Pages tagged "Federal"

  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, Argues in Federal Court on the Data Quality Act Case This week, ASA's Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, gave oral arguments in front of Federal Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco.  Mr. Elford gave arguments seeking an answer from the HHS regarding the Data Quality Act petition.   ASA filed a Data Quality Act (DQA) petition on October 4, 2004, requesting that HHS correct its information being disseminated regarding the medical use of marijuana. The DQA requires federal agencies, like HHS, to ensure that the information it distributes is fair, objective and meets certain quality guidelines.  After numerous delays, HHS denied ASA’s petition on April 20, 2005. ASA quickly filed an appeal, and after even more delays, on July 12, 2006, HHS denied the appeal. Having exhausted its administrative remedies, ASA filed a lawsuit on February 21, 2007, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, naming HHS and FDA, and challenging the government’s violation of the Data Quality Act. An amended complaint was subsequently filed on August 17, 2007.  Mr. Elford's arguments called for an answer from HHS in a timely manor.  We expect a ruling from Judge Alsup within a few weeks. Mendocino County Supervisors Send Medical Marijuana Regulations Back to Committee This week, Mendocino County Supervisors voted to send the proposed medical marijuana regulations back to committee.  The proposed dispensary regulations which were sent back to committee put a cap on only 2 dispensaries in the large county.  It has also been criticized as having unattainable regulations which will put up roadblocks for providers and patients.  The current draft of the regulations will be amended in the Criminal Justice Committee. Just two months ago, the CJ committee made recommendations to limit the number of plants a patient is allowed to have.  In response, the same Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance calling for the county to honor the voters' wishes as specified in measure G and to keep the guidelines at 25 plants per patient. The Board of Supervisors rejected the Criminal Justice committee's recommendation to lower the County's limits to 6 mature and 12 immature plants. Activists in Mendocino County are hoping the Criminal Justice committee scraps the regulations all together.  To find out how you can help in Mendocino County and ensure safe access, please contact Bruce at:  [email protected].
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA Fights in the California Supreme Court to Protect Patients' Rights to Work On Tuesday, November 6, Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel Joe Elford argued an appeal of the discriminatory decision of September 7, 2005, when the Court of Appeals for the Third Appellate District denied a qualified medical marijuana patient any remedy for being terminated from his/her employment simply for testing positive for marijuana. In Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., the court relied on federal law to defeat Gary Ross' state law causes of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy and employment discrimination in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. “Neither the People of California nor the state legislature intended to exclude medical marijuana patients from a productive workforce,” said Joe Elford. “California must continue its leadership role in protecting disabled workers,” continued Elford. “The Court must rule on the side of Ross, and on the side of thousands of California patients that risk discrimination on a daily basis.” After the lively hearing, Elford and Ross met with dozens of reporters outside of the courthouse. The Associated Press story was picked up by more than 200 papers nationwide. FindLaw and The Recorder offered legal analysis of the hearing, and Drug Law Blog posted YouTube clips of the highlights of the arguments. A ruling in the case will be issued within 90 days of the hearing. For further explanation and links to the legal briefs, go to ASA's Brief Bank page on Ross v. RagingWire. Federal Defendant Bryan Epis Remains Free Bryan Epis was the first medical marijuana patient convicted in federal court after the passage of California’s Proposition 215. Epis was arrested June 25, 1997, after Butte County sheriff's officers discovered marijuana plants growing in the basement of his home in Chico. After an incredibly lengthy federal trial process, on September 14, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell sentenced Epis to 10 years in prison. Epis has been out on bail since August 9, 2004, pending his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Damrell denied the prosecution's request to imprison him immediately. Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, then filed a motion for continued bail pending his appeal, and after reading it, the U.S. Attorney conceded, and did not oppose the motion. In a piece of great news, this means that Epis will remain out of federal prison and home with his family for at least the next 18 months, which is the soonest he can expect a decision on his case from the Ninth Circuit. An in-depth report of Epis' sentencing hearing by Vanessa Nelson is available (with pictures) here. Congratulations again, Bryan, from ASA staff and membership!
  • DEA Raids Hayward Dispensaries, but Activists Don't Stand Down

