Pages tagged "Federal"

  • Obama Stance on Safe Access Disappoints Veterans

    On Memorial Day, a grass-roots group of veterans expressed their disappointment in the Obama administration's stance on access to medical cannabis. Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access petitioned the White House to allow veterans access to medical cannabis to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, receiving over 8000 signatures on WhiteHouse.gov. The reply was disappointing.

    President Obama's Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske introduced his long-delayed response by lamenting "substance abuse" issues that trouble many veterans, and then asserted that medical marijuana cannot treat any symptom. This from an administration that refuses to allow research on the health benefits of cannabis!

    Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access were very disappointed in the administration's response - both that access to medical cannabis will not be provided to veterans of America's armed forces, and the tone of the Drug Czar's long-delayed response. They said in a statement:
    We Veterans petitioned the Obama Administration to: "Allow United States Disabled Military Veterans access to medical marijuana to treat their PTSD."

    The White House response to our petition was very disappointing. We asked for a change in policy. To have our petition answered by the drug czar,an ex policeman, is most inappropriate given the drug czar is bound by law to ONLY discuss current law and has no power to discuss policy change with the public. Even the lowest ranking staffer at the White House or anyone from the Veterans Health Authority would have been more appropriate.

    Al Byrne, retired Naval Officer and co-founder of VMCA, was blunt in his assessment of the White House concern for injured Veterans:

    "Vets have used cannabis for PTS since the Revolutionary War. We know what we need and to be told by our President, the Commander in Chief, that he does not care about those he has sent to war by denying medicine to the wounded is unconscionable."

    The Department of Veterans Affairs is also now in direct conflict with the White House.

    According to the Veterans Affairs, Undersecretary of Health in correspondence with our Executive Director, Michael Krawitz: "The provider (VA) will take the use of medical marijuana into account in all prescribing decisions, just as the provider would for any other medication.

    On Memorial Day, all Americans acknowledge the sacrifices our veterans have made for our freedom and security. President Obama missed an opportunity to value veterans' sacrifices by allowing them safe access to all therapies recommended by their doctors.
  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

    Wednesday night, the House voted on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-McClintock-Farr amendment, to end the federal crackdown on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. While the amendment failed, it received more votes than a similar bill in 2007 (when Democrats controlled the House). Thank you so much for reaching out to your representatives to support safe access. In less than a week, we generated thousands of phone calls, emails, and tweets urging Congress to adopt the bill. We came close because your voices were heard loud and clear. Make no mistake about it - this vote was a great victory for our movement. 73% of Democrats voted to end President Obama’s policy of cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. 12% of Republicans voted for this bipartisan amendment to the Justice appropriations bill, a significant increase from 2007 - even as pundits say the House has grown more conservative. Your voice counted for so much in the run up to the vote - and it will continue to make a difference. Please take a minute to let your Congressional Representative know how you feel about their vote, yea or nay, using our Online Action Center. Watch your Congressman speak safe access It was an amazing debate. A bipartisan, coast-to-coast group of nine representatives spoke strongly in favor of the amendment, and only one, Frank Wolf (R-VA), spoke against it. You are probably not as much of a C-SPAN junkie as I am, but I want to share with you five great speeches which show what this amendment was all about: protecting safe access to medical cannabis for vulnerable patients. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, spoke of his experience as an Assistant US Attorney, and how scarce resources force federal law enforcement to choose between prosecuting medical cannabis dispensaries or large-scale international drug traffickers. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, spoke for states’ rights and the needs of patients. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, spoke about the crackdowns in her district, including the recent closing of Berkeley Patients Group. Co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) quoted ASA, saying that there have been 170 raids, and praising the therapeutic value of cannabis. And co-sponsor Sam Farr (D-CA), points out that the Republican-controlled House favors states' rights on all issues - except compassionate use. Thanks again for your support, and you can look forward to more state and federal legislation for safe access in the coming months. Don't forget to thank your Representative!
  • Why we fight for medical cannabis - and how Congress can help us win



    One month ago I traveled to California for an event in San Francisco. The morning before the event, I awoke to the news that the Drug Enforcement Administration was raiding Blue Sky, a dispensary in Oakland. It was heartening to see an outpouring of support for medical marijuana patients, but the dispensary was closed down and medicine was seized. The next day I visited a dear friend who is suffering from late-stage cancer, who is too ill to medicate even with a vaporizer. Though in great pain, my friend did not want to use morphine and lose her ability to communicate with the friends and family whom she loves very much.



    Thanks to California’s compassionate use law, I was quickly able to meet her caregiver at a dispensary in San Francisco where he safely purchased cannabis edibles recommended by her doctor. Within an hour of taking a medical cannabis lozenge, my friend who hadn’t eaten in three days, sat up and ate like a horse. This sight reminded me why we all fight so hard for safe access. What would I have done if this were my grandmother in Texas, which does not permit compassionate use? How could I have quickly found edibles if the DEA had closed every dispensary in the Bay Area?

