Pages tagged "Law Enforcement"

  • A Medical Marijuana Patient's Long Road to Victory

    Nate. R. is a medical marijuana patient living in Orange County, California who uses marijuana to treat clinical depression. I wanted to write this post to let others who are qualified patients know that the law is here to work for us. I found this out on October 29th, 2007 when I went to my preliminary hearing at the Harbor Justice Center courthouse in the City of Newport Beach to find that the District Attorney had dismissed charges of Possession of Concentrated Cannabis 11357 (A) of the Health and Safety code. Lets rewind this back to 5 months ago when the incident in question took place. I was arrested on May 5th 2007 in Newport Beach, Orange County, CA for being in possession of .2 grams of hashish. I was no stranger to medical marijuana and knew the laws that were put in place for us. I have read these numerous times and can recite them, I have also studied that Attorney General's opinion on concentrated cannabis and the conclusion that hashish as well as any other concentrated cannabis is protected under Prop 215 and SB 420. With this information in hand, I knew that this was covered and never thought twice about being in possession of hashish. As I found out the hard way, not all law enforcement agencies feel the same way. I was originally going to be cited for possession of marijuana since I also had 2.5 grams of marijuana, but once the officer noticed the hashish, he stated that it as well as marijuana is illegal under federal law. Knowing that city police officers were not under federal jurisdiction, I felt I should question the officer on this statement. I had asked the officer "Are you telling me that prop 215 and SB 420 are not valid laws?" To this the officer promptly replied "Under federal law possession is still illegal and we have been instructed to follow it as such". At this point the officer also informed me that possession of hashish is a felony and that he was placing me under arrest. I had to be bailed out of jail that night so I would be able to go to work the next day. Going to the first court date for arraignment I was not sure what was going to happen. I can honestly say I was scared. I have been a tax paying citizen of Orange County all my life and never once had I been in trouble with the law so this was all new to me. At court I was assigned a public defender to handle my case. While I was giving my interview to the public defender, he had asked for a copy of my recommendation so they could make copies. On my next court date that was my pre trial I find out that a new public defender had been assigned to my case and at that point got to meet her. As we were talking about the case she asked if I have a copy of my recommendation to which I responded that I had already given this to them. Come to find out they had lost my recommendation out of my file. Once again court dates pushed forward for another month. I show up to my next pre-trial date but this time with an attorney specializing in medical marijuana cases. Due to me getting a new attorney we once again had to push the court dates up yet another month. At this point it is starting to get ridiculous, not to mention costly. We show up for the next court date for my preliminary hearing this time to see if I am going to be bound over to the Superior Court for jury trial - keep in mind the whole time I am going through this the DA is wanting me to plead out and take a felony hit on my record all over .2 grams of hashish even though I am a qualified patient. We were in the middle of filing a motion for dismissal to the courts since the District Attorney was not willing to drop the case. Of course this prompted yet another court date which pushed it a month and a half later into October. Back to October 29th 2007, we are sitting in court waiting to be called and finally my name is called. The judge asked if we as well as the prosecutor were ready to which we both said we were. After waiting about 30 minutes the District Attorney comes into the court room and walks up to my attorney. She asks him if we have any witnesses to which he responded yes that we had two since I and another patient who was with me the night I was arrested were there to testify. The reason for the other patient to be there is due to the fact that my recommendation was taken from me that night and never returned, it was never entered into evidence nor was it placed into my property bag. This was brought up to the prosecutor and she was not sure how to handle it as she did not have any experiences with medical marijuana cases. Due to this she went downstairs to the District Attorney's office and spoke with another person that is well versed in the laws. After waiting 30 minutes the prosecutor walks upstairs to inform my attorney that they will not be proceeding with the case and were dismissing charges. This was the best news I had heard. I can for one speak on the fact that going through hearings and court is one of the most trying times that one can experience. I am thankful for the support of the medical marijuana community that has been shown to me. It is easy to lose faith and want to give up and it is so important to have a strong support group for the person going through something like this. I also would like to thank ASA as they have been there for me from the beginning to the end and assisted in every way they could.