

    ASA will continue to litigate in the courts and lobby state legislators to establish a more protective policy with regard to storefront distribution. Currently, more than 50 California localities have ordinances regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, and more than 90 local governments are considering such regulatory laws. Research conducted by ASA found that dispensary regulations not only benefit the thousands of patients across the state, but also help to reduce crime and improve the neighborhoods surrounding such facilities.
  • Tell CA Governor Brown to Veto Bad Bills



    There are two bills on the Governor’s desk that will severely limit safe access to medical cannabis in California. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on supporters to contact Governor Jerry Brown today and ask him to veto SB 847 and AB 1300 to protect local access in our communities.

    Can you take a few minutes right now to call or email Governor Brown? ASA’s online action center makes it easy!


    Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847 requires that medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from any residential zone or use. This will force patients’ associations to the outskirts of most cities – if they can find a location at all! Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield’s (D-Van Nuys) AB 1300 explicitly authorizes cities and counties to ban cooperatives and collectives. That means access can be eliminated in some communities altogether! That is not what voters intended when they adopted Proposition 215 in 1996, calling on lawmakers “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

    These bills passed through the legislature easily. If we do not make a good show of opposition at the Governor’s office, he will sign SB 847 and AB 1300 into law. Research conducted by ASA and years of experience in implementing our state law show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around cooperatives and collectives. Tell Governor Brown we can work with lawmakers to adopt better laws than these.

    Please act today. The bills could be signed at any minute! Thank you for helping.
  • Michigan Appellate Court Severely Limits Access to Medical Marijuana, Lansing Mayor Blasts Decision



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Tuesday, Michigan’s Court of Appeals ruled in People v. Compassionate Apothecary that the sale of medical marijuana was illegal under state law, outlawing an important method of distribution relied on by thousands of Michigan patients. According to the City Pulse, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero blasted the ruling today as “a terrible setback” and “ridiculous law,” claiming that the judges “subverted the will of the people rather than facilitated it.” Lansing and other cities in Michigan have already adopted regulations licensing the same distribution facilities just banned by the appellate court.

    Since voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, patients have been struggling to find safe and legal ways to access their medication. Several cities including Ann Arbor, Lansing, Traverse City and Ypsilanti had forged ahead, adopting ordinances regulating local distribution so that legal protection would exist for patients and providers. But Tuesday’s decision undermines those local laws and an estimated 400 dispensaries that were operating across the state, generally without incident.

    Mayor Bernero called the decision a victory for the War-on-drugs approach, “which will help keep marijuana sales in the neighborhoods and back alleys.” Statistics show that the vast majority of patients rely on centralized distribution centers for their medication, mainly because it is difficult and expensive to grow indoors. In the face of this demand for safe access by the state’s most vulnerable residents, Michigan has shown a deplorable lack of compassion and foresight. Because this legal prohibition on distribution will push patients into the illicit market, it will increase the risk of harm to patients and in so doing will directly contradict the efforts of law enforcement.

    Advocates applaud the leadership of local officials like Mayor Bernero, yet more are needed to stand up for the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. In looking ahead, Mayor Bernero put the ball in the state legislature’s court:
    The way forward is simple -- our state lawmakers need to step up to the plate and write a law that is clear and concise and that respects the will of the people of Michigan as expressed in their overwhelming support for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    Advocates are currently working to develop a response. The tens of thousands of Michigan patients who rely on local distribution will not stand idly by while their rights are taken away. Whether through the courts, the legislature or by referendum, patients will seek a remedy to gain safe and legal access to medical marijuana.
  • Trial Court Denies Challenge to Anaheim Ban on Dispensaries for a Second Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In an anticipated trial ruling in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Chafee denied a challenge to Anaheim’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries after he was reversed by the Fourth Appellate District one year ago. In this week’s unpublished decision, which has no precedential value, Judge Chafee decided that the Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”) does not forbid a city from banning “mass distribution” of medical marijuana through storefront dispensaries. However, under the MMPA qualified patients and their primary caregivers are not subject to criminal sanctions for sales where they associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical use.

    The trial court’s emphasis on “mass distribution” has no basis in the law and is contradicted by the State Attorney General Guidelines, which interpret the MMPA as permitting storefront medical marijuana distribution facilities. When the Fourth Appellate District reversed Judge Chafee in 2010, the court held that state law was not preempted by federal law and that federal law could not be used as a means to ban local distribution, but ultimately sent the case back to Judge Chafee for further factual development. The case is expected to be appealed, leaving open the possibility of another reversal.

