Pages tagged "Law Enforcement"

  • Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Friday, President Obama’s Justice Department (DOJ) made clear its motivations to disrupt and undermine California’s medical marijuana laws. However, advocates argue that last week’s announcement by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys, which included threats against property owners, comes after months of aggressive DOJ attacks in several medical marijuana states. SWAT-style raids and threats of criminal prosecution against local and state officials has become emblematic of Obama’s policy on medical marijuana, a far cry from his pledge on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

    Yet, just as Obama’s confusing war on medical marijuana has reached a fever pitch, condemnation could be heard from several state and federal officials in California. Some state legislators and members of Congress are refusing to be intimidated by this latest round of threats from the federal government. Congressional members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), as well as State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) all decried the recent DOJ announcement in California.

    In a statement issued to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Congressman Rohrabacher called the DOJ effort “a waste of scarce federal resources.” In a separate statement issued to ASA, Congressman Farr had this to say:
    Medical cannabis continues to be prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses, as a means to minimize their pain and support their recovery. For that reason it is important that patients continue to have safe access to the medication they need. California has adopted clear regulations that allow patients to do just that, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing those resources on those who sell illicit drugs.

    State Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ strategy was a waste of precious resources at a time of fiscal crisis:
    They’re wasting money they don’t have. This is not the issue of the day. This doesn’t create jobs. This does not keep the security of the nation intact. It doesn’t clean the environment. If anything, they should be demonstrating leadership in resolving the conflict between federal and state laws. Until we deal with that, we’re going to be going around in circles here.

    Assembly member Tom Ammiano had perhaps the strongest words of condemnation in a press release issued shortly after the DOJ press conference on Friday. Ammiano said that the attack on medical marijuana would cost the state “millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives.”
    I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine.  [Friday’s] announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton.  It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws -- whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted?  Change we can believe in?  Instead we get more of the same.

    Notably, Congressman Rohrabacher’s statement had a prescriptive solution:
    [The DOJ announcement] underscores the need for Congress to pass H.R. 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.

    He’s right. People across the country should contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 1983, a bill that would reclassify medical marijuana and allow states to develop, implement and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.
  • Push Back on the Federal Attack



    The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a major new crackdown on medical cannabis patients, providers, growers, and property owners on Friday. US Attorneys told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento that every medical cannabis patients’ cooperative and collective in California is illegal and must close within forty five days – even if they are obeying state law. The DOJ also dusted off a Bush-era tactic by expanding their crackdown to property owners who rent to medical cannabis providers and growers. The DOJ has already started sending letters threatening to prosecute property owners and confiscate their real estate using federal civil asset forfeiture laws.



    The Obama Administration’s about face on medical cannabis in California should be a wakeup call for medical cannabis patients and providers in every state. The new crackdown represents the most visible evidence yet of a national medical cannabis backlash. Banks are closing accounts, the Internal Revenue Service is squeezing providers, and state access programs are on hold. And of course, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to raid medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens.

    Opponents are reacting to the expansion of safe access in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, and to moves by state and local governments to implement medical cannabis laws with meaningful regulations. Federal law enforcement and other opponents know they must move now, or risk having medical cannabis permanently entrenched in local and state law. If patients and advocates fail to check the federal escalation in California, we can expect to see these same tactics in every state where medical cannabis is legal.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and advocates to redouble their commitment to the grassroots campaign for safe access. We need to make our voice heard at City Hall, in our state legislatures, and in the District offices of federal lawmakers right now. Elected officials need to know they cannot sweep safe access away, and they also need to know there is a safe political space for supporting medical cannabis. ASA provides a free Advocates Training Center to hone skills in direct advocacy, community organizing, media relations, and more.

    ASA also calls on the nascent medical cannabis industry, and the industries that support it, to marshal their substantial financial resources to support the patients’ movement for medical cannabis. Lawyers, consultants, bankers, real estate professionals, merchant service providers, business equipment dealers, and others are needed in the campaign for safe access right now.

    The solution to this newest challenge is political. If we rise to the occasion, we can push back this federal attack on medical cannabis and swing the pendulum back in our direction. But to do it, we need the time and resources of our constituency. ASA urges everyone who cares about medical cannabis to join the fight today.