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA and Orange County Medical Marijuana Activists Achieve a Victory for Safe Access! From ASA California Campaign Director, Don Duncan The Orange County Board of Supervisors decided this week to delay a vote on banning medical cannabis collectives after Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and local advocates expressed concern about the impact on patients and the process through which the item suddenly appeared on the Board’s agenda. Supervisor Bates’ eleventh-hour motion would have prohibited the county from issuing permits, licenses, or allowances for any activity that violates federal law, a back door approach to banning collectives already used in two Orange County cities. ASA and advocates did not get word of Supervisor Bates’ motion until the afternoon before the early morning hearing. I asked the Board to table the issue to allow more time to consider how other jurisdictions are regulating collectives, including neighboring Los Angeles County. I told the Board that concerns over abuse of the state’s medical cannabis laws are valid, but that regulations are the best tool for protecting patients and communities. I left each Board Member with a copy or our report on the outcomes of regulations for collectives in cities and counties all over California and some information about what the County and City of Los Angeles are doing to effectively regulate their facilities. You can read the report at http://www.AmericansForsafeAccess.org/DispensaryReport The Board also heard from William Britt of the Association of Patient Advocates. Mr. Britt told the Supervisors that banning collectives would harm patients and was inconsistent with the Board’s decision in April to issue Medical Cannabis ID Cards mandated under CA Health and Safety Code 11362.71 (SB-420). A local patient told the Board that there is insufficient access to affordable medicine in Orange County, and this motion would only make things worse. The Board voted unanimously to continue the motion until December 4. ASA will continue to educate the Board about compassionate and sensible alternatives before that vote. Congratulations to advocates for their quick and effective response to this unanticipated vote. DEA Strikes East Bay Collective and Facilities On Tuesday, the DEA raided the Compassionate Patients Cooperative of California (CPCC) in Hayward, arresting the two operators, Winslow and Abraham Norton. The raid began in the early morning on Tuesday with the DEA shattering the collective's patients intake center glass door and then moving on to the actual dispensary next door. During that time the Norton Brothers were arrested and their homes were raided. They were taken into custody and held overnight without bail. CPCC had a permit from Alameda County, authorized by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to operate. The permit required that they follow stringent regulations and allow the Sheriff's Department to conduct monthly inspections. They did not have any permit violations during their time of operation in Alameda County. ASA activists, patients, and staff received the news via ASA's Emergency Text Messaging System and sprung into action. While a handful of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco activists came out to show their support, several CPCC collective members showed up to the collective with the intent of getting their medicine and stayed to protest the attack on safe access in Alameda County. The group of protesters drew a crowd of onlookers and local media. NBC 11, KTVU Channel 2, and the Daily Review were just a few of the many media outlets that covered the story. See video from the raid here: http://www.bayareanewsgroup.com/multimedia/iba/2007/player/?f=1030pot Alameda County Sheriff's officers were at the site of the raiding claiming to be there for "crowd control." The officers carried batons and weapons and stared the crowd down with only the yellow tape between them and the patients. The County police went so far as to post an officer on the roof of the collective with what appeared to be a tear gas gun. While the dispensary raid was happening, several other facilities in association with CPCC were raided by the DEA in a joint operation involving DEA, Berkeley PD, Oakland PD, and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. Tuesday's raids in Hayward were the third major attack on patients and providers in the Bay Area in less than a month. Bay Area activists, patients, and providers will be continuing to bolster their emergency response plans to ensure large protests at future raids. To sign up for ASA's Emergency Raid Response Text Messaging System, go to www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert ASA will report further details on the Norton brothers' status and the collective as information comes in. DEA Raids Orange County Collective and Operator's Home Yesterday, the DEA arrested Steele Smith at his home in Fullerton at 6:00 in the morning. At the same time, Smith's dispensary, C-3 Collective in Garden Grove, and one other home in association with the collective was raided. One of the collective's employees and Smith’s wife were arrested as well. They had a bail hearing today at 2:00pm in Los Angeles. ASA will continue to report further details as we receive them. Orange County ASA will be meeting on November 14th to discuss support for the Smiths and C-3 Collective. See "ASA Chapter and Affiliate Meetings" for more details.
  • 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.
  • Patients Rally, Police Raid