    Americans for Safe Access filed an amicus brief on behalf of Qualified Patients Association in 2010 and will likely be involved in the second appeal.
  • DA Bonnie Dumanis Pushes on with Prosecution of Legal San Diego Medical Marijuana Collective

    By: Terrie Best, San Diego Americans for Safe Access


    Legal cannabis patient Dexter Padilla was in court last week in front of Judge Albert T. Hartunian III as he and his attorney, Michael J. McCabe, of the Davidovich victory, fought it out with Prosecutor Ramin Tohidi over whether there was enough prosecutorial evidence to bind the case over for trial.

    The Preliminary Examination of the evidence on one count of cannabis cultivation and one count of possession with intent to distribute came after a series of exhaustive disclosure meetings between attorneys for defense and prosecution where, the defense’ witness, Mark Wuerfel, Esq. Dexter’s civil attorney, laid open Dexter’s books, Articles of Incorporation papers, Bylaws and every other piece of evidence to show Dexter’s lawfulness in his cultivation and possession of medical cannabis.

    The disclosure meetings proved both unusual and ultimately unsuccessful, based on the fact that Bonnie Dumanis’ office stubbornly refuses to drop this case against a shinning example of a patient citizen’s efforts to navigate the murky medical marijuana laws and her refusal to interpret the law in a manner that is fiscally responsible and logical.

    Preliminary exam proceedings began with the prosecution’s first witness, Detective Paul Paxton of the San Diego Police Department. Paxton, cross-sworn as a DEA Agent and part of Dumanis’ expensive and politically conceived Narcotics Task Force (NTF), testified to having 12 years as a narcotics officer with training from various drug enforcement entities as well as “what he’s seen on TV” about drug enforcement.

    Paxton denied training in medical marijuana but went on to explain his interpretation of plant yields. An interpretation which defense held him accountable for on cross as Mr. McCabe wrangled with Paxton to admit un-rooted cuttings have only a 30% survival rate and other contrived opinions about yields from Paxton’s testimony.

    Mr. McCabe, in his cross also examined the details of the investigation which led to the search warrant and raid of Dexter Padilla’s legally grown cannabis. Of note is that Paxton’s surveillance, which took but one day, included the knowledge that Dexter was involved in a legitimate medical cannabis co-op and was in fact providing medicine to patients. Paxton, instead of attempting to verify the co-op, or contact it’s directors, went ahead and obtained the search warrant and raided the warehouse where Dexter grew for his patients, destroying the medicine which was intended to provide relief for those patients.

    Mr. McCabe put forth a number of exhibits in defense of Dexter’s co-op, including, Articles of Incorporation with language about the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and signed by the Secretary of State, the co-op’s financials, prepared by a CPA, Bylaws and minutes from the Board of Directors meetings as well as patient and grower contracts, the latter of which included language for oversight of each grow as well as legal doctors’ cannabis recommendations for each grower.

    In a fastidious but prickly move, Tohidi demanded the doctor recommendations be removed from each grower contract packet as he questioned the validity of the recommendations.

    Arguments for the defense brought Mr. Wuerfel to the stand, who not only served as Dexter’s civil attorney but the Custodian of Records for the co-op. Tohidi fretted, in his attempt to eliminate Mr. Wuerfel as a witness, that he would opine on law and maneuver to school the judge. However, the judge allowed Mr. Wuerfel to take the stand.

    Mr. Wuerfel a former federal law clerk, attorney of 33 years, law professor and founder of Redwood Law Group, testified to the lengths he advised Dexter to go to demonstrate lawfulness in his co-op and the methods of disclosure he recommended.

    Among the advice Dexter followed were processes for board of director oversight, source/cultivation documentation, financial considerations and tax oversight, methods of facilitating the examination of these documents by co-op members and law enforcement and host of other mechanisms meant to exceed the most stringent view of the Attorney General Guidelines for Medical Marijuana. It was on Mr. Wuerfel’s recommendation that Dexter re-file his current Articles of Incorporation papers to include the CUA language.