    Justin Alan Ryan is an independent professional and medical cannabis advocate, activist, and patient from Texas living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Beginning early in the morning, October 30, 2007, the DEA raided several locations connected to Compassionate Patients' Cooperative of California (CPCC). Medical Cannabis supporters from around the SF Bay trekked to a far southeast outpost of our thriving safe access community after receiving SMS messages from ASA's alert system. In addition to various federal agents, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department came in tow, at least twenty strong by noontime, though the facility being raided has been issued a license by the county. In contrast to a raid that occurred in LA the day of our mobilization to the governor's office, these officers were slightly more laid back, presented less of a unified front, and after some time in many cases were joking and laughing, maybe at us, who knows. A number of folks on our side of the tape observed that a small group of women present within the law enforcement faction were assigned the duty of sweeping up the broken glass from a door that probably could easily have been opened without force, which is perhaps representative of how out of date the opposition to our issue are in every aspect of existance. Due especially, I'm sure, to the time of day this raid was executed, at least a handful of patients joined the protest when they found they couldn't get any medicine at CPCC, and many apparent patients drove away without stopping, sporting alarmed and surprised looks. By the time we had been out for a couple of hours or more, the numbers of officers grew, eventually including a fellow proudly sporting an automatic teargas gun, roughly aimed at a group of less than ten nonviolent protestors, a staff member of a county supervisor, and a couple of television cameras. All in all, I'd say our community responded very well given the time of the raid, it's just a shame that having great community support won't increase the level of access for patients in this remote area of the SF Bay, our best hope for now is probably that it can keep the operators out of prison.
  • A Sad Day in Montana, and across the Country - In Remebrance of Robin Prosser

    It is a sad day for the people of Montana, medical marijuana advocates, and people anywhere who are sympathetic to the plight of the sick and dying. Robin Prosser, a Missoula, Montana medical marijuana patient, and a powerful activist fighting for the rights of patients, took her life on October 18. She will be remembered in the struggle for a compassionate and humane federal policy on medical marijuana. Robin was a fighter. She encountered many obstacles, but many victories along the way. In 2002, she sustained a 60-day hunger strike in order to bring attention to her need  for medical marijuana, as well as a need for the protection of patients. In 2004, Robin was charged with possession of an illegal substance and paraphernalia, but managed to fight the charges and continue to use medical marijuana. Arguably, the attention Robin gave to the issue in the preceding years helped to pass I-148, the Montana Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) of 2004. However, even with the passage of the much-needed MMMA, Robin's troubles were not over. In 2007, a UPS package was intercepted from her registered caregiver by the DEA. The package was her twice-monthly shipment of 20 grams of medical marijuana. Though no federal charges were ever filed against Robin, the action by DEA agents was a clear attempt to intimidate her and others. In fact, the DEA's involvement is representative of increased attacks on patients in states with medical marijuana laws. It is part of a last-ditch effort to avoid a federal policy change. I had a chance to talk with Robin shortly after the DEA seized her medical marijuana and she informed me at the time that she had no other way to obtain the medicine she relied on to treat her severe pain and nausea caused by an immunosuppressive disorder she had endured for more than 20 years. Robin was rightfully angry and despondent. It is a shame that we have lost another activist in this struggle. It is shameful that the DEA either cannot see the harm it is inflicting, or is cognizant of the consequences of its actions but refuses to change course. Regardless, it's a tragedy. Robin will be missed, but we must carry on her strong activist conviction.
  • ASA's Trip to LA: Protest, DEA Raid & Interviews

    ASA's trip to LA two weeks ago for the rally calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Patients' Rights was apparently well documented. On Thursday, hundreds of patients and advocates rallied outside of Governor Schwarzenegger's Los Angeles office: Later that night, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. ASA and LA activists jumped into motion and coordinated a protest outside of the dispensary: During the weekend, Dean Becker interviewed me for a documentary he's working on, and I discussed the increase in raids and ASA's response to DEA actions (my interview follows the one with Dr. Mitch Earlywine):
  • Stop the DEA from Breaking Up Two Happy Families