    On Thursday, October 11th, 300 medical cannabis patients and advocates rallied in front of the Governor's office in downtown Los Angeles demanding that he stand up for patients' rights and the will of California voters and lawmakers. Later that night night, the DEA and LAPD staged yet another raid a one of Los Angeles' most respected collectives, the Arts District Healing Center (ADHC). Dozens of protesters turned out again to defend ADHC, which serves patients just blocks from City Hall. It is disheartening to see our local police department continue to support these harmful and unnecessary raids – despite clear guidance from LAPD Veteran and City Council Member Dennis Zine and his colleagues that the City intends to regulate medical cannabis facilities instead of close them. It is crucial that City Council members move forward quickly with a proposed resolution calling on an end to cooperation between the LAPD and DEA on medical cannabis raids. The image of our police department has been battered of late by brutality and scandal. This city does not need to see the men and women who should be heroes doing the work of villains. I was so proud of my fellow Angelinos and our guests from as far away as Rhode Island who stood up twice yesterday. It is a tremendous credit to local organizers that this constituency is so well trained and prepared to respond to an emergency on short notice. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) staff and volunteers leapt into action – sending hundreds of text messages and thousands of email alerts about the raid and protest less than one one half an hour after in began. Volunteers started calling phone trees prepared in advance for just this situation. ASA members showed up with signs and bull horns they keep in their cars in case of a federal raid. We will need all of those skills and dedication to keep pace with the continuing escalation of federal attacks on patients’ access in Los Angeles. We will likely face more raids in the near future, and some advocates will escalate their opposition using tactics of non-violent resistance, non-cooperation, and civil disobedience. The Los Angeles Chapter of ASA is prepared to train and support these advocates all along the way. We will continue to face these raids until we finally succeed in harmonizing federal law with the laws of California and the other states that allow for medical cannabis. Support from our Governor and other public figures is an important part of that effort. We also need to educate Members of Congress and their staffs so they are prepared to solve this problem once and for all. Every single day, ASA staff is working in Washington, DC, to defend patients in Los Angeles and nationwide. It makes a tremendous difference in their work when elected officials hear from their constituency about medical cannabis. Our DC staff can tell you first hand: your calls and letters matter. The next few months may be tough in Los Angeles. Please join us to fight back. On Thursday, I told the crowd at the rally that Los Angeles is where we will win the battle for safe access in California. That battle in underway in earnest right now. Thank you to those who have already joined the fight. We need everyone else! The next LA-ASA meeting will be on Saturday, October 20, at 1:00 at the Patient ID Center. Get a map or public transit information at http://www.ASAaction.org You can join the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research right now – http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Join You can also sign up for our emergency text message alert to be notified about DEA raids at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert See you at the meeting! See you in the streets!
  • California Weekly Round Up