    Are you an ASA member? Join today!
  • California Appellate Court Creates Contradictory Law on Federal Preemption of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries



     

     

     

     

     

     

    The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued an opinion yesterday in Pack v. City of Long Beach, a case involving a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance adopted last year by the Long Beach City Council. The court did not invalidate the ordinance in its entirety, but instead found that federal law preempted certain provisions of the city’s permitting scheme. In particular, the court found that the provisions of the ordinance granting permits to dispensaries through a lottery system at a significant, recurring fee, are preempted by federal law.

    Notably, the court made a distinction between a permitting or licensing scheme and an ordinance that would merely protect such facilities against local civil or criminal prosecution. This leaves open the possibility that Long Beach could comply with the court’s decision simply by making semantic changes to its ordinance, requiring “registration” rather than “permits” or “licenses.”

    The Long Beach decision expressly disagrees with two published decisions on federal preemption by the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, one in County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML and another in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim. Because of this appellate conflict, the Long Beach decision is not binding on trial courts outside of the Second Appellate District. Sadly, this ruling creates more uncertainty about localized medical marijuana distribution, instead of resolving it.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argued against federal preemption in the Long Beach case by filing an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief in June with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Unfortunately, the court disregarded those arguments and chose to throw a wrench into the implementation of California’s medical marijuana law.

    ASA will, in all certainty, file a request for depublication of the Long Beach decision, which is not yet final. There is a possibility that the California Supreme Court will grant review of the decision or depublish it, especially since it is our belief that the court applied an incorrect preemption analysis.
  • ATF is Latest in Long Line of Federal Agencies to Bully Medical Marijuana Patients



     

     

     

     

     

     

    Two weeks ago, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), under the Obama Justice Department, issued a memorandum instructing firearms dealers not to sell to lawful medical marijuana patients. The ATF memo -- an affront to patients’ Second Amendment rights to be sure -- was just the latest in a long list of policy statements and threatening letters from the federal government aimed at undermining the rights of medical marijuana patients. However, this particular effort against gun owners has people riled up more than usual.

    After finding out about the ATF memo, Montana’s congressional delegation -- Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), and U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) -- blasted the decision. In response, Tester wrote a letter to the ATF last week, urging the agency to “immediately reconsider [its] misguided effort.” Rep. Rehberg and Senator Baucus made similar condemning remarks.

    In defense of patients, Senator Tester wrote:

    It is unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    In Michigan, the ATF is being especially proactive. Americans for Safe Access has received reports that the federal government is using information obtained from the state’s medical marijuana program to serve search warrants and forfeiture notices on patients with legally possessed firearms.

    The ATF memo comes after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice to state and local housing authorities that accommodation need not be given to legal medical marijuana patients and that eviction from public housing was an acceptable option.

    Also earlier this year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued an order, increasing the enforcement responsibilities of banks to ensure against criminal and illicit activity. This order has been used to deny or cancel banking services for countless legally operating medical marijuana dispensaries across the country. According to a Denver Post editorial from today:

    [L]ast week, the lone bank in the state that openly worked with the [medical marijuana] industry closed an estimated 300 marijuana-related accounts for fear that the companies  are breaking federal law.

    In a now-famous move, the Obama Justice Department sent out a series of letters this summer to public officials in at least 10 medical marijuana states, threatening criminal prosecution for implementing public health laws. This had a deleterious effect on several local and state laws in Arizona, California, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington to name a few.

    More recently, however, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that Harborside Health Center -- possibly the largest licensed medical marijuana distribution facility in California -- could not deduct its operating costs and must pay taxes on gross income. Besides the possibility of putting Harborside out of business, this could have a devastating effect on local distribution across the country.

    The ATF memo and other examples of intolerance by the federal government illustrate the need for a federal policy that treats medical marijuana as a public health issue. As such, urge President Obama to develop a comprehensive policy on medical marijuana. Also, people should urge their Member of Congress to pass HR 1983 to reclassify medical marijuana, HR 1984 to restore banking services for the medical marijuana community, and HR 1985 to allow dispensaries to deduct their operating expenses when paying federal taxes.
  • Rhode Island Governor Chafee Buckles to Federal Intimidation as He Puts the State’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Limbo



    Rather than acting as the champion of Rhode Island’s Medical Cannabis Program, Governor Lincoln Chafee has failed the medical cannabis community by halting the legislated licensing of dispensaries.  Governor Chafee’s failure to effectively implement H5359, the state’s dispensary licensing law, passed overwhelmingly by the legislature, will continue to have a negative effect on those patients who struggle to find adequate and consistent access to medical cannabis.



