Pages tagged "Law Enforcement"

  • City Council Repeals LA Ban, Now It’s Time to Regulate

    The Los Angeles City Council voted to repeal an ordinance banning medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives yesterday, clearing the way for a new ordinance to regulate hundreds of facilities in the city. The City Council adopted the ban in July after negotiations to settle dozens of lawsuits resulting from the city’s 2010 regulatory ordinance failed to produce a settlement. The repeal is the latest development in a struggle to regulate medical cannabis that dates back to 2005, when Americans for Safe Access (ASA) first engaged city staff and Council Members asking for sensible regulations to protect patients’ access and the community.

    In a separate motion authored by Council Members Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar, the City Council adopted a resolution asking the state legislature to “address inadequacies of state law” regarding medical cannabis. Some of the provision in the resolution call for the legislature to declare that financial transactions (sales) are not legal and that cooperatives and collectives must have local authorization to operate. Both of these were contentious issues in the long debate about regulations in the city, and both issues are currently before the California Supreme Court. The resolution also calls for enforcement against lenient medical cannabis doctors and a “finite list of conditions” for which cannabis can be used – a proposal that clearly violates the language of voter-approved Proposition 215. The resolution is not binding as law, and the state legislature is under no legal obligation to respond.

    I want to say a special thank you to the ASA members and friends who helped gather more than 49,000 signatures to call a voter referendum on the ban, donated their time and money, and kept believing we could win. Thanks to grassroots persistence, we have another chance to secure the proven benefits of regulations for Angelenos. Special thanks is in order for our coalition partners – the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 (UFCW), which represents works at dozens of local facilities; and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), the state’s oldest medical cannabis trade association. Both did a great job in gathering signatures, talking to City Council Members, and more.



    Patients and advocates hope that the repeal will encourage City Council Members to adopt a new ordinance with which everyone can live. Otherwise, the city may have no tools to protect patients and neighborhoods from real and imagined harm. The City Council voted to create a new regulatory ordinance when they approved a motion by Council Member Paul Koretz on the same day that they voted for the ban. Now we need city staff to move quickly to finish the ordinance, get it to committees, and back to the City Council. There is no need for further delay. The voters of Los Angeles clearly want regulations, not a ban. The debate about this ordinance may be contentious, but it is past time to live up to years of promises to regulate medical cannabis in Los Angeles.

    Enforcement actions against medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives in Los Angeles has already begun. There is no reason to believe that the ban’s repeal will stop the pressure. The Los Angeles City Attorney and District Attorney (DA) regard all of the city’s collectives and cooperatives as illegal, with or without a ban, and they are working to close them down. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) routinely raids facilities, and DA’s office has already prosecuted some operators. The City Council turned up the heat last month when they called in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help out. LAPD and DEA agents raided three collectives, filed civil asset forfeiture cases against three property owners who rent to medical cannabis tenants, and sent nearly seventy letters threatening other property owners.

    ASA urges cultivators, providers, staff, and patients to know your rights and be prepared to assert them in the event of a raid by the LAPD and DEA. We are going to see a lot more of that before the dust settles in Los Angeles. Patients and advocates will hold a lively and peaceful protest of the recent attacks in front of the federal building on Thursday. You can meet ASA , UFCW Local 770, and GLACA in front of the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles at 1:30 PM. The federal building is located at 255 East Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

    Thanks again for helping stop the ban. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and keep doing the kind of effective grassroots work that makes a difference. We will need you back on the phones, at City Hall, protesting on the streets… maybe even gathering signatures for a new voter initiative. Be sure to join ASA’s email list to stay up-to-date, and join us in person at the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, October 20, in the Community Room (152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • Marijuana Prohibition Turns 75, Feds Continue Attacks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Today is the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. and, as a society, we’re no better off for it. In fact, many would argue that we’re far worse off with prohibition than if at any point we had developed a sensible public health policy with regard to marijuana use.