    Hundreds Gather at the Governor's Office Calling on Him to Stand Up for Patients' Rights On Thursday, over 300 medical cannabis supporters gathered from around the state to call on Governor Schwarzenegger to stand up for patients' rights and call on the Bush Administration to end the war on patients. The people began gathering in front of the Governor's over an hour before the event was scheduled. By the time the rally began, the crowd took up almost the entire block, spilling into the streets. During the rally, people were chanting, "support patients' rights, stand up and fight," and, "we're patients, not criminals!" Patients, providers, supporters, and concerned citizens held marquis-styled signs reading clever slogans such as, "Coming Soon: the Gov. in Terminate the DEA," "Coming Soon, the Gov. in End of DEA Days," and "The Gov. in Stop the Federal Predators." Brian Perry, LA City Council Member, Dennis Zine's, staffer read a powerful statement at the rally saying, "this year has seen a dramatic increase in federal law enforcement activity surrounding medical cannabis, including raids, confiscation of medicine and plants, and indictments." Other speakers included a reading of a statement by Orange County Supervisor, Chris Norby, ASA Executive Director, Steph Sherer, Michael Martin, the former medical marijuana edible manufacturer who was recently raided by the DEA, and ASA California Campaign Director, Don Duncan. The rally ended on a somber note when the crowd went silent to hear federal inmate, Stephanie Landa, speak on a participant's speaker phone from jail. Her speech further illustrated the need for the Governor to intervene in this dire situation. This year alone, the DEA has conducted at least 44 separate raids of patients and providers, more than twice that of the prior two years. Illustrating the breadth of these attacks, the DEA has conducted raids in no less than 10 counties across the state and has shut down entire regions of access to medical marijuana. Bringing a new dimension to the federal effort to undermine state law, letters were recently sent to more than 150 landlords in California, threatening asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution if they continued to lease to medical marijuana providers. This rally culminated weeks of advocacy that resulted in more than 40,000 postcards sent to the Governor, as well as hundreds of phone calls and emails, all urging him to take action to defend patients’ rights. In addition to calling on the Governor to end the federal raids on patients and providers, advocates are seeking a directive from the Governor to local law enforcement discouraging cooperation with federal raids. Advocates are also urging Schwarzenegger to solicit support from Governors of other medical marijuana states in order to ward off federal interference. In August, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson sent a letter to President Bush after the DEA threatened state officials with criminal prosecution if they implemented the state-mandated medical cannabis distribution system. Read more about the rally in the Associated Press, the Daily Breeze, and KSBY - NBC TV 6 (San Luis Obispo). DEA Raids Downtown Dispensary Following the Rally From ASA California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Last Thursday, more than 300 medical cannabis patients and advocates rallied in front of the Governor's office in downtown Los Angeles demanding that he stand up for patients' rights and the will of California voters and lawmakers. Last night, the DEA and LAPD staged yet another raid a one of Los Angeles' collectives, the Arts District Healing Center (ADHC). More than 50 protesters turned out again to defend ADHC, which serves patients just blocks from City Hall. It is disheartening to see our local police department continue to support these harmful and unnecessary raids – despite clear guidance from LAPD Veteran and City Council Member Dennis Zine and his colleagues that the City intends to regulate medical cannabis facilities instead of close them. It is crucial that City Council members move forward quickly with a proposed resolution calling on an end to cooperation between the LAPD and DEA on medical cannabis raids. The image of our police department has been battered of late by brutality and scandal. This city does not need to see the men and women who should be heroes doing the work of villains. I was so proud of my fellow Angelinos and our guests from as far away as Rhode Island who stood up twice yesterday. It is a tremendous credit to local organizers that this constituency is so well trained and prepared to respond to an emergency on short notice. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) staff and volunteers leapt into action – sending hundreds of text messages and thousands of email alerts about the raid and protest less than one one half an hour after in began. You can sign up for our emergency text message alert to be notified about DEA raids at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert. To sign up to receive the weekly round up by email, click here.