    When the federal government tries to stop access to medicine, they are trying to undo tens of thousands of hours work that advocates and local governments have put in to creating regulations for safe access to cannabis. The DEA wants to deny patients medicine that can dramatically improve their lives, or reduce their suffering. Without safe access to cannabis, patients and caregivers have to resort to the inconsistency of the illicit market.

    That is why Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Maurice Hinchey and Sam Farr will introduce a bipartisan amendment to deny funding to DEA raids against dispensaries operating in accordance with state law. This amendment to an Appropriations bill would not legalize marijuana, but would preserve state’s rights to allow compassionate use, and support local government decision-making.

    If you do one thing for safe access to medical marijuana this year, make it a phone call to your Representative in support of this important amendment by using our Online Action Center.

    My friend is still alive. Marijuana will not reverse the course of her illness, but thanks to high-quality cannabis products, she is alert enough to talk to her friends and family for what may be the last time. Having those precious moments with a dear friend is why I work so hard for all patients. Please join me in asking your Representative to vote Yes on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment, to preserve safe access for our friends and loved ones.
  • Medical Cannabis helps ALS Patient Outlive Support Groups and Neurologists

    Guest blog by Jahan Marcu. Cathy Jordan was on a panel with Jahan Marcu at the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference in Arizona.  Before taking the stage, she discussed the medical use of cannabis for ALS with the Vice Chair of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. Cathy Jordan first noticed something was wrong in summer of 1985 when she couldn’t pick things up. Her muscles weren’t responding. A year later, in 1986 she was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). ALS is a disease characterized by the death of motor neurons leading to loss of limb control, breathing, swallowing, speech, and widespread cellular dysfunction. Most cases of ALS are sporadic; it is not a viral or autoimmune disease. “Most people (ALS patients) start using a feeding tube because they are afraid of choking to death”, says Cathy. After her diagnosis, she was given an expiration date; In 1986, she was given 3-5 years to live/die according to her neurologist,  Dr.Fink. Nearly 3 decades later she is still alive, living with ALS. “All my docs are retiring or dead, I’ve outlived 5 support groups and 4 neurologists,” said Cathy. This actually posed a problem for Cathy, who basically lost her social security benefits because she lived passed her expiration date. The state of Florida said her ID and regular documentation wasn’t good enough to prove she was alive and to continue to receive benefits. She had to ask her neurologist at the time, to fill out paperwork to prove she was still alive. Mrs. Jordan began using Cannabis from a Florida grower to treat her ALS in the late 80’s. “Donny Clark provided my medicine, grown in the Myakka River Valley…he was busted and sentenced to life in prison, and that strain of Cannabis was lost. Years later he was pardoned on the last day of the last term of President Clinton,” says Cathy, “You know they say the fountain of youth is in Florida, maybe it was something in the soil that made this plant help me…I don’t understand why Doctors wouldn’t study me—I want to know why this is helping me.” At first Doctors would not accept Cathy’s marijuana smoking and extended life span. Regardless of what she did, “a UPENN doctor told me bluntly, I would die either from suffocation or drowning in my own fluid.” Other Doctors also thought that smoking anything would impair her lung function, and threatened to have this paralyzed women committed because she must be crazy if she thought Cannabis was helping her. “I visited a neurologist at Duke University…when I told him that I was smoking Cannabis he turned into PeeWee Herman. He didn’t know what to do with me, he was afraid. He wouldn’t even take my blood pressure because I was using an illegal drug.” “I asked my docs: would you like a drug that is neuroprotective, an antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory?,” says Cathy, “They then said Yes and asked me if I knew of one. I said yes, [it’s] Cannabis.”   There are ALS patients associations that fight for the right of patients to die with dignity, “But what about my right to life?” says Cathy. “Keeping my medicine illegal removes my right to life.” Nearly three decades later, the science has caught up with this patient. Scientists created a mouse with ALS, which was very exciting for Cathy. Research has shown that THC and other cannabinoids can benefit mice with ALS. The mounting evidence of cannabinoids halting the progression of ALS has started to change the attitudes of Doctors, prominent researchers have recently called for ALS clinical trials with Cannabis or cannabinoids. “They all agree today that I should smoke Cannabis,” says Cathy, “26 years later my original neurologist, fought [successfully] to make sure Cannabis is legal for patients in Delaware.” Researchers think Cannabis may help ALS patients relieving pain, spasticity, drooling, appetite loss, and has minimal drug-drug interactions and toxicity.
  • Obama (Double) Speaks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

    President Obama must be made to answer for the stark and harmful contradiction between his medical marijuana policy and his law enforcement practices. Please help keep President Obama accountable and help us pursue a sensible public health policy for medical marijuana.
  • Tension Builds Between Local and Federal Officials over DOJ Crackdown on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cities like San Francisco and Oakland are examples of how to stand up to federal intimidation. We need more local officials to take their lead and develop local laws that recognize the needs of patients in their communities, not the fickle demands of the federal government.
  • Obama Pot Justice? Not!