    In final argument Mr. McCabe referred to a number of cases including People v. Konow 2004, a case McCabe himself won, in which a patient/defendant may suggest that the court dismiss a case ” in the interest of justice”, and the court has the power to do so.

    However, while Judge Hartunian admitted the prosecution had not proven unlawfulness, he, never-the-less, bound Dexter Padilla over for trial so his case could go before a jury.

    I had the opportunity to speak with Dexter and Mr. Wuerfel about the climate of medical cannabis law in California, Mr. Wuerfel, who has had his own struggles with federal agents in defense of legal medical cannabis law, stated that often in these cases the procedure is the punishment but expressed confidence that Dexter had conducted his co-op with his i’s dotted and t’s crossed and it would likely not escape jury notice.

    Dexter will be arraigned on July 28, 2011 in Department 11.
  • Celebrating Independence Day with an Unhealthy Dependence on the Federal Government



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    More by a confluence of circumstances than by design, the federal government made clear this past week its intolerance to medical cannabis as well as its intolerance to the independence of local and state governments to decide their own public health policies. The irony of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing formal threats against the autonomy of local and state officials on the eve of Independence Day is not lost on many who are paying attention to this latest power grab by the federal government.

    When was the last time you remember local and state officials being threatened en masse with criminal prosecution by the federal government for implementing their own public health laws? This egregious attempt by the fed to seize unwarranted authority over the states should be a concern not only to the medical cannabis patient community, but also to those who believe in the importance of local autonomy in a federalist system of democracy.

    There are, however, historical demons in our states’ rights closet too, not the least of which is the amalgam of state laws enacted to resist federal desegregation efforts during the Civil Rights era. However, there must be ways to protect people from harm and bigotry using our federalist system of government, without ceding omnipotence to the fed and giving up the rights of states and their localities to care for the health and welfare of their people. There is no doubt that the fed is attempting to set a precedent that will allow them to usurp control from local and state governments and inhibit their ability to pass their own public health laws.

    This is a time to rise up in opposition to the federal government and its abuse of authority. This is not a time to cower and buckle to intimidation. The States of Arizona, California, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington have either suspended or gutted parts of their medical cannabis programs in response to threats from U.S. Attorneys.  However, the State of Delaware recently passed the country’s 16th medical cannabis law, including the licensing of distribution centers, despite awareness by the legislature and Governor Jack Markell that the new law contradicted parts of federal law. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to regulate and license medical cannabis distribution centers in his state despite a threatening letter sent by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin to Vermont’s Public Safety Commissioner.

    If local and state officials want to maintain their independence, they must take a cue from the States of Delaware and Vermont and stand up to the federal government. Governors, state attorneys general, legislators, county supervisors, city council members and others must join together and fight back against this latest encroachment.

    To be sure, medical cannabis patients are not going away. If the federal government refuses to recognize the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and develop a sensible public health policy, then states must be allowed to do so in its place. As we celebrate our freedom from government tyranny on this July 4th, let’s also be resolute in our stand against tyrannical acts by the Obama Administration.
  • Medical Cannabis Community on Red Alert



    [caption id="attachment_1695" align="alignnone" width="275" caption="Deputy US AG Cole"]
    [/caption]

    Under the Obama Administration, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo reinforcing the intent of the federal government to interfere with state medical cannabis laws, specifically the creation and licensing of dispensing centers. Compromising the legitimacy of dispensing centers will jeopardize access for patients in medical cannabis states across the country.  The time has come for great action on our part to show the federal government that our state's right to medical cannabis will not be trumped. 

    Our community is on red alert.  ASA suggests that everyone revisits their emergency response plans, and if you do not have one, now is the time.  Sign up for ASA Raid Text Message Alerts by clicking here.  If you are a medical cannabis related business, sign up your business for our Raid Response Program.

    For more information, click here to view our press release, and click here to read ASA’s Blog reaction.

    Americans for Safe Access will be holding a conference call on Tuesday, July 5 2011 at 5:30pPST/8:30pEST-6:30pPST/9:30pEST to discuss our course of action to respond to this event.  To dial in on Tuesday, call 832 431 3335 and enter participant code 1618568. 

    In the meantime, it is very important to build support from our political leaders, and question the Obama Administration for their actions. 

    If you live in a medical cannabis state, take one minute to call your state's governor using the following script.  To find your governor's phone number, click here.