    Attempting to validate his failure to stand behind Rhode Island’s medical cannabis law, Governor Chafee stated:
    Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect.

    However, Jesse Stout, founder of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, is encouraging the medical cannabis community to act:
    Patients and activists who are angered by Chafee’s backsliding should call his office at 401-222-2080 and demand that he follow state law and issue 3 medical marijuana compassion center licenses as planned

    A public outcry has also occurred as a result Chafee’s reluctance. A rally of more than 80 people was held this past Saturday to protest the Governor’s decision to abort. Some legislators have even spoken out. Rhode Island Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Providence) said, “we would urge the governor to follow the law.” According to the Providence Journal, Slater said he is willing to sit down with Chafee to work on a solution.

    While federal interference in state medical cannabis laws is possible, this type of cowering will only invite interference in Rhode Island by establishing a political climate where the even the state is questioning the legitimacy of legal access for patients.

    Hundreds of Rhode Island patients who suffer from severe and debilitating conditions are still unable to obtain the medication they desperately need because they are unable to grow it for themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them.  Product consistency as well as access to concentrates and other forms of medical cannabis has also been difficult and dangerous for patients without the option of specialty shops that would otherwise provide products and services these patients desperately need.

    But for threats from the Obama Justice Department, Governor Chafee had planned to implement the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries this year.  It is shameful that the Governor is turning his back on the thousands of patients across his state who need this law, and the legislature who worked so hard on a plan to license these facilities in communities where access to medical cannabis is needed.  Furthermore, it is not the purview of Governor Chafee to aid the Obama Administration in enforcing federal law. Rather, he is responsible for enacting laws passed by the state.
  • Setting Precedent for Patients and Providers in San Luis Obispo County



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this month, two medical marijuana patients were acquitted of all charges in a case that is likely to affect numerous other similar pending cases. Deip Paul and Steven Brown were found “not guilty” of several felonies after only two hours of jury deliberation. The September 7th verdict finished off a two-week trial, which Superior Court Judge John Trice called:
    [a]n historic ruling for San Luis Obispo County, the first of its kind I believe, that I'm sure will have a large repercussions on currently ongoing trials.

    This victory for patients should be taken in context. Although the California coastal county of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is known for its vineyards, rolling hills, and the serenity of the Pacific Ocean, over the years law enforcement has been terrorizing the medical marijuana patient community.

    With the case of Charles C. Lynch, law enforcement attempted to scare and intimidate county medical marijuana patients and providers by federally prosecuting Lynch for operating his Morro Bay dispensary, despite city approval and business community support. The SLO Sheriff and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided Lynch in 2007.

    Then in 2009, the San Luis Obispo Narcotics Task Force (NTF) started an investigation of Paul, a Cal Poly student who suffers from debilitating migraines, after he reported a burglary to the police. In February 2009, NTF officers followed Paul who was meeting with his medical marijuana provider. The two were arrested and charged with possession, possession with intent to sell, transportation, and conspiracy to sell marijuana. A third defendant, Cory Wolin, faced similar charges, but took a plea deal by testifying against his friend Paul.

    While Paul and Brown were getting prosecuted, NTF Commander Rodney John led a series of criminal enforcement actions in December 2010 against patients and their providers, mainly the operators of delivery services, which were spurred by the hostility against storefront medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. These raids resulted in several arrests and subsequent prosecutions.

    Once the case finally made it to trial more than two years later, the jury weighed whether Paul and Brown were within their rights as qualified patients to engage in an exchange of money for medical marijuana, and if the amount of marijuana and money involved were “reasonable” under the law. The courtroom was packed with supporters during the trial; the strong solidarity was evident.

    Despite Commander John’s testimony in the Paul/Brown trial, his evidence failed to convince the jury. This does not bode well for John’s other nine cases that are winding their way through the SLO Superior Court. The New Times reported this week that, “District Attorney Gerald Shea may have to consider differently which cases to pursue.” A motion to dismiss several of the cases was scheduled to be heard today.

