Pages tagged "Law Enforcement"

  • DEA Chief on Medical Cannabis use by Navy vet: "that's between him and his doctor"

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

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

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

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

    Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
    • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
    • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
    • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
    • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
    • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
    • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.
  • Oregon: Dwight is Not Right for Patients



    There has never been a clearer opportunity to demonstrate support for medical marijuana than the current race for Oregon Attorney General, which features two Democrats with decidedly different views on safe access to therapeutic cananbis. This campaign and the media it has generated is important for the national perception it creates that

    1. there is a medical marijuana movement and

    2. that our movement will act unified enough to make a difference in an election.


    This campaign is the first time any of the US Attorneys who led attacks on state legal co-op gardens has ever had to consider the marijuana vote. Dwight Holton has consistently sided with the tough on crime crowd and boasts endorsements from the group responsible for passing Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentences law.

    Judge Ellen Rosenblum – with 22 years on the bench and 14 more as a prosecutor and an attorney – says she will protect patients and uphold Oregon’s voter-approved law. That law passed in 1998, five years before her opponent Dwight Holton moved to Oregon.

    Recent polls show Rosenblum with a healthy lead. But with 60% of the vote yet to be cast, Holton can still make a comeback.

    Every vote matters in this race. Please share this on Facebook and tell all of your friends. It’s too late to mail in your ballot. You must find one of Oregon’s drop-off sites in your community. Vote Rosenblum for Oregon Attorney today.

    Jim Greig is an ASA organizer in Eugene, Oregon.
  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

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



     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cities like San Francisco and Oakland are examples of how to stand up to federal intimidation. We need more local officials to take their lead and develop local laws that recognize the needs of patients in their communities, not the fickle demands of the federal government.
  • California Court of Appeal Issues Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana

    Landmark decision denies localities the right to ban dispensaries outright Last week the California Court of Appeal issued another landmark decision on medical marijuana, which is sure to have a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the state. The Fourth Appellate District ruled in City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective that localities may not pass outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, facilities which a majority of Californian patients rely on for their medication. In its 48-page published decision, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that “local governments may impose a per se ban on medical marijuana dispensaries without contradicting state law.” This is the first time an appellate court in California has rejected the argument that local governments can use their land use authority to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating outright. The court reasoned that SB420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), allows for medical marijuana dispensaries as a matter of statewide concern, so localities cannot simply ban them. The court’s decision brings into question nearly 200 such bans across the state. Unless or until it’s appealed and taken up on review by the California Supreme Court, the Lake Forest case throws a significant wrench into the efforts of medical marijuana opponents and favors the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. That said, the Lake Forest decision was a mixed bag for the medical marijuana community. Even while agreeing with another recent landmark decision in People v. Colvin, that “a patient or primary caregiver [need not] personally [] engage in the physical cultivation of marijuana” in order to enjoy the protections of California law, the Lake Forest court held that dispensaries must cultivate all of the marijuana they sell on-site.
    [W]e conclude off-site dispensaries are not authorized by California medical marijuana law because nothing in the law authorizes the transportation and possession of marijuana to stock an off-site location.
    Unfortunately, in this regard, the Lake Forest court got it wrong. The MMPA explicitly protects patients from arrest and prosecution for transportation of marijuana when engaged in collective medical marijuana activity.  This part of the court’s decision is not only bad public policy, but has no basis in the law.
  • Obama Pot Justice? Not!



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Guest blog by journalist Paul Boerger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer turned themselves in to begin serving five year prison sentences on May 2, 2011. Presidential clemency is their last resort. Take action on urging clemency by visiting this site, or for more information on the case, visit this site.
  • Landmark Court Decision Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries in California



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

    The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation. Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

    The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another. Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

    On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:
    The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

    The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:
    [The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative's products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

    However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:
    [T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

    It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.