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Guest blog by journalist Paul Boerger

    Candidate and President Barak Obama promised a more reasoned drug policy, but Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband attorney Dale Schafer are now serving five years in federal prison for conspiracy to cultivate and distribute marijuana. With just over 100 plants collected from their California property by El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputies, in cooperation with federal drug enforcement, in small amounts over a three year period, the pair qualified for a mandatory minimum five year sentence.

    Dr. Fry is a general practitioner and vocal advocate for medical marijuana. She began writing marijuana recommendations after her doctor suggested she try it in conjunction with breast cancer treatments. Operating within the California’s Proposition 215, that legalized medical marijuana, Dr. Fry says she has written over 10,000 recommendations.

    The case has dragged on for nearly ten years, with Dr. Fry’s first contact with law enforcement on the case going back to the Bush administration. After entrapment by the Sheriff’s Department and the confiscation of 34 plants in September of 2001, and an additional 66 plants in two additional confiscations over the next two years, the pair were indicted in 2005. Convicted in 2007, largely on the testimony of two informers who were themselves facing drug charges, they were sentenced to five years in prison in 2008. The pair refused a plea bargain on principle, Schafer having to spend a year in prison and the condition that Fry would have to surrender her license to practice medicine. In addition, Dr. Fry refused to allow her husband to go to prison while she remained free. An appeal was denied in November of 2010 and they began serving five year prison sentences on May 2, 2011. Presidential clemency is their last resort.

    Certainly, the expectation would be that the Bush administration would relentlessly pursue medical marijuana, but Barack Obama promised a different approach. Senate candidate Obama said, “"I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws." As President, Obama initially directed the Justice Department not raid to medical marijuana dispensaries that are compliance with state law.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    The Obama Justice Department has consistently turned a blind eye to far more egregious offenses than marijuana. The complicity of Wall Street financiers in the world economic collapse has been largely ignored or mitigated without criminal charges. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Anthony Mozilo of Countrywide Financial committed financial fraud on a heretofore unheard of scale and were allowed to pay fines instead of facing criminal prosecution and prison sentences. Numerous others, such as Joseph Cassano of AIG and hedge fund manager John Paulson, have gone completely free of any consequences whatsoever.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    Obama has also allowed past offenses by the Bush administration to go unpunished. John Yoo, now a legal professor at Berkeley University in California, and Jay Bybee, now a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, wrote the legal justifications for torture under Bush. The Obama Justice Department declined to prosecute. Torture is a crime under US and international law, and the Geneva Convention. Both German and Japanese officers were executed after WWII for authorizing torture of prisoners.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    The inconsistencies in the Obama administration’s application of marijuana laws is startling. The case of California medical marijuana dispensary operator James Stacy provides a stark contrast to Fry’s case. Stacy was arrested in 2009 by federal authorities and charged with enough marijuana offenses to net him life in prison. A plea bargain ultimately resulted in three years probation.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    Despite Obama’s pronouncements, the jails and prisons overflow with marijuana prisoners and in most states the use of medical marijuana is still illegal. The world economy has been brought down by fraud with no consequences to those who perpetrated it, advocates of torture go free and those convicted of far more serious marijuana offenses get probation.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer, leaving behind five children and two grandchildren, are serving five years in federal prison.

    Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer turned themselves in to begin serving five year prison sentences on May 2, 2011. Presidential clemency is their last resort. Take action on urging clemency by visiting this site, or for more information on the case, visit this site.
  • Reason TV on Cedars-Sinai denying liver transplant to medical marijuana patient Norman Smith

    The fight to get a liver transplant for Norman Smith took another big step today with a Reason TV expose, "Transplant Denied," featuring Smith and Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the group that’s throwing its weight behind the struggling medical marijuana patient. Smith, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009 and was put on a transplant waiting list at the world-renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. However a year ago, after becoming eligible for a transplant, Smith was removed from the list for testing positive for medical marijuana use. It didn’t seem to matter that Smith’s oncologist at Cedars was the physician who had recommended its use. This moving piece by Reason TV accurately conveys the life of a man hanging in the balance between policies based on moral judgment and the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. At his wit’s end, Smith tells Reason TV:
    It’s only my life that I'm fighting for. What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide.
    Smith called his chances a “long shot,” but still wanted to “effect a change:”
    It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy.
    Unfortunately, there are plenty of other medical marijuana patients in California and other states who are suffering the same fate as Smith. With the authority for such decisions left to Cedars and transplant centers like it, the push for policy change must be directed locally. As such, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford sent a letter to Cedars, urging it to immediately re-list Smith and change it policy with regard to medical marijuana. So far, Cedars has refused to budge. Stay tuned here at Voices from the Frontlines for next steps in the transplant case of Norman Smith and the outdated policies of Cedars-Sinai. In the meantime, view this additional video footage of Smith and his plight.
  • Medical Marijuana Week - Day 4: Protesting the federal crack down nationwide

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

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



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

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