    The effects of marijuana prohibition have been unmistakable from a law enforcement standpoint -- the U.S. imprisons more people for marijuana than any other country. However, the effects on society of criminalizing marijuana for therapeutic use are also significant and undeniable.

    Before the Marihuana Tax Act (MTA) was passed in 1937, medical marijuana (also known as cannabis) was commonly sold by pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly. However, Harry Anslinger, the country’s first drug czar, made sure that no exception was made for such therapeutic uses.

    Today, the federal government maintains a similar policy on marijuana. Ever since President Nixon ushered in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, subsequent administrations have upheld the unscientific conclusion that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medical value.

    The federal government employs this outdated policy on marijuana not only to obstruct meaningful research into cannabis, but also to target patients and providers of medical marijuana with aggressive SWAT-style raids and costly criminal prosecutions.

    Despite President Obama’s purported relaxation of marijuana enforcement, his administration has conducted an unprecedented attack on medical marijuana with more than 200 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids and over 70 new federal indictments.

    Tragically, a month ago, Richard Flor, 68, a medical marijuana provider in Montana died while in federal custody after being convicted and sentenced to 5 years. Flor was raided by the DEA in 2011, and like so many others, was denied a medical marijuana defense or the ability to provide evidence of state law compliance.

    This past Wednesday, federal agents worked with local and state police to raid more than 40 locations in Sonoma and Butte Counties. Approximately 300 law enforcement officials were used to aggressively target medical marijuana patients and providers. From the 10 homes raided in Butte County, officials allegedly came up with less than 100 plants per parcel, an acceptable amount even for personal use in some areas of the state. And the 1,150 plants allegedly seized from 33 locations raided in Sonoma County, amounted to less than 35 plants per parcel.

    In Sonoma County, law enforcement targeted a poor Latino neighborhood, reminiscent of the Drug War’s racist roots. Families, including women with babies in their arms, were made to wait outside while their homes were ransacked by police. An alphabet soup of federal agents --including FBI, DEA, DHS and ICE -- were dressed in military garb, armed with automatic weapons, and came with an armored vehicle. To call the raids overkill would be an understatement. The involvement of ICE also underscores the cynical tactic of targeting Latinos in the U.S. Drug War.

    So, this is where we find ourselves after 75 years of prohibition. The U.S. continues to imprison people for marijuana crimes at unprecedented rates, while simultaneously denying the scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy.

    Seventy-five years is a long time, but this indefensible position cannot be maintained forever. Later this month, on October 16th, Americans for Safe Access will use scientific evidence to argue before the federal D.C. Circuit that the federal government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its classification of marijuana. The government may yet be forced to prioritize science over politics. Only then can we begin to develop a public health policy that will replace this country’s antiquated Drug War.
  • A Plaintiff Speaks: Why I'm Suing for Safe Access

    I am a disabled United States Air Force veteran who is one of the plaintiffs suing over the placement of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, in the ASA v DEA case which will be heard by the United States Court of Appeal for the DC Circuit on October 16th. In order to understand why I would be willing to put my name on the line in this lawsuit over the schedule number of cannabis it is first important to review a little bit of history.

    Most people know that marihuana (spelled just that way) was the subject of a national law called the Marihuana Tax Act but less known is the fact that this law was based upon the Machine Gun Tax Act. It was legal trickery at best, as the whole point of the new law was to prohibit the sale and possession without the bother of a Constitutional Amendment as was done with alcohol prohibition.

    I think the chief drug bureaucrat at the time, Harry Anslinger, knew full well that the Marijuana Tax Act was on shaky Constitutional ground as he made it his life's work to sure up the law. In the 1960¹s he succeeded with the Single Convention treaty and thereby sought a back door Constitutional authority for his prohibition because it is written in our Constitution that treaties, once ratified, become “the supreme law of the land.”

    The United States Supreme Court wasn¹t impressed with Mr. Anslinger¹s efforts. however, and in 1969 they sided with Dr. Timothy Leary and ruled the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. This opened the door for Congress to create a new federal law on marihuana using the Interstate Commerce Clause to define their jurisdiction and the new treaty system as part of its basic constitutional authority.