    DEA raids consistently disrupt the lives of innocent patients and providers, but two recent raids have threatened to break up these two happy families: Breaking Up a Family... Ronald Naulls operated a safe, legal medical cannabis collective in Corona for over a year. On July 17, 2007, Naulls's home and the collective were invaded by the DEA. They seized everything: his property; his personal accounts; all of the collective's assets. Naulls was arrested and is now facing federal prosecution for distribution of medical cannabis. But that wasn't the worst of it. County child protective services came along and took Naulls's three little girls, ages 1, 3, and 5, and charged his wife with felony child endangerment. When they spoke to their children in their confidential foster home, the big sister said, Mommy, we're ready to come home now, we promise to be good. The family has since been reunited, but Naulls is still facing a lengthy legal battle. You can help out by donating through Green-Aid. Paramilitary-Style Raids Deny Patients Access to Edible Cannabis On September 26, 2007, the DEA raided five locations the DEA says are connected to Tainted, Inc., a well-known supplier of edible medical cannabis products available in dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Heavily armed federal agents seized cannabis plants and medicinal edibles, arrested three people and killed an employee’s dog. On October 4th, Michael Martin turned himself in following an arrest warrant issued during the raids. He spoke in front of the Oakland Federal Building, surrounded by his wife, two children, and his mother, pleading with the federal government to spare his family more pain. Martin and three other defendants in the Tainted case are facing a lengthy and expensive legal battle, and Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis to qualified patients. You can help out by donating through Free Tainted.

  • Some Examples of Local Cooperation with the DEA in Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients

    So, think about this. Medical marijuana use and cultivation has been legal in California since 1996, but more than ten years later, there are still local law enforcement agents who refuse to follow state law. Especially since the Raich decision in 2005, many California law enforcement officials have cooperated with the federal government in investigating, raiding, and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers. In the most egregious cases, local governments have actively regulated and issued permits to these providers, only to have local law enforcement later turn them over the federal government. Here is an incomplete list of some stories of this practice, feel free to post others in comments with source links.
    • On 9/13/07, DEA and Nevada County Sheriffs raided several residences near Big Oak Valley, and arrested 3 individual patient-cultivators for cultivating 190 plants. Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal initiated the investigation, and utilized federal DEA warrants because federal charges carry more jail time upon conviction than state cases and he intends to continue to raid collective cultivation sites. "We asked for help through the U.S. Attorney, and the DEA came through with the warrants," Royal said. Source
    • On 8/29/07, DEA, San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, and San Mateo PD raided 3 dispensing collectives in San Mateo (Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, Peninsula Patients Local Option, M.H.T.), confiscating medicine and shutting them down. After considering a letter he had received from Patients Choice that explained the legality of dispensing collectives under state law, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe decided to call in the DEA to raid the dispensaries. "We could have sat here and spent a great deal of taxpayer money in San Mateo County, prosecuting it and going through the appeals, or we could bring the case to the attention of the federal government," Wagstaffe said. Source
    • On 7/25/07, DEA & LAPD raided 10 dispensing collectives in Los Angeles, confiscating medicine, arresting 5 and closing many of the collectives. Specifically, one LAPD Officer, Detective Dennis Packer, was caught on video wearing DEA regalia and actively participating in the raid, and was a cross-deputized agent. While the LAPD promised to investigate his role in the raid, on 8/16/07, LAPD Commander David R. Doan told the Los Angeles City Council that the LAPD will continue to participate in federal raids on local medical marijuana dispensing collectives. Doan told council members (many of who were pressuring him not to cooperate) that the LAPD had a positive relationship with the DEA and he did not want to risk damaging that relationship and that it was LAPD policy to provide assistance with lawful federal warrants. Doan stated, "If it's going to be our position to say we're not going to help the [Drug Enforcement Administration], I'm not authorized to make that statement today," Doan said. Sources here, here, here and here.
    • On 5/1/07, DEA, Kern County Sheriffs & Bakersfield PD raided Nature’s Medicinal Collective in Oildale and confiscated medicine, warning the dispensing collective not to reopen. It reopened anyway, and as the culmination of an 18-month investigation, the same law enforcement agencies raided again on 7/17/07, confiscating medicine and eventually arresting 8 patients on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, remarked after the first raid, “I understand why they are offended. First you regulate us and then arrest us. It’s contradictory and I am aware of that.” Eventually, all 6 dispensing collectives in the Bakersfield area closed, with one owner/operator crediting his decision to an alleged discussion where Sheriff Youngblood informed him of his intention to call the DEA to shut him down. The Sheriff himself took credit for these shutdowns in Business Week, saying that his own warnings, combined with the federal raids, have eliminated dispensing collectives in Kern County. "It is a federal crime, and federal law trumps California law," he says. Sheriff Youngblood then announced in 8/07 that he will not issue any more dispensing collective licenses (which is his job under the Kern County dispensing collective regulation ordinance) as he feels that he is helping people break the law. Sources are here, here, here, here, and here.
    • On 3/29/07, DEA & San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs raided Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, confiscating medicine, and arresting 1 patient-employee on state charges. The Sheriffs spent the afternoon inside the dispensing collective with the DEA, taking down names and other information of patients arriving throughout the day. Sheriff's Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brian Hascall reported that the raid was the culmination of a year-long investigation by his Department. "The entire investigation started with us," Hascall said in a later interview. "I can't say why, but we started the investigation, and then because of the nature of the investigation, we requested the DEA's assistance, and it became a joint investigation between the two of us. That's common for it to be done that way." The Sheriffs did not get a state search warrant, and used a federal search warrant to carry out a local arrest warrant. Hascall explained that the Sheriff's Department has a duty to uphold both state and federal laws, pointing to the oath of office that requires them to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the Constitution of the State of California. "That's where the conflict between the federal law and the state law becomes such a problem," Hascall said. Sarah Pullen, Public Information Officer for the DEA's Los Angeles field division said that the agency does typically use local law enforcement in all enforcement actions. Source
    • On 7/17/07, presumably as a result of evidence gathered in the previous state-initiated raid, DEA arrested Charles Lynch (owner/operator of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers) at his residence. He is currently being federally charged with manufacturing and distributing marijuana, distributing marijuana to a person under 21, possession with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug-involved premise, and aiding and abetting to distribute marijuana and his case is ongoing. Source
    • On 9/27/06, DEA, IRS and Modesto PD raided the California Healthcare Collective in Modesto, confiscating medicine and arresting 4 patients. Modesto PD and DEA engaged in a 15-month investigation in which they sent officers to purchase cannabis from the clinic. Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden’s gave a statement supporting the raid: "Make no mistake about it…It simply will not be tolerated." Sources here and here.
    • On 12/12/05, and then again on 7/6/06, after a self-characterized joint investigation, DEA, San Diego County Sheriffs, and San Diego PD raided 11 dispensing collectives in San Diego under federal and state search warrants, confiscating medicine, arresting 6 on federal charges, and then pressured the rest of the city’s dispensaries to shut down. San Diego County DA Bonnie Dumanis filed state charges against five dispensing collectives and during the investigation, San Diego PD officers went to doctors to get recommendations and also visited dispensaries, posing as legitimate patients. After the raids, Dumanis put the unraided dispensaries on notice, saying, “We've raided some of you today. We'll raid the rest of you if you do not cease and desist. We'll raid you again and again.” Sources here, here and here.
    Crazy, huh?
  • Obfuscation by Kern County Officials Means No Access for Hundreds of Area Medical Marijuana Patients

