Pages tagged "Federal"

  • SF patients get creative to protest feds



    Hundreds of ASA members and allies staged a funeral procession through the streets of San Francisco yesterday to protest the closing of the Vapor Room, one of the city’s venerable and legally-permitted medical cannabis patients’ collectives. Protesters with full funeral regalia marched from Vapor Room in the Lower Haight-Ashbury District to Federal Building downtown. But they made a special stop along the way.

    The march stopped briefly at an alley for a little creative street theatre. Activists produced a giant puppet depicting US Attorney Melinda Haag, who orchestrated the current federal crackdown in the San Francisco Bay Area, and performed a satirical ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new “dispensary” for patients: the alley! The oversized action – complete with a long red ribbon, big ceremonial scissors, and the larger-than-life puppet – sent an unmistakable message to the crowd and the media. Closing legally-permitted patients’ associations sends legal patients back to the alleys to find the medicine they need. (More pictures after the jump...)





    The Vapor Room was forced to close after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) threatened the landlord with civil asset forfeiture charges. Civil asset forfeiture is a procedure by which the federal government can confiscate property used to commit a crime. The law was intended to fight large-scale drug trafficking operations; but in this case, the “crime” is providing medical cannabis in accordance with state law! Threats of civil asset forfeiture are a central component of the latest federal crackdown on medical cannabis, which started with a press conference with Ms. Haag and her colleagues last October.

    Unfortunately, they are not just making threats. The DOJ filed civil asset forfeiture actions against another model Bay Area patients’ association last month. Harborside Health Center, the largest medical cannabis facility in the state, is facing a tough fight in federal court now that their property owner is in the federal crosshairs. Federal pressure on Harborside Health Center and other kinds of federal intimidation drew hundreds of protesters to a rally in front of Oakland City Hall during a recent fundraising visit by President Obama.



    San Francisco ASA members and their allies are to be commended for staging a creative and effective action. Events like this one dramatize the issues surrounding the federal crackdown for the community and the media, and that is important to getting the message out. A funeral march, coffins with flowers, a giant puppet, over-sized scissors, and the rest also make great photo opportunities for image-hungry reporters.

    It behooves all of us fighting the federal attack on medical cannabis to be creative in how we tell our story. We are going to need the most effective messages and vehicles for messages that we can get. Do not underestimate the power of one good image in the public eye. Keep up that good work, and we will keep changing minds and winning allies in the fight for safe access!

    Thanks to ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer for coming all the way from Washington, DC, for this event. ASA staff members Courtney Sheats, Tony Bowles, and Hunter Holliman were also present.
  • Wake Up Obama: Cannabis Patients Vote!

    This is a photo of me at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I had just heard one of the most politically motivating speeches of my life from a candidate for president. I was moved to tears, joyous, and inspired. This candidate not only filled me with hope about the future of our nation, but said he would not interfere with access to legal medical cannabis.

    I was ecstatic to be shedding the dark days of the Bush Administration's war on medical cannabis patients. As a patient myself, I felt counted and part of the Change that would be coming to Washington, and I was proud to support and volunteer for Barack Obama's victorious campaign.

    For his 2008 campaign, I donated money, I went to rallies to show support, I knocked on doors in VA,  and on election night I joined thousands in D.C. who descended on the White House to celebrate and sing "Na, Na, Na, Na, Good bye" to President Bush. I went to sleep that night excited about a new direction for this country that would include me as a recognized medical cannabis patient.

    From the beginning, the new administration made supportive statements about medical cannabis, including that the President was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." On October 19, 2009, we got the policy document we had been waiting for. Then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memorandum, now know as the "Ogden Memo," instructing U.S. attorneys to limit marijuana enforcement to those operating out of compliance with state law.

    With this legal guidance, the medical cannabis movement went to work to pass new state laws protecting patients and those who provided their medication. Advocates, community members, and officials spent thousands of hours drafting legislation and regulations in at least eleven states. But when legislators and other state and local officials came close to passing or implementing these laws, they received letters from U.S. attorneys, threatening federal arrest and prosecution.

    Dismayed by this apparent reversal in the Obama Administration's policy, patients demanded the President rein in the US Attorneys. Instead we got the "Cole Memo," issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, laying out a new interpretation of the Obama Administration's policy. The memo gave the Justice Department free rein in medical cannabis states, to undermine state laws and coerce local lawmakers. The Cole Memo launched an unprecedented attack on the medical cannabis community unprecedented in its scope.