    The new federal law, the Controlled Substances Act, is a basically good law that allows for fairly seamless control of and access to thousands of medicinal substances, but unfortunately the arbitrary inclusion of marihuana in the most restrictive category - Schedule I - makes this good law as bad at the Marihuana Tax Act in practice.

    Every day the federal government maintains marihuana's Schedule I status, the more damage it causes to our system of government. It is no surprise that this Schedule I placement of marihuana is now causing a serious rift between many states and the federal government that to an outside observer appears to be an extraordinary conflict, even a constitutional crisis.

    The definition of cannabis as Schedule I has caused my fellow patients to be imprisoned, denied work, housing, right to own a firearm, a place on a transplant list, and of greatest concern to me, is the latest casualty of the drug war, my VA doctor. My Veterans Affairs Medical Center doctor is now prohibited from recommending cannabis to me and instead the VA has explicitly relegated their sovereign power to the state to handle all aspects of a veteran¹s medical treatment with cannabis. Since the recommendation of cannabis has been shown by court cases in the 9th Circuit to be a free speech activity crucial to the doctor patient relationship it is now apparent that the VA can not effectively operate while this conflict between state and federal law exists.

    That is why I am very proud to put my name on this effort to right a wrong and acknowledge that cannabis does in fact have accepted medical use in the United States.

    Michael Krawitz is a plaintiff in the case ASA v DEA.
  • Medical Cannabis News in Review

    Is Paul Ryan's statement similar to Obama's position on medical marijuana? Is there evidence that marijuana has accepted medical uses? Are there really more dispensaries than Starbucks in LA? Recent news about medical marijuana:

    • Paul Ryan’s position on medical pot: “up to Coloradans,” and “not a high priority” for a Romney/Ryan Administration. Associated Press in the San Jose Mercury News

    • What if Obama called a real marijuana user instead of actors? Huffington Post

    • From dispensary operator to illicit dealer. Is medical marijuana being driven underground? LA Times

    • Study shows marijuana use among teens in Colorado, a medical cannabis states, dropped even as it increased nationwide. Huffington Post

    • Far fewer dispensaries in Los Angeles than ban proponents claimed, UCLA study finds. UCLA Newsroom

    • Author Martin Lee presents slideshow of seminal moments in the post-ban history of cannabis - Huff Post Books

    • Summary of research in the Daily Beast finds strong evidence of cancer-fighting effects of cannabis. Daily Beast

    • Prescribing medical professionals launch sign-on letter disputing Federal position that cannabis has no medical value, in advance of the October 16th hearing. ASA

    • Southern California’s only Sheriff-permitted dispensary closed by US Attorney Laura Duffy. San Diego ASA

    • Senior learns to bust the myths around medical cannabis. HuffPost Post 50

  • DuffyHoax Revealed - Medical Cannabis Advocates Explain It All


    On October 7, 2011, at a press conference in Sacramento, US Attorney Laura Duffy, along with several other US Attorneys, announced a statewide crackdown on medical cannabis cooperatives, collectives, gardens, and others.

    Without citing any specific violations in state law, Duffy's office claimed all were out of compliance and would be targeted for eradication including those fully licensed and regulated by local government and law enforcement.

    Since this proclamation of war on California’s medical marijuana program, Duffy’s office sent hundreds of letters to landlords threatening asset forfeiture if they did not immediately evict their dispensary tenants. As a result of these backhanded tactics, many landlords were forced to comply. Within six months, Duffy closed over 200 dispensaries in San Diego alone.



    These closures forced thousands of employees into unemployment, left hundreds of properties vacant and most importantly, left the 70,000 plus medical marijuana patients in San Diego county wondering where to get their medicine

    Duffy’s war did not stop with just closures of collectives and cooperatives. With her next move, she focused on local governments. After learning that advocates had gathered enough signatures to place initiatives to regulate dispensaries on several local ballots in the county, she began threatening council members and city staff with federal prosecution for writing laws to regulate safe access.