  • 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.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA Holds an Emotional Press Conference as Tainted's Michael Martin Turns Himself In Yesterday, dozens of ASA's supporters and ASA staff gathered at an emotional press conference as edible producer Michael Martin, 33, turned himself over to federal authorities in response to an arrest warrant issued last week. Martin received word of the September 26 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid on Tainted, Inc. while on vacation, and is not considered a fugitive as reported earlier by government and media. Martin, a medical marijuana patient, spoke at the press conference saying, "We must put a stop to this travesty and, as a community, speak up, and defend a patients' right to use safer alternatives of medication as they and their doctors see fit. We must no longer allow the federal government to viciously intimidate its citizens by misinforming and blantantly lying to the public about the benefits of cannabis as a safe and effective medicine..." Read Michael Martin's open letter, which he read from at the press conference at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Martin_Letter.pdf. The press conference continued with Martin's lawyer, Sara Zalkin, his mother, Kimberly Miller, a patient who relies on cannabis edibles, Jeff Bishop, collective operator Richard Lee, and ASA's Executive Director, Dr. Frank Lucido, Steph Sherer, speaking. Several media sources covered the press conference including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press, ABC 7, CBS 5, and KTVU Channel 2. Martin was released on bail of $300,000 and will appear before the Magistrate Brazil in Oakland Federal Court along with the three other defendants facing charges, on October 26th at 10:00am. ASA will be posting his upcoming court dates in the CA Weekly Alerts to come. Read ASA's press advisory on the event here. ASA Chapters Organize Statewide Banner Drop Targeting Governor Schwarzenegger Yesterday, with one week until the statewide mobilization left, several California ASA chapters throughout the state conducted a synchronized banner drop during rush hour. Activists performed this act of civil disobedience by rolling out homemade banners, reading the message, "Gov. Schwarzenegger: Defend California's Medical Marijuana Laws!" Some of the chapters, like the San Francisco ASA chapter, left the banner up after they had left. The banner drops were designed to further promote the important mobilization to the Governor's office next Thursday, whilst increasing public awareness around the issue. As many of you may know, medical marijuana activists, supporters, patients, and providers, have been organizing a statewide mobilization to the Governor's office in Los Angeles. The event will take place next Thursday, October 11th at 12:00pm at the Governor's Los Angeles office. To read more about the campaign and the mobilization, check out the "Take Action" and "Special Events" sections in the Weekly Alert, or visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp. Several people called ASA's headquarters yesterday to report spotting the banners on their way to work. ASA's San Francisco chapter recorded their banner drop on video. We will be posting the video on ASA's website early next week. Thank you to all the chapter members for taking action to promote this historic campaign! If you are interested in getting involved in your local ASA chapter, contact [email protected]. Longtime Medical Marijuana Activist is Arrested at a Drug Free Coalition Meeting Earlier this week, longtime medical marijuana activist and leader of the Inland Empire's Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, Lanny Swerdlow, was arrested at a Drug Free Community Coalition meeting in Rancho Cucamunga. Swerdlow was arrested after law enforcement were called by the Drug Free Community Coalition's leader, Paul Chabot. Authorities claim that Swerdlow was arrested because Chabot was pressing charges for alleged assault. Swerdlow refutes this claim, and is preparing to fight the charges. Below is an excerpt that Swerdlow wrote up about the event:
    "After about an hour of sitting in the car while the police questioned some of the people and ran background checks on the four of us who were there and questioned me as well, the officer issued me a citation, citing me for battery. They informed me that they were not doing this because they had seen anything, but doing it because Mr. Chabot was pressing charges against me. They were very courteous the entire time and I suspect that they felt this was all a crock, but, if I understood them correctly, they had no choice but to arrest me because Mr. Chabot was adamant in filing charges... No matter what happens, the Chabots and their Drug Free Community Coalition better get used to seeing us if they are going to operate in the Inland Empire and continue their attacks on California's medical marijuana laws. Riverside County has made great strides especially in the light of where this county was five years ago. San Bernardino County is somewhat where Riverside County was five years ago but there are two cities, Claremont and Diamond Bar in SB County that allow dispensaries. We have come too far and achieved too much to let anyone stop us now. We will do what we can to see to it that patients in the Inland Empire continue to have access to sources of medicinal marijuana and that laws of the state of California are respected by all. "
    Read the Lanny Swerdlow's full report on ASA's Forums here. For more information on the event and the work MAPP is doing, contact Lanny at: [email protected]. To sign up to receive this weekly round up by e-mail, click here.
  • No Pattern or Rules to DEA Attacks