    Governor--
      
    I am outraged at the Obama Administration's continual disregard for our state's medical cannabis laws.  We need your leadership to come out against the Obama Administration's actions, and support the rights of medical cannabis patients! 

     

     

     



    Thank you.  President Obama--

    I am outraged with your Administration's recent Department of Justice Memo from Deputy Attorney General Cole.  You made promises to protect our community, and they have been broken.  Denying patients the right to access medication through dispensing centers is an attack on the patient community.  Issue a policy that allows states to implement their laws, and protect patients rights to safe access! 

    Thank you.

    If you have not done so already, sign ASA's Petition to Obama to end federal interference with state law by clicking here.

    We look forward to talking to you on Tuesday, July 5 about our next steps.

    Everyone across the country should take minute to call Obama's reelection campaign using the following script.  His campaign hotline is 312-698-3670.  The White House Comment line is 202-456-1111.
  • Oppose SB 847 to protect local access in CA



    The California Assembly Committee on Local Government will vote on a bill that will make it much more difficult to establish a legal medical cannabis patients’ cooperative or collective on Tuesday, June 29. Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847 will require that all cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from residential zones or use – effectively excluding vast portions of most California cities. This would be on top of the existing requirement that facilities be located 600 feet from schools.

    We need to stop this bad bill before it reaches the Assembly floor. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and supporters to oppose SB 847 today. ASA's Online Action Center makes it easy to find your state Assemblymember and send a message right now.

    SB 847 is burdensome. It is already hard enough for patients to organize and operate legal cooperatives and collectives. This new rule may make it almost impossible in some cities. Most medical cannabis patients rely on cooperatives and collectives for access to medicine, so onerous restrictions like this serve to choke off safe access. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 calling on lawmakers “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

    SB 847 is unnecessary. Research conducted by ASA and more than fifteen years of experience with medical cannabis in California have taught us that sensible local regulations reduce crime and complaints. We do not need to usurp local control on medical cannabis. Instead, legislators should be cooperating with local government and other stake holders to adopt state laws that facilitate safe, reliable, and legal access to medicine.

    Email your California Assemblymember today and ask him or her to vote no on SB 847.

    Thank you for helping!
  • 3 More Indictments in Federal Campaign Against Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The federal government indicted three people yesterday in Montana, continuing its campaign to undermine medical marijuana laws across the country. The indictment against Jason Burns, Joshua Schultz, and Jesse Leland who were providing medical marijuana to state-qualified patients in Montana, is a result of 26 raids executed in March by no less than 8 federal agencies and an array of local law enforcement.

    Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum de-emphasizing federal enforcement against medical marijuana, President Obama has been responsible for more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least 7 states since taking office. Yesterday’s indictment is added to a list of more than 2-dozen similar medical marijuana-related indictments in the past 2 years.

    Whether or not you agree that medical marijuana patients and providers accused of local or state law violations should be tried in state court – we certainly do – they should be given a chance to defend themselves. Unfortunately, patients and providers prosecuted in federal court are prevented from using a medical or state law defense. U.S. Attorneys know this and use it to their advantage to unfairly try medical marijuana defendants like Burns, Schultz, and Leland. Whether they are accused of making a profit or somehow violating state law matters not in federal court and it will never be raised as an issue at trial. In fact, federal prosecutors will even object to the words “medical marijuana” being used in front of the jury.

    Let’s call a spade, a spade. The federal government goes after medical marijuana providers because it’s easy. People bold enough to commit federal civil disobedience every day to bring medical marijuana to patients who need it and are qualified to use it do not hide in the shadows. Many are listed in the phone book or on other public lists. They often run storefront businesses and some even advertise. Federal enforcement against medical marijuana providers is like picking low hanging fruit.

    Once in federal court, U.S. Attorneys need only to show that marijuana was present and that it was being provided to another person and, presto, you can convict anyone on an array of federal felonies. If the provider places his or her proceeds in a bank, you can add money laundering and other financial offenses to the list of felonies.

    The problem is that the federal government isn’t just racking up more points in its insatiable “war on drugs,” it’s also, and more importantly, playing with people’s lives. In a letter sent earlier this week to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) explain that targeting medical marijuana providers:
    harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.

    Holder would do well to heed the Congressmen’s words and let local and state officials enforce their own medical marijuana laws. It makes economic sense and it brings this country closer to addressing medical marijuana as the public health issue that it is.