    This past July, Duffy fired off a threatening letter to the City of Del Mar, as well as sent DEA agents to several council meetings to intimidate lawmakers in person. Duffy's actions, as well as those of other US Attorneys across the state, are in stark contrast to what President Obama and the Department of Justice are saying.

    During his election in 2008, Candidate Obama promised he would not use Justice Department resources to target those in compliance with state law, and his administration publicly maintains this position. In addition, as recently as June, Attorney General Eric Holder, Duffy’s boss, testified before Congress that his Justice Department would only undertake enforcement action against medical marijuana organizations operating "out of conformity with state law."

    Under President Obama’s Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund has grown from $500 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2011, with $79 million going directly to California law enforcement agencies.

    Since October of last year advocates have worked tirelessly, using traditional means to fight against these attacks and to bring media attention to the issue. Lawsuits have been filed, letter drives organized, petitions signed, protests held, letters to editors written— yet nothing has worked. In fact, in San Diego the attacks seem to be getting worse and it was clear that something more radical had to be done.

    How San Diego ASA Got Involved in the Action


    San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s largest medical cannabis advocacy group, working with LGBT activism group Canvass for a Cause, received a letter from the San Diego Museum of Art last month, inviting both groups to participate to participate in The Yes Men’s "Yes Labs" workshop organized by the museum as part of their Summer Salon Series program.

    The goal of the workshop as the email explained was, "to identify a concrete, media attention grabbing idea and then figure out an approach towards making it come to fruition."

    Upon accepting the invitation, another email from the museum asked San Diego ASA to have at least a few hundred dollars available to turn the project into a reality.

    The next email read, "Despite the fact that the museum provides you with The Yes Men, the space, and meals, we do not want this cost to be a deterrent. Therefore, the Museum will contribute $100 in seed money to get you on your way."

    The workshop was scheduled for July 23rd and 24th at Agitprop, an art gallery in North Park.

    The Workshop


    The opportunity to execute an action holding Duffy accountable with help from The Yes Men and with the support of local arts community, could not have come at a more appropriate time. Not only were advocates looking for new summer activities to take on as part of Americans for Safe Access's summer program www.CampWakeUpObama.com, but the first day of the workshop, several members had to miss a part as they were Downtown organizing a protest against Duffy’s attempt to close the sole permitted dispensary in the county.

    The workshop began with introductions and an awe inspiring presentation of previous artistic actions organized by ‘The Yes Men’. The day then shifted into group discussions of causes everyone cared about and actions that could be taken right here in San Diego in support of those causes. After a few brainstorming sessions the group reached consensus to focus on the medical cannabis issue first. A plan was hashed out and Tuesday July 31st was set as the day of action. It became clear that through satire and art the chapter would bring attention to Duffy’s reign of terror.

    The plan was that a series of satirical press releases would be issued to media first claiming Duffy would target pharmacies for closure using asset forfeiture proceedings, similar to her track record with medical marijuana dispensaries, followed by another press release from Duffy claiming the first was a hoax and the perpetrators would be prosecuted. Then, a fake organization called FAC – the Federal Accountability Coalition would take credit for both satirical releases. Finally, the real advocates behind the project would step forward and claim responsibility in a fourth an final release.

    The Day of the Action


    On July 31st, a command center was set up in the heart of Hillcrest. The day began at 7:04am with the first press release sent to the media from [email protected], an email address chosen to resemble the real Duffy’s but be clearly phony, stating that the US Attorney will be shutting down pharmacies for their high volume of sales of controlled substances, the same rationale used by US Attorneys to close medical cannabis dispensaries.
    These pharmacies are not only about providing medicine to the sick. They are part of a pervasive for-profit industry that facilitates the distribution of drugs for illegitimate use. Doctors are prescribing unneeded medication; kids are overdosing on aspirin; police are finding pill bottles at junior high schools. Addiction and abuse of these drugs are serious problems in our communities and parents have come to me with their concerns. These pharmacies have provided not just medication - prescription and otherwise - but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and often irreparable harm to our youth.” said Duffy.