    In fewer then fours years of President Obama, we have seen more raids on dispensaries than during the Bush Administration's entire eight-year tenure. The Obama Administration has taken property from landlords, threatened local officials, forced the release of patient records, used the Internal Revenue Service to bankrupt legitimate dispensaries, told banks to purge medical cannabis clients, evicted patients from low-income housing, and denied a petition to recognize the well-established medical value of cannabis.

    Now as President Obama approaches the vote on his reelection, I and other medical cannabis patients are finding it impossible to renew our support. How can I vote for someone who has broken his promise? How can I vote for someone who can't see very real public health needs? How can I vote for someone who wages war on my fellow patients and me?

    There are more than one million legal medical cannabis patients across the country and millions more waiting to become legal. We have friends and family in every state, and there are many of us in states that are key to the Obama reelection campaign: Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

    I care a lot about this country and my fellow Americans, and I have always volunteered for candidates during election years. Now, instead of going to rallies or buying tickets to fundraisers, I will be protesting at campaign stops like the one today in downtown Oakland. Instead of working to elect a president, I'll be joining thousands of medical cannabis advocates at Camp Wakeupobama, a virtual summer camp during which we will press our case to the President.

    President Obama, you can move medical cannabis policy forward and win this election - 74% of voters disagree with your attacks on state compassionate use laws.

    Medical cannabis patients will be on the campaign trail, however you can still determine what our signs will say.
  • National News in Review

    A week of national news about medical cannabis, in review. If you live in Northern California, be part of making the news by protesting Obama's crackdown on state-legal dispensaries when he visits Oakland on Monday.
    • Federal Judge Orders Defendant to Stop Taking Marinol - Toke of the Town
    • University of Saskatchewan researchers have discovered the chemical pathway that Cannabis sativa uses to create bioactive compounds called cannabinoids - Phys.org
    • Obama’s Pot Problem - Salon.com
    • Most Active Constitutional Cannabis Lawyer - East Bay Express
    • Truth In Trials Act, Medical Marijuana Protection Bill, Proposed By Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers - The Huffington Post
    • One in eight with fibromyalgia uses cannabis as medicine - Reuters
    • Obama's Attorney Has Come Unhinged: Melinda Haag's Crusade Against Medical Pot Jeopardizes California's Safety - Steph Sherer in the Huffington Post
  • Activist Journalist arrested in Oaksterdam raid to be arraigned

    On April 2, 2012 Jose Alacran Gutierrez was among the throng of protesters and journalists that captured the federal raid on Richard Lee’s Oaksterdam University and Coffee Shop Blue Sky. A veteran Bay Area beat reporter for Pacifica Radio - KPFA’s La Onda Bajita and the nationally syndicated Flashpoints shows, as well as a longtime medical cannabis activist, Mr. Gutierrez was caught up in the raid as it unfolded outside Coffee Shop Blue Sky and brutally arrested by federal agent. He was charges with one federal felony count of forcible assault on a federal officer. He could be facing up to 8 years in prison.

    Over the last decade, hundreds of raids have been conducted where local law enforcement has been used for crowd control, which makes the use of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and The United States Marshals in the April 2nd raid, an unusual show of force on the part of the federal government.

    Suspicious Arrest

    In addition to their aggressive crowd control tactics, the federal agents busted a window of the premises scattering glass and pushing the activists away from the main door. From the Live Stream there is clear audio and video of activists and spectators identifying which officers started the altercations. The jostling of cameras, phones, and equipment can be heard and seen as federal agents’ renter Coffee Shop Blue Sky. In a matter of seconds, Mr. Gutierrez is being accosted and held down on the ground by at least five federal agents. A shameless expression of pride and shock on his face, as he is lead to the patrol car that activists have blocked with their bodies. Others banged on the car windows after they shove him in, chanting and screaming, “Let him go! Let him go!!!”

    This went on relentlessly as federal agents escorted the unmarked car down the street. Oaklanders watched and recorded the incident in appalling disbelief at the overwhelming act of aggression by the federal agents. The Oscar Grant Case, which originated in Oakland, taught its residents to pull out their cameras when witnessing police aggression. Since there were many witnesses (with recording capability ) to Mr. Gutierrez’s incident most of them have video or still footage leading his defense team to ask the public to post on YouTube in order for the whole truth to be told and the charges dropped. From this footage, it is obvious to the viewer that Mr. Gutierrez suffered injuries that sent him to the hospital due to the five or so agents rushing to subdue his alleged assault.

    Out of the three arrests made that day, only Jose Gutierrez was taken into Federal custody. Two activists that were arrested by Oakland Police during the Oaksterdam Raid were released and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office filed no charges.