    Paul and Brown are now seeking the return of their wrongfully seized property, still in police custody.
  • Indictments Thrown Out by Nevada Judge, Who Said the State’s Medical Marijuana Law “Makes No Sense”



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Nevada trial court judge threw out an indictment Monday against Leonard Schwingdorf and Nathan Hamilton, two medical marijuana dispensary operators arrested in federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement raids on several Las Vegas facilities last year. This was the first legal disposition since the Obama DEA raided at least 5 area dispensaries on September 8, 2010, indicting 15 people as a result.

    When dismissing the indictments, Nevada District Judge Donald Mosley called the state’s law “mind boggling.” Judge Mosley further questioned the legislature’s failure to craft a law that benefits patients:
    [W]hy don't they (the Legislature) make up their mind if they want to make it legal or not…I can't make any sense out of this law.

    Judge Mosley also asked about the law:
    Are people supposed to give it away? I mean it just makes no sense.

    Although all 15 indictments stemming from last year’s raids were initially filed in federal court, only 7 remain as federal cases. The rest of the indictments, two of which were tossed earlier this week by Judge Mosley, were transferred to state court.

    According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, defendants have called the state law “paradoxical because it allows patients registered with the state to possess the herb, but makes it illegal to obtain it.”

    Mosley agreed with defense attorneys in their allegations that prosecutors withheld important medical-related information from the grand jury that indicted Schwingdorf and Hamilton.

    Seven federal prosecutions are still pending as are another state case, which will be heard Friday by District Judge Doug Smith. An indictment against multiple operators and the vagueness of Nevada’s medical marijuana law will again be at issue this Friday.
  • Tennessee Congressman Calls Federal Medical Marijuana Policy “Misguided”



    Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) wrote a letter to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske on Monday, urging a change to the country’s drug policy with regard to marijuana. In addition to calling the federal policy on medical marijuana “misguided,” Cohen said, “Marijuana does not belong on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.”
    There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as these harder drugs and it should not be treated as such.

    Cohen, who has taken FBI Director Robert Mueller to task over the federal government’s policy, called for compassion in his letter to Kerlikowske:
    We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on marijuana to treat the effects of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses the benefits that marijuana provides.

    Cohen also described a personal experience he had with medical marijuana:
    I have personally witnessed a close friend who was suffering in the last days of pancreatic cancer benefit tremendously from smoking marijuana. It increased his appetite, eased his pain, and allowed him to smile. It allowed him to deal with death with a little more dignity.

    Fortunately, there is a bill currently in Congress that would reclassify medical marijuana. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is mobilizing people to urge their Members of Congress to pass HR 1983, a bill that would reclassify marijuana to Schedule III and allow states to pass their own laws.

    ASA has also taken the Obama Administration to court over its refusal to reclassify marijuana. After a 2002 petition filed by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) was denied earlier this year, ASA and the CRC filed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit. Advocates are hopeful that either Congress or the courts will push the federal government to address medical marijuana with a sensible public health policy.
  • Michigan Appellate Court Severely Limits Access to Medical Marijuana, Lansing Mayor Blasts Decision



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Tuesday, Michigan’s Court of Appeals ruled in People v. Compassionate Apothecary that the sale of medical marijuana was illegal under state law, outlawing an important method of distribution relied on by thousands of Michigan patients. According to the City Pulse, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero blasted the ruling today as “a terrible setback” and “ridiculous law,” claiming that the judges “subverted the will of the people rather than facilitated it.” Lansing and other cities in Michigan have already adopted regulations licensing the same distribution facilities just banned by the appellate court.

    Since voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, patients have been struggling to find safe and legal ways to access their medication. Several cities including Ann Arbor, Lansing, Traverse City and Ypsilanti had forged ahead, adopting ordinances regulating local distribution so that legal protection would exist for patients and providers. But Tuesday’s decision undermines those local laws and an estimated 400 dispensaries that were operating across the state, generally without incident.

    Mayor Bernero called the decision a victory for the War-on-drugs approach, “which will help keep marijuana sales in the neighborhoods and back alleys.” Statistics show that the vast majority of patients rely on centralized distribution centers for their medication, mainly because it is difficult and expensive to grow indoors. In the face of this demand for safe access by the state’s most vulnerable residents, Michigan has shown a deplorable lack of compassion and foresight. Because this legal prohibition on distribution will push patients into the illicit market, it will increase the risk of harm to patients and in so doing will directly contradict the efforts of law enforcement.