    At 7:34am, local San Diego CityBeat reporter Dave Maass, tweeted: “I wonder if the real looking press release I got from a fake looking email might be a product of The Yes Men workshop with mmj activists.” (@DaveMaass).

    While other media outlets, including the LA Times, were digesting the first release and trying to understand which pharmacies were being targeted, an actor playing "Deputy US Attorney of Narcotics and Logistics, Mr. Shiner" (a name selected randomly) was available by phone to answer questions.

    "Yes we are shutting them down," said Shiner while answering one of the calls, "Prosecutorial discretion means Duffy decides how and when to enforce laws."

    In the hour following the first release and while "Mr. Shiner" was answering inquiries from media, several Cease and Desist notices were posted by actors at five pharmacies in town. Although the fake press release said twenty locations were being targeted, only five actual notices were posted on the front doors of [email protected] claiming the first release was a hoax and that the perpetrators would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Analogous to the first release, the second had a spokesperson as well. This time, it was an actor playing Mr. Steven T. Fredrickson (another randomly chosen name). "Mr. Fredrickson" answered calls and email from media outlets and discussed the strict enforcement action he was planning on taking against the perpetrators of the first release. "They will be thoroughly punished,” he told reporters "we will be issuing another statement in the near future."

    Shortly after the second release was sent out, the real Laura Duffy scheduled a press conference for 11:00am to discuss the fake releases. Meanwhile, Shiner's and Fredrickson's phones were ringing off the hook, with reporters trying to figure out who was behind the hoax.

    Although not planned for, Duffy’s press conference spurred the idea of sending an actor to deliver the third release directly to the media gathered at the press conference.

    Duffy stood outside the federal courthouse in front of a dozen cameras grumbling about the fake releases. Interrupting her speech, the actor walked up to the media and said, "Laura Duffy is a Benedict Arnold, nothing but a Benedict Arnold!" and passed out the third release, in which the Federal Accountability Coalition claimed responsibility.

    This third release scolded Duffy for her wasteful attack on state’s rights, as well as insubordination of federal government, President Obama, and attorney general Holder. The release criticized her insubordination, raised concerns of her rogue efforts, and raised fears of Duffy targeting farmers' markets and people’s right to bear arms next. The statements in the release were so sensational that even more media attention was brought to the action as a result.

    Once all copies of the release were handed out, he walked away, the media following him for several blocks. The mere presence of FAC caused all the cameras to shift focus away from Duffy and to the actor, as a result entirely spoiling her press conference.

    After the third release went out, an actor playing Dexter Haight (another randomly chosen name) took calls and answered reporters' questions.

    By this time, there were already multiple articles online about the hoax and the action was taking over local news coverage for the day. Various news outlets were running stories about the action, some of them mixing up real quotes from Duffy with quotes from fake releases, and all of them focusing on this organization called FAC.

    The FAC had not only an email and phone number, but, to appear credible, there was also a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube Account, which were all getting a lot of traffic. The website and FAC press release included links to a video where Dexter Haight claimed responsibility for the hoax on camera.

    The Youtube page had interviews with various people, including a pharmacist, a CVS store manager, and a patient who supposedly patronized the stores shut down by Duffy’s actions. As the actor playing Dexter was fielding dozens of calls and emails from media about the hoax, it became clear that the best way to finish off the day was for FAC to hold a press conference at which the full reveal would take place. FAC then announced that a press conference would be held at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park at 2pm that day to discuss all the details of the hoax.

    The media showed up in full force. There were multiple cameras, photographers, and a stand with microphones. The press conference started promptly at 2pm with the actor playing Dexter Haight coming up to the stand and announcing, “My name is Dexter Haight, I am with the Federal Accountability Coalition. I am here to announce that my name is not Dexter Haight, I am an actor.” After Dexter spoke, advocates took the stage and discussed in detail the horrors of Duffy’s actions and why they had gone to such great lengths to bring this issue to light.