    Blurred Lines of Activism versus Journalism

    For over twenty years, Jose Alacran Gutierrez has been a leftist leaning political radio correspondent giving a voice to the Chicano and cannabis communities. In regards to sensitive controversial issues like the legalization of medical cannabis, Pacifica Radio reporters and programmers are given an opportunity like no other in journalism, to actively participate in the causes, organizations, and struggles of the communities they represent. These stories usually fall outside the corporate media model. By following the stories from the Humboldt Hills to East Oakland where houses and beyond staying on the beat of the cannabis legalization movement, Jose Alacran Gutierrez has been a catalyst for the dissemination of vital information to these communities.

    We must remember, throughout history oppressive governments have used beatings and arrests to suppress the will of the people. Ghandi was beaten and arrested. Malcolm X was beaten and arrested. Martin Luther King was beaten and arrested. More people are going to be beaten and arrested, but how many more will be marginalized? When members of the Department of Justice are taking these extreme actions, like aggressively subduing journalists, closing educational facilities like Oaksterdam, and raiding permitted dispensaries, someone has to ask, when will enough be enough? These are important questions that need to be answered not only by the people that have the power to conduct these raids and stop them, but also by those of us who have the power to speak out against blatant injustices that are happening on a regular basis in the medicinal cannabis community and beyond.

    Show support in federal court

    Jose will be back in Federal Court on July 13th, 2012 at 9:30am, 1301 Clay Street in Oakland, 3rd Floor, Room 4. His case will be heard once again by Judge Donna Ryu. Court support is appreciated; bring valid identification, and do not bring anything you that you would not want x-rayed or otherwise examined by federal police.

    Sabrina Jacobs is a journalist.
  • Democratic Party grassroots break with Obama on cannabis

    In a sign that the Obama Administration’s tough line on state medical cannabis laws is out of touch with his grassroots support, local Democratic Party organizations are formally endorsing medical marijuana laws - and even legalization.

    The North Carolina Democratic Party is formally in support of a compassionate use law in this key swing state. At the state’s June 16th convention, party officials adopted a resolution (PDF) titled, In Support of Legalizing Medical Marijuana in North Carolina. The state party also adopted a resolution in favor of industrial hemp growing.

    In California, the Democratic Central Committees of San Francisco and Alameda Counties, whose combined population is over two million, passed resolutions condemning federal government raids on local dispensaries. In addition to these statements from Democratic organizations in favor of medical cannabis, the Texas, Colorado, and Washington State Democratic Parties have adopted marijuana decriminalization or legalization resolutions.

    With the American electorate almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, President Obama needs the full support of Democratics to win reelection. Will grassroots opposition to the administration policy toward medical cannabis split the party? As national Democrats prepare to convene in September, we will watch for new developments.

    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Coordinator, as well as an officer of his local Democratic Club.
  • DEA’s Leonhart says “We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction,” but what about medical marijuana?



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Administrator Michele Leonhart has created quite a controversy with her comments on medical marijuana made last Wednesday during a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) House oversight hearing. From her bumbling response to Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on the issue of addiction and comparing medical marijuana to the harmful effects of other Schedule I substances like heroin or methamphetamine, to her commonsense response to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on leaving the question of medical marijuana treatment, “between [a patient] and his doctor,” Leonhart illustrated her illogical approach to medical marijuana as a public health issue.

    Notably, toward the end of Rep. Polis’s examination, he asked Leonhart if she was “willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a way of reducing abuse of prescription drugs,” given that reducing prescription drug abuse is the DEA’s top priority. Leonhart candidly responded:
    We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction.

    Well, Administrator Leonhart, you’re in luck. There is indeed evidence that shows patients using medical marijuana to reduce or eliminate their addictive and often-harmful pharmaceutical drug regimen.

    Just this month, eminent medical marijuana researcher Philippe Lucas, M.A. published an article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs called, “Cannabis as an Adjunct to or Substitute for Opiates in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” According to Lucas, “Evidence is growing that cannabis [medical marijuana] can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, presenting a safe and viable alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical opiates.”

    As if directly addressing Leonhart’s statement to Rep. Polis, and her concern over prioritizing prescription drug addiction, Lucas notes that:
    Addiction to pharmaceutical opiates has been noted by the medical community as one of the common side-effects of extended use by patients (such as those suffering from chronic pain), and a growing body of research suggests that some of the biological actions of cannabis and cannabinoids may be useful in reducing this dependence.