    Advocates applaud the leadership of local officials like Mayor Bernero, yet more are needed to stand up for the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. In looking ahead, Mayor Bernero put the ball in the state legislature’s court:
    The way forward is simple -- our state lawmakers need to step up to the plate and write a law that is clear and concise and that respects the will of the people of Michigan as expressed in their overwhelming support for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    Advocates are currently working to develop a response. The tens of thousands of Michigan patients who rely on local distribution will not stand idly by while their rights are taken away. Whether through the courts, the legislature or by referendum, patients will seek a remedy to gain safe and legal access to medical marijuana.
  • Chula Vista Police Strong-Arm Medical Marijuana Patients

    Chula Vista Police Strong-Arm Medical Marijuana Patients


    By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access, August 14, 2011

    Patients stand up in the face of threats, violence, and intimidation by Chula Vista Police Department during an illegal attempt to search Green Power medical marijuana collective in South San Diego.

    Chula Vista – On July 12, at 10:45pm the Chula Vista City Council adopted an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives and collectives within city limits. The late hour vote was intentional so as to prevent members of the public from speaking against the ban.

    Leading up to vote, patients, concerned citizens and supporters of safe access had diligently attended Council meetings for over two years pleading with their local representatives to protect sick and dying patients in their community. Dozens of patients turned out to meetings and sent letters and emails asking for reasonable regulations rather than a ban.

    The City Council ignored the pleas of sick and dying patients and decided to side with the reefer madness propaganda fed to them by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as well as San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis who continue to claim that all dispensaries are illegal and attract crime even though actual data shows otherwise.

    The vote as well as the Council Members’ comments on July 12th appeared to have given a green light to the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) to force existing safe access out of the City and to send a strong message of disregard to medical marijuana patients in Chula Vista.

    Days after the vote was ratified and wasting no time, the CVPD posted police cars outside of existing dispensaries in Chula Vista and began pulling patients over as soon as they exited parking lots of the facilities. They questioned those pulled over, searched their vehicles, and in many cases confiscated their medicine issuing citations despite legitimate patient paperwork.

    “They stopped me for no reason, asked what I bought at the dispensary, took my medicine, humiliated me and told me that medical marijuana was a joke” said Joe, a terminally ill cancer patient after experiencing an encounter with CVPD outside of a collective in Chula Vista. “I told them that I was legal, that I was using this medicine to overcome debilitating symptoms related to the chemo, but they wouldn’t hear it, the cop told me that the medical marijuana thing was a scam.”

    The CVPD did not settle on simply harassing patients leaving the dispensaries, they decided to step it up a notch and go after the facilities themselves. Rather than follow the law and go through proper civil channels to start a dialogue with the collectives, the CVPD instead sent ‘patient eradication squads’ to beat the facilities into closure.

    On July 26, the Green Power medical marijuana collective, almost fell victim to one of these ‘Chula Vista Patient Eradication Squad’. That day the collective had a locksmith at their location installing a new set of locks for the front door. At approximately 12:55pm as the locksmith was crouched over, installing the lock, several uniformed and plain clothed officers approached the door of the collective, pushed the locksmith aside, shouting, “Who is the owner here?!”

    Long, a medical marijuana patient and member of the collective walked out of the medicine room into the front reception area where the police were huddled and said “How may I help you officers?”.

    At first, they cops put on a friendly face and sat down on one of the couches as if to talk to Long. Within seconds of sitting down, two officers stood up and tried to rush the medicine room with the intent of searching the facility. Long stood up, walked calmly to the door of the medicine room and explained to the officers that because they did not have a search warrant, they could not go into the room.

    At that instant the two officers turned angry and violent, they grabbed Long, slapped handcuffs on him and physically threw him on the ground. The cops were heard saying “Search Warrant, ha, don’t you know we are Chula Vista PD and can go anywhere we want?”

    Long continued to remain calm and told the officers again that they had not showed him a search warrant, that he did not consent to a search, and asked them to immediately vacate the premises.

    To everyone’s surprise, instead of continuing to strong-arm and physically assault Long the cops un-cuffed him and quickly scattered out of the facility.

    The locksmith who witnessed the entire encounter was practically paralyzed with fear and shock after seeing the barbaric and brutal nature with which they interacted with Long at the collective.

    The collective is currently consulting with their legal counsel about potential litigation or action against the Chula Vista Police Department as well as the officers themselves.

    For more information contact [email protected]