    Guest post written by James Anthony. James Anthony is a former Deputy City Attorney for Oakland and a LEAP member (www.leap.cc). He now serves as land use permitting counsel for better MCDs throughout the State of California and looks forward to a day when the federal government realizes it has better things to do with its resources than harass patients. You can reach him at [email protected]. Patients and advocates often ask if there's any pattern to DEA raids. This a common and understandable question--as human beings we want a predictable and sensible universe. And this natural impulse to seek patterns is exploited by all psychological terror groups in a number of ways. (I include the DEA as a psychological terror group because 1) they are losing the war on medical marijuana and must resort to ever more desperate tactics, and 2) because they are part of the US government which openly condones torture and preemptive warfare--clearly a dangerous and ruthless adversary). There are two basic ways to exploit this human desire for patterns: 1) Be utterly random--this generates fear and leaves the victim completely without any pattern to rely on--think of random car bombings and how demoralizing that must be, the only protection is to never go out in public or to leave the area. 2) Create the appearance of patterns and then break them. This is good because it leaves the victim eternally vigilant and seeking for and inventing non-existent patterns. In experiments with animals this is called "experimental neurosis." It is a proven method of driving mammals crazy and leads to fits and frenzies of self-biting, mania, and catatonia. The DEA and the US government are well aware of this dimension of psychological warfare. They truly believe it is a war and that we are the enemy. They are not interested in debating this issue or in allowing different states to try different approaches. To the DEA, we are evil and must be eradicated--or intimidated into surrender. Given all that, the DEA does three things: 1) it throws darts at a map (randomness), 2) it looks for maximum propaganda value (what story can they tell to make us look bad?--and those are indeed narrative patterns), and 3) individual offices in the various geographical areas have to justify their existence for continued funding and positive job evaluations (it is after all a job in a bureaucracy--once in a while, you got to do something), this leads to the "low hanging fruit" pattern. So we have the following patterns: 1) Randomness--to keep us all on our toes, and to keep us fooling our selves with silly stories like, "You only get busted if you . . . (fill in the blank: advertise, don't advertise, are public, are private, for profit, non-profit--it might make you happy but there are now examples to prove every such "rule" both true AND false--the DEA is very Zen that way). 2) Propaganda Narratives--front for legalization; front for criminal gangs; front for "able-bodied urban youth gangs" (code for young people of color); danger to the environment; "profiteers"; corrupters of youth; gonna getcha daughter; pot stronger than ever; grow houses gone amok; conspiracy; terrorist funders; etc, etc--all basically Reefer Madness Redux. Think of the recent 60 Minutes coverage which fell into this to some extent. Think of any DEA press conference and you will clearly see one of these narratives. 3) Low Hanging Fruit--who would you want to go after: a well-organized 100 million a year crack, heroin and meth distribution network (which can now be found in any part of America, rural or urban or in between, thanks to 30 years of ramped up prohibition)--or a bunch of peaceful medical cannabis advocates, sitting there with no violent inclinations at all and a sign hanging up saying Medical Cannabis--Come and Bust Us, We Will Lie Down on the Ground? Yeah, me too. So when you need to bump up your stats (or you need to justify that useless multi-agency task force's multi-million dollar budget that aint done jack all year), whip up a "year-long investigation" (what takes a year to figure out that they are selling marijuana in there? duh) and put on the flak jacket, round up the SWAT team and go kick some ass. Oh yeah, and extra bonus points if you can bust a person of color, or a youth, or someone with a record, or someone who's doing it right and actually balancing the books, generating a surplus and paying all their taxes--then you can use their financial statements against them (ask their CPA politely and s/he'll print them out for you)--and you can seize their bank accounts and literally pay tribute to your bosses (maybe in the tens or hundreds of thousands--oh, was that why they waited a year? So they could steal your money?), Hi Boss, the task force brought in $200K this morning--and rounded up some dangerous sick people who provide a medical service. Well, it's a job and the benefits are good--and the potheads NEVER shoot back. At least, those are the only patterns I see, but maybe I'm missing something. (Oh yeah, and I hear busts usually happen on Wednesdays. Go fishing on Wednesdays.) And, yes, I'm really sorry that I can't give you the "rules," so we never have to worry about being busted. The DEA is not rules-based. It is our enemy--distribute cannabis, and you are fair game for capture, torture, imprisonment, kidnapping, and loss of all property (the only thing left is attainder of blood-- where they curse your entire family name for all time to come, but give them a minute to work it out). Of course you can sweeten the odds: have your city government and neighbors love you, be white, sit in a wheelchair, change your last name to Bush, be extremely lucky, turn around three times counter-clockwise every morning and say the Hail Mary backwards. I wish I could add sincerity to the list, but I'm not quite that naive. Still, it couldn't hurt, as long as you're real with yourself about the rest of it. Here's my advice, which I give to every potential client at the first meeting: Don't do it (for all the reasons given above and more). And I totally understand that most of them walk away. That's a good thing. If they go for it anyway, I call that committed. And that's a good thing too. But just be real. And be smart. Anyone who operates a dispensary has an extremely high risk-comfort level, or you could say, is either a hero or a fool.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    DEA Raids a Sacramento Dispensary and Attacks Oakland Edible Provider, Tainted, Inc.