    Lucas further argues that, “[R]esearch on substitution effect suggests that cannabis may be effective in reducing the use and dependence of other substances of abuse such as illicit opiates, stimulants and alcohol.”
    As such, there is reason to believe that a strategy aiming to maximize the therapeutic potential benefits of both cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids by expanding their availability and use could potentially lead to a reduction in the prescription use of opiates, as well as other potentially dangerous pharmaceutical analgesics, licit and illicit substances, and thus a reduction in associated harms.

    Another article on the effects of medical marijuana “substitution” was published in December 2009 by the Harm Reduction Journal. Researcher Amanda Reiman MSW, PhD notes that medical marijuana patients have long been engaging in substitution by using it as an alternative to alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. In a study Reiman conducted with 350 medical marijuana patients, she found that 40 percent reported using medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, twenty-six percent reported using it as a substitute for illicit drugs, and nearly 66 percent use it as a substitute for prescription drugs.
    [S]ixty five percent reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% use it as a substitute because it has less withdrawal potential…57.4% use it as a substitute because cannabis provides better symptom management.

    If Leonhart is serious about combating prescription drug abuse, she should heed the conclusions of researchers like Lucas and Reiman and pay attention to the evidence. Answers to two important public health concerns -- medical marijuana and prescription drug abuse -- lie at her feet waiting to be addressed.
  • DEA Chief on Medical Cannabis use by Navy vet: "that's between him and his doctor"

    During today's Drug Enforcement Administration Oversight Hearing, Representative Steve Cohen (D - TN) asked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart whether or not it would be permissible for a Navy veteran to use medical cannabis to help with severe weight loss. The head of DEA responded by saying, "I think that's between him and his doctor". (begins at 0:50:30)

    Americans for Safe Access absolutely agrees with the candid statement by DEA Administrator Leonhart. Unfortunately, for the Navy veteran that Rep. Cohen brought up, until Leonhart and the Obama Administration stop raiding compliant dispensaries, that veteran may be forced to obtain medical cannabis through unsafe and unreliable means. Worst still for the Navy vet, currently Veterans Administration policy forbids VA doctors from discussing or filling out paperwork associated with state-approved medical cannabis programs. On behalf our ASA's members, I urge DEA Administrator Leonhart, please do not back down from your stated position, in fact taking a stronger stand for safe access has been demonstrated to not the least bit politically dangerous.

    Please contact the DEA (202.307.1000) to thank Administrator Leonhart for to encourage her to follow through with her statement by ending the raids on medical cannabis dispensaries in compliance with state law.

    UPDATE (5:21pm, EDT): Out of curiosity, I poked around to see what Leonhart has said in the past about medical cannabis, and here is what she had to say during her Senate confirmation. No word yet on the "social cost" of thwarting safe access to medical cannabis for American veteran-patients such as the one Rep. Cohen described.
  • Medical Marijuana Reading - June 11th 2012

    Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
    • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
    • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
    • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
    • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
    • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
    • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.
  • Will New Hampshire live up to its state motto by adopting compassionate use?

    Over the past twelve years, New Hampshire has attempted several times to legislate the usage of cannabis for medical purposes. A 2009 bill was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. From 2000 to 2007 there were four attempts but the measure did not pass the New Hampshire House. But yesterday's passage of SB 409 through the State Senate and House conference committee is a new opportunity.

    The New Hampshire state motto is “Live Free or Die,” however to those who live in New Hampshire and are sick, hurt and longing for a better quality of life, the state motto may feel like the “To Live or Die” state. But we can change that now.

    SB 409, the 2012 New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Forsythe, differs from previous attempts. The language is different, the key politicians are different, the activism is different. In the end, will the result be same or is 2012 the year to achieve success?

    We think this may be the best chance we have!

    New Hampshire has the largest state legislature in the union with 400 House members and 24 Senators. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the legislature, but, perhaps ironically, medical marijuana has found great support among Republicans.

    Legislators who in the past voted against medical marijuana, such as Senator Jeb Bradley, Gary Lambert and Peter Bragdon, now support SB 409. Senator Bradley even publicly stated to New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association representative Richard Crate at the Senate hearing that their opposition to the issue, “does not reflect the fact that for some, medical marijuana works.”

    NH Compassion Executive Director Kirk McNeil and Matt Simon, a Marijuana Policy Project [9] Legislative Analyst, have been working alongside activists like me and other various groups to pass the bill. We built a broad coalition including NH Students for Sensible Drug Policy led by Jennifer Hall, NH Disabled American Veterans, NH Vets for Peace, and Americans for Safe Access, just to name a few.