    Just as this final press conference began, the 4th and final press release was sent out, explaining that medical cannabis activists were behind the hoax.
    "Just as the closure of retail pharmacies, like CVS or Walgreens, is poor public health policy, so is the federal government’s crackdown on medical cannabis dispensaries," said Eugene Davidovich of San Diego ASA. "Pharmacies, like medical cannabis dispensaries, play an essential role in our communities as they help the sick and dying treat and manage various medical conditions," continued Davidovich. "Laura Duffy and the Obama Administration have no place interfering in the implementation of state law by shutting down dispensaries that thousands of patients rely on."

    Since the final release, multiple articles have been published by various news outlets covering the action as well as Duffy’s response. Duffy, however, instead of considering changing her stance on cannabis, has since threatened jail time for those she calls "the hoaxers" and has announced to the media that the FBI has been brought in to investigate; more waste of taxpayer dollars and another boneheaded move by Duffy’s office.

    With this action and other actions that took place that week throughout the state, Duffy and other US Attorneys are on notice that any person who interferes with medical cannabis patients and/or providers will continue to be subject to coordinated grassroots response by the public at large, in local and national forums.

    It is time to end this war on patients, let science lead public policy, and allow states to protect their most vulnerable citizens.

    The San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access would like to extend a thank you to all the advocates who took part in this wildly successful expression of art and satire, with a special thank you to Canvass for a Cause, The Yes Men, Agitprop and the San Diego Museum of Art for making this action possible.

    More Information


    San Diego Chapter of ASA - www.SafeAccessSD.org

    Canvass for a Cause - www.canvassforacause.org

    Eugene Davidovich is a Steering Committee Member of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
  • Report: Federal asset forfeiture fund balloons while oversight is lacking

    On the heels of introduction of HR 6335, the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Right Protection Act, by Barbara Lee (D-CA) in Congress last week, safe access advocates might want to take a look at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) July 12, 2012 report on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF). What the GAO discovered is that the Department of Justice has expended over $1 billion for the past several years on forfeiture, but reporting data remains elusive for Congressional oversight and public scrutiny.

    For those unfamiliar with the AFF and how it pertains to medical cannabis, check out some of ASA’s earlier work on this topic. But even those who have been following this issue may be interested to know that the AFF has 3 goals:

    1. to punish and deter criminal activity;

    2. to enhance cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies “through the equitable sharing of assets recovered through this Fund;” and

    3. to produce revenues in support of future law enforcement investigations and related forfeiture activities.


    To connect the dots for how this relates to medical cannabis, the DOJ is using civil forfeiture (and thereby sidestepping Constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants) to seize property that is associated with legal activity authorized by state and local law, in an effort enhance cooperation with with law enforcement agencies that permit the activity in question. So the only practical purpose the AFF has when applied to medical cannabis dispensary properties is to secure revenue for other DOJ projects.

    Costs obscured by lousy reporting and lack of oversight

    The cost of how much the DOJ spends in this utterly absurd effort is obscured by the lousy reporting process has for outside oversight. The GOA specifically recommended that “provide more detailed information to Congress as part of the AFF's annual budget process, clearly documenting how DOJ determines” key data. The reason for this is that the reporting data does not appear to have breakdowns for civil and criminal forfeiture, merely some anecdotal examples. However, by checking the tables that are provided, on can see that the AFF revenue has increased nearly 350% since 2003, from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011. Perhaps more disturbing is the amount of money that it costs the DOJ to run the AFF. Since 2007, expenditures on the AFF have exclipsed a billion dollars each year, reaching a high of $1.3 billion in 2011.

    This is one of many areas where the Obama Administration has fallen asleep when it comes to respecting the rights and dignity of medical cannabis patients, caregivers and providers. In addition to illuminating the AFF reporting process, the DOJ is also embarrassing the United States every day by maintaining marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, asserting that marijuana has no medical value. This lack of transparency and respect is precisely why Congress should give HR 6335 full hearings.

    Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director.
  • Cannabis News Around the Nation

    Two weeks of medical cannabis news in review.
    • Congresswoman Introduces Bill to Protect Landlords of Compliant Medical Marijuana Businesses - ASA PR
    • Michigan court rules localities cannot use federal law as an excuse for violating state laws protecting medical cannabis patients - The Detroit News
    • Case on Benefits of Marijuana Heads to Court - Huffington Post
    • LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl comes out at as a medical cannabis patient - LA Times
    • Detailed Rules for Medical Marijuana Proposed in Maine - Kennebec Journal
    • Pharmacy Shutdown Hoax Revealed - San Diego ASA
    • Medical Marijuana Advocates Mourn Pot Club Closures with Mock Funeral - SF Weekly
    • Arizona prosecutors urge Governor Jan Brewer to end the medical marijuana program, citing threats from federal prosecutors. The Governor declined to intervene - Arizona Republic
    Jonathan Bair is ASA's Social Media Director.
  • Lee's HR 6335 Would End the Assault on Landlords in the War on Safe Access

    There are many who suffer the "collateral damage" of the war on safe access to medical cannabis. Patients who must suffer or break the law to obtain medicine, as well as their loved ones and providers are some of the more well known victims in this federal assault. However, the overzealous actions of US Attorneys at the Department of Justice (DOJ) have brought to light another group suffering from our utterly nonsensical federal medical cannabis policy - the landlords who lease property to dispensaries.

    On Thursday, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced HR 6335 (text), the  the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act. The bill would stop the seizure of property from landlords of state law-compliant medical marijuana businesses, and was introduced less than a month after US Attorney Melinda Haag began forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of Harborside, the well-known dispensary who's Oakland location is in Lee's district.

    Facing Peril Unforeseeable Based on Prior Federal Rhetoric

    Landlords in states with medical cannabis laws have every reason to believe and expect that when a business presents them with a legitimate business license issued by the state and/or local municipality, that such a business is not breaking any laws merely for existing. In fact, based upon President Obama's instance that he was no longer going after medical cannabis patients and that we no longer have a "war" on drugs, it's perfectly understandable that the average person would not think twice about leasing such a property to medical cannabis dispensary.

    Not only do these landlords have every right to expect that these businesses are OK to lease to, the cost to the landlord to get such a property ready to lease to another customer can be quite expensive. Furthermore, in a time when commercial property owners have a hard enough time finding any tenants, these landlords have made business decisions based on the presumed reliable income that dispensary-tenants provide. When you consider that each crime study regarding dispensary neighborhoods indicates that these facilities are assets rather than liabilities to the community, the wisdom of the DOJ forfeitures is questionable at best.

    US Attorneys Running Roughshod Over Justice

    Speaking of US Attorneys and "questionable" legal thoughts, check out US Attorney Melinda Haag's bizarre and unhinged rational for issuing forfeiture proceedings against Harborside. If sheer size and number of retail sales for things within the Controlled Substances Act was sufficient basis for forfeiture at Harborside, why isn't every CVS, Rite Aide and Walgreens of similar size to Harborside being raided as well. Based on their size, something illegal must be afoot! (Maybe US Attorny Duffy will take up that charge...)

    Civil asset forfeiture is a rather extreme government tactic which some have noted treads dangerously close to offending at least four US Constitutional Amendments, the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th. It forces property owners to prove their innocence rather than have the government prove guilt. Property owners have no right to an attorney or a jury trial in these proceedings. Many have said civil forfeiture should be done away with all together, but if it is to exist, the government must be judicious in its application.

    Lee's HR 6335 Would End this Tactic Against Safe Access

    Americans for Safe Access thanks Congresswoman Lee and the cosponsors of HR 6335 for protecting the property rights of land owners who rent to state-approved and law abiding medical cannabis dispensaries. Contact your Representative today and urge them to cosponsor this much-needed safe access legislation.

     
  • 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.
  • 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.