    This week, the DEA escalated their attacks on patients in California when agents raided the oldest running dispensary in Sacramento, River City Patients' Center and in a separate attack, Oakland-based medical marijuana edible manufacturer, Tainted, Inc.

    Wednesday morning, federal agents showed up at River City Patient Center raiding the facility, detaining five employees, stealing medicine, seizing the collective's financial assets, and detaining the collective's operartor, William Pearce. The raid came after a supposed yearlong investigation into Pearce's collective. Pearce, a highly respected member of the medical marijuana community, and the five employees were released Wednesday evening. No arrests were made.

    ASA's Sacramento Chapter and affiliates turned out over 100 protesters during the raid, showing their support for the collective. Read more about the raid in the Sac Bee, and read about ASA's response on our new blog.

    The other attack on Wednesday was independent of the Sacramento raid. The DEA targeted medical marijuana edibles provider, Tainted, Inc. The paramilitary-style raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) involved 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 shot an employee's dog.

    Tainted, Inc. provides clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles to medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. Edible cannabis products provide an alternative to smoking cannabis and are preferred by many patients. The products made by Tainted, Inc. are available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carry prominent warning labels.

    Tainted owner Michael Martin was out of town when the raids occurred and is expected to turn himself in to federal agents next week. Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis. Because federal law does not recognize medical uses for marijuana, if he goes to trial, Martin will not be allowed to tell jurors that his company supplied medical cannabis products through licensed dispensaries to qualified patients. Defense attorneys are prevented from raising state law, local regulations or the vast amount of medical cannabis science in federal marijuana trials.


    Read ASA's full press release on the Tainted, Inc. raids.

    The Medical Marijuana and HIV/AIDS Movement Mourn the Loss of Bay Area Activist, John Shaw
    By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

    I am very sad to learn that John Shaw, my friend and ally in the struggle for safe access, died yesterday in San Francisco. Many of you know John from his years of crusading and selfless volunteer work on behalf of medical cannabis and other HIV/AIDS patients. John's good spirits and positive attitude were always an inspiration. I remember how he brought so much enthusiasm to our first ASA outreach teams when he traveled to Los Angeles, never being daunted by the enormity of the task or the always-present opposition. He was always an empathetic friend and a joy to be around - someone who will long be missed by me and his many friends in the Bay Area and all over California.

    I hope you will join me in expressing condolences to his family, loved ones, and friends. I have not yet heard word about services, but wanted to let the community know about this terrible loss. John Shaw at an ASA rally protesting a 2005 DEA raid.



    Here is a link of John testifying in San Francisco earlier this month:

    John Testifying


    After clicking on this link, choose September 11th full Board meeting, then Jump to #19 in the 'Jump To' bar below the video screen. John appears at 51:15 in the video.

    John's family is planning a memorial, and ASA will announce this when a date is chosen.

    Thanks to ASA's Los Angeles Field Coordinator, Chris Fusco! You Will be Surely Missed

    By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

    I am sorry to report that Chris Fusco, our LA County Coordinator, will be leaving Americans for Safe Access this week. Chris has done an amazing job here in Los Angeles, helping to steer the campaign for safe access through some very turbulent times. He has helped shape the greatest expansion of safe access since Proposition 215 was adopted, and helped the community bear the brunt of the DEA's unprecedented pressure on patients and collectives.

    I have watched Chris take initiative and show leadership as an ASA volunteer and as my personal assistant this year. With LA's moratorium finally in effect and the process of writing permanent regulations under way, Chris can move on knowing he has made a positive difference for this community.

    His diligence and good nature will be missed. Let's all wish him well in his next endeavors and hope to see him again soon!

    Call to the LA Office may be directed to (323) 882-6766 and emails may be sent to me at [email protected]

    ASA vs. Alameda Elections Suit: Victory for Medical Marijuana Patients!

    This past Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith ruled that the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and Alameda County, "have engaged in a pattern of withholding relevant evidence and failure to preserve evidence" necessary to conduct a recount of a hotly contested Berkeley ballot measure in 2004. As a result, the Court has voided the election and ordered the County to place Measure R back on the ballot for a re-vote at the next year in the general election. Judge Smith continued by saying Alameda County officials should pay attorneys' fees and reimburse a medical marijuana group more than $22,000 for the costs it incurred during a disputed recount shortly after the November 2004 election.The measure sought to end limits on the number of plants allowed to medical marijuana users and would have created a peer oversight committee for medical cannabis dispensaries in the city.

    Americans for Safe Access and three other patients filed the lawsuit against Alameda County on December 30, 2004. The lawsuit challenges Alameda County's refusal to allow the public to examine copies of the Measure R electronic votes and system audit logs during the recount of the ballot initiative conducted on electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, Inc.

    Read about the victory for Measure R and patients and providers in Alameda County in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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