    Patients, veterans and students bravely gave public testimony

    Over the past few months members of the public have testified at open public hearings on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in helping them battle disease and disability. The most dramatic and passionate testimony has come from New Hampshire veterans, many of whom have said without the ability to use cannabis for medical reasons, they and their families would have been destroyed. The one thing that frightens them and the main reason why they are speaking out is because in order to get medical marijuana, the patient must put their family members at risk to procure the medicine.

    Governor Lynch cites the federal ban on cannabis as listed on CSA schedule 1 - that cannabis has no accepted medicinal use - as the reason why he continues to oppose a compassionate use law. Well, with the Food and Drug Administration allows international companies like GW Pharmaceuticals in England to offer a phase III clinical study on human patients in the United States And of course there is the famous Compassionate Individual New Drug Program, the federal program that allows qualifying patients to use cannabis for palliative and therapeutic relief. Today there are only two surviving patients out of the initial 34 patients who receive 200 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes a month. One vocal program member, Irvin Rosenfeld, attended a press conference and met with legislators in Concord in May to discuss this program and support state efforts on SB 409.

    While our own federal government ignores these studies and continues to put sick patients, veterans and others behind bars for using or providing medical cannabis, our state legislators are attempting to help New Hampshire residents to have a better quality of life. Pharmaceuticals which have been prescribed by doctors and pushed by the “Big Pharma” can have unacceptable side affects or not work well for everyone. The opportunity to legally use cannabis for medical purposes is a chance to allow our sick the ability to be productive parents, husbands and wives - not to mention a healthier person.

    How can Governor Lynch continue to say he is the leader of New Hampshire, the original freedom-loving state, when he fails to lead in being compassionate to the sick? Do the special interests of big business, health care networks and others mean more to him than the ability for a NH veteran or a single mother of three to be healthier individuals using medical cannabis as an alternative medicine?

    Without compassion toward suffering patients who want to use medical cannabis, The “Live Free or Die” state is not practicing what the state motto preaches. Until the Governor changes his position, New Hampshire residents will just have to “Live or Die.” It is obvious over the past twelve years that New Hampshire has been walking down a road to legalize medical marijuana. With 71% of New Hampshire residents supporting safe access, how can the governor maintain his heartless position?

    If you live in New Hampshire, please contact Governor Lynch at 603-271-2121, or tweet at him @GovJohnLynch, and ask him to have compassion for patients and sign SB 409 into law.

    Gregory Pawlowski is a patient and advocate in New Hampshire.
  • Another Signal to Washington - Opposing Safe Access is a Losing Strategy

    Voters in El Paso, TX sent a strong message to Washington yesterday by electing safe access supporter Beto O'Rourke as the Democratic nominee to the state's 16th District Congressional seat by a substantial 6-point margin - ousting an eight-term, anti-cannabis incumbent. This result should put both Congress and the White House on notice: supporting safe access = win; belittling cannabis support = defeat.

    O'Rourke's opponent, Silvestre Reyes, provided a clear contrast on safe access. Backed by both President Obama and former President Clinton, Reyes denounced the very idea of reform as something beneath the intellect of a child. Not only did Reyes grossly misjudge his constituency, he apparently insulted them (or more accurately, O'Rourke's message inspired them) such that voter turnout was nearly 50% higher than in 2010.

    Opposing Safe Access is Bad Politics

    While safe access may once have been a so-called "3rd rail" issue, that is no longer the case in many parts of the country, a trend is only going to continue to grow. Last week, Oregonians chose safe access supporter Ellen Rosenblum over former US Attorney and warrior against safe access, Dwight Holton. In 2010, ASA made news by leading the charge in the successful defeat of medical cannabis hater Steve Cooley with our "Not Cooley" campaign. In fact, President Obama himself ran as a supporter of safe access during the 2008 race, and was elected to the highest office in the land! Still a 3rd rail issue? Only if you have a time machine or a have no backbone.

    Supporting Safe Access is Wise Even in Key Battleground States

    Why is campaigning against safe access bad campaign strategy, particular for Obama in 2012? Take Ohio for example, quite possibly the most important battleground state in any recent presidential election. In 2009 (the most recent state poll available), medical cannabis polled very favorably, with 72% of registered voters supporting safe access. While seniors were least likely to favor safe access, nearly two-thirds (64%) were in favor of medical cannabis access.

    With poll numbers like that, and a growing track record of elections decided on the issue of medical marijuana, a politician would be foolish not to embrace a safe access platform.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director. If you are a resident of the El Paso area, be sure to follow Beto O'Rourke on Facebook and Twitter.