    In the latest saga of obfuscation by Kern County officials, District Attorney Ed Jagels has recommended the banning of dispensaries in the county. The Bakersfield Californian quotes Jagels in an October 10 article as saying, "I do not think we benefit from the cooperative/collective licensing ordinance." Who doesn't benefit, and what exactly are the problems caused by the existing ordinance approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2006? Let's be very clear about this. The people who stand to lose the most from a lack of dispensaries in Kern are the hundreds of patients now forced to travel to other counties to obtain their medical marijuana. Let's be clear about another thing. The Kern County Sheriff was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee the dispensary permitting process as defined by the county's regulatory ordinance. The fact that Sheriff Youngblood cooperated with federal DEA agents to raid and close the same dispensaries that had been permitted by his office is cause for great concern. I wonder if Sheriff Youngblood understands that medical marijuana patients and providers are prevented from using medical evidence at their federal trial. Is it possible that Sheriff Youngblood couldn't figure out how to file charges under state law, or was he trying to ensure a conviction in federal court for conduct with which he disagreed, even if he had to violate his own ordinance to do it? There's one more thing to be clear about. The Kern County Board of Supervisors did the right thing in adopting the 2006 ordinance regulating dispensaries. The dispensaries that were permitted under the ordinance and the communities surrounding them had very few problems. But, Sheriff Youngblood wasn't the same Sheriff that took part in drafting the ordinance, and now he has succeeded in undermining both state and local law. The solution is not, as suggested by DA Jagels, to shut down dispensaries or ban them from Kern County. The best solution is one of the options offered by the Kern County Counsel -- maintain the current ordinance, but appoint another agency to oversee the permitting process. Kern County patients rely on these facilities, and it's up to county officials to figure out how to effectively regulate them.
  • Medical Marijuana Enters into Electoral Politics

    Steve Filson, Democratic California Assembly Candidate for the 15th District, posted his candidate statement on Calitics yesterday. After covering his platform issues, he came out strongly in favor of medical cannabis:
    And the one vote I will consistently cast is to support medical use of marijuana. My extensive corporate management experience with employees, who fell victim, albeit rarely, to substance abuse is based on medical and other professional training, not on the viewpoint of archaic hysteria. As an expert in employee recovery programs, I know this drug to be fully appropriate for medicinal uses and it does not constitute a "domino" step to harder drugs.
    Considering that Filson is vying for a seat that has historically been held by Republicans, this is a courageous statement and shows that he really cares about patients and understands the importance of this issue to Californians. Thanks to the work of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have also come out in support of medical marijuana, along with two of the Republican candidates, Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Tom Tancredo. It is clear that medical marijuana is becoming a more mainstream electoral issue. Soon it will be the job of advocates and patients to hold our elected officials to these statements.
  • Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Pres.) Ice Cold to wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient

    Wow, take a look at Gov. Romney's cold dismissal of wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient and muscular dystrophy sufferer Clayton Holton. Holton tries to explain to Gov. Romney that marijuana works for him in a way that other medicines have not. Gov. Romney's tired rejoinder is that Colton should ignore what his own body has told him and seek Marinol or addictive opiate-based pain medications, even though
    "It makes me sick. I have tried it, and it makes me throw up," Holton said.
    Holton then asks the key question:
    "Will you arrest me or my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"
    Romney brusquely states:
    "I am not in favor of medical marijuana being legal in the country."
    and then coldly walks away, continuing to refuse to answer the question, even after several entreaties by the wheelchair-bound patient and others. Taking the Governor on his word, if he becomes President, he does in fact intend to raid, arrest and prosecute sick patients like Clayton Holton and throw them in jail for using marijuana to help ease debilitating ailments like muscular dystrophy. Traditional Media, including CNN, from whence the link came, pick this up, Romney absolutely will arrest the sick and dying. That's just sad.  Gov. Romney, I urge you to look to your religious beliefs which you so often cite as inspiring you to public service, and try to find compassion in your heart.  Even if you do not endeavor to change your stance on medical marijuana, you can still commit to ending the raids that put the sick and dying in jail.  It's the compassionate thing to do.