Pages tagged "legislation"

  • Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Reschedule Cannabis



    Today, in a joint effort between Congressional Representatives and Americans for Safe Access, several members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The letter, headlined by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and signed by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA), noted that California was only the latest state hit in the federal government's campaign against medical marijuana.
    This year alone has seen aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven medical marijuana states, as well as threats of criminal prosecution by U.S. attorneys against local and state public officials. It is our strong position that local and state governments must be allowed to develop, implement and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis.

    The members of Congress further stated that:
    [I]t is more urgent now than ever to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.

    Specifically, they requested that the Obama administration either reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug or that they publicly support the adoption of legislation that would remove cannabis from its current place in Schedule I. The letter comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's most recent attempt to circumvent California's 15 year old medical cannabis law.

    In the beginning of October, California's four U.S. attorneys sent letters to at least 16 landlords and property owners who rent buildings or own land where dispensaries provide safe access to medical cannabis, notifying them that they were violating federal drug law. The letters warned that the dispensaries must shut down within 45 days or the landlords and property owners will face criminal charges and confiscation of their property - both real and personal - even if they are operating legally under the state's medical cannabis law.

    This latest instance of federal interference is in stark contrast to the spirit if not the precise letter of the Obama Administration's policy on medical cannabis and though the DOJ is now claiming that President Obama had no prior knowledge of these latest enforcement tactics, the signers of the Farr-Rohrabacher letter urge the President to show respect for patients and their providers by changing federal policy and providing them with safe access to their medicine rather than pushing them back into the illicit market. Whether or not their pleas fall on deaf ears remains to be seen.
  • 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.
  • Help ASA turn the tide in CA!



    This was a tough year for medical cannabis in California. The state legislature failed to adopt a measure protecting patients’ employment rights, but they did adopt two bills that will present new hurdles for patients, providers, and growers. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has a plan to take back the momentum in California and pass legislation in 2012 to protect patients’ rights, community-based access, and medical cannabis growers. But we need your help to do it!

    Can you please take a minute right now to donate $20, $50, $100… or whatever amount you can afford to support ASA?



    This year, lawmakers adopted AB 1300, legislation authorizing local governments to regulate the location, operation, and establishment of patients’ cooperatives and collectives. While ASA is continuing the fight against local distribution bans in the California Courts of Appeal, we fear that medical cannabis opponents will misuse AB 1300 to promote more bans on access and cultivation in cities and counties across California. The legislature also approved SB 847, a bill that requires legal cooperatives and collectives to be located at least 600 feet from residential uses or zones. If that bill is signed by Governor Brown, it may choke off access in some communities. (Click here to ask Governor Brown to veto the bill.)

    These bills were not the result of a right-wing attack on medical cannabis. Both were sponsored by Democrats, who traditionally support medical cannabis. But lawmakers are only hearing from those who oppose medical cannabis. We need to get patients back in lawmakers’ offices to tell our side of the story!

    ASA is working hard to build, train, and mobilize the grassroots base of support in California. We have just finished a statewide tour to find out what is happening in communities, identify local organizers, and develop new chapters. Now we are going to use new tools like our Online Activist Training Center and our innovative Think Tank and Policy Shop to train and support activists in local and statewide campaigns.

    We can have a new cadre of medical cannabis activists setting the agenda at the local and state level before lawmakers start the 2012 legislative session. We can pass legislation to defend patients’ civil rights, license cooperatives and collectives, and finally protect medical cannabis growers! But we can only do it if we have the resources to further build, train, and mobilize the grassroots base. Can you help ASA do that right now?

    Please make a special contribution to help ASA turn the tide and make a difference – starting right now!

    Thank you for doing your part!
  • California Governor Signs Bill Recognizing Legality of Medical Marijuana Distribution



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today recognizing the legality of local distribution centers and the right of municipalities to regulate the much-needed provision of medical marijuana to hundreds of thousands of patients across the state. AB1300, which was authored by California Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys), takes effect on January 1st. The bill establishes that state law:
    [S]hall not prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing local ordinances that regulate the location, operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective.

    Although Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opposed Blumenfield’s bill for not going far enough to protect the operation of more than 1,000 storefront dispensaries and delivery services across the state, it does at least recognize their legitimacy and the need of patients to access these modes of distribution.

    ASA will continue to litigate in the courts and lobby state legislators to establish a more protective policy with regard to storefront distribution. Currently, more than 50 California localities have ordinances regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, and more than 90 local governments are considering such regulatory laws. Research conducted by ASA found that dispensary regulations not only benefit the thousands of patients across the state, but also help to reduce crime and improve the neighborhoods surrounding such facilities.
  • Tough year in Sacramento



    This is shaping up as a tough year for medical cannabis in Sacramento. California Senators failed to vote on a bill by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would have protected legal medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is already working to build more support for SB 129 before it comes back to the Senate in January of 2012. Lawmakers also took no action on a proposal by Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) that would have established a statewide task force, including a representative from ASA, to study sales tax and other regulatory issues.



    Two undesirable medical cannabis bills are moving forward in the legislature this year. The Senate approved SB 847 on Wednesday. Authored by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), this bill will require that medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens be located at least 600-feet from residential zones and uses statewide. Local governments can opt out of this broad restriction, but ASA fears the 600-foot buffer zone will become a de facto standard for the state. This new restriction would be in addition to the existing state law barring collectives from locating within 600 feet of a school and any local regulations. ASA is calling on members and advocates to oppose SB 847.

    A second problematic bill is Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield’s (D-Van Nuys) AB 1300, which was approved in the Assembly on Friday. ASA and other advocates succeeded in securing an amendment to AB 1300 that defined medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives as places where medicine is grown or provided. The word “or” is significant. Some lawmakers and police officers hold that patients can only grow medicine together, not provide it to other members of the collective in exchange for a monetary reimbursement (a position ASA rejects).  Unfortunately, the advocates’ amendment was removed at the last minute, leaving only the provisions in AB 1300 that authorize local government to regulate the location, operation, and establishment of cooperatives and collectives. ASA has withdrawn support for the bill, given concerns it may promote bans and criminal enforcement against patients’ associations.

    Growing ambivalence towards medical cannabis is a challenge for advocates, who are eager to see better state and local regulations. But wary lawmakers fear that support for pro-medical cannabis legislation could be used against them – especially given uncertainty about what will be a safe or vulnerable District after this year’s first-ever non-partisan re-districting. We will have to work hard to keep lawmakers focused on the needs of legal patients, instead of reacting to unlicensed dispensaries, lenient doctors, and patients who “don’t look sick.” We may know that these are misperceptions, but we have a lot to do to convince our elected representatives.

    ASA is working hard to train an army of medical cannabis advocates to support sensible regulations and oppose misguided proposals. Let’s hope our innovative Online Training Center and new Think Tank and Policy Shop help support the grassroots campaign we need statewide. You can do your part by supporting ASA. Join today and participate in action alerts aimed at protecting safe access and patients’ rights.
  • Delay on SB 129 means more time to build support

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    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has been working since 2006 to protect medical cannabis patients from workplace discrimination. We represented medical cannabis patient Gary Ross in his appeal to the California Supreme Court in Ross v. Rangingwire Telecommunications. When the court failed to protect patients like Gary Ross from discrimination, we sponsored then-Assemblymember Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) AB 2279 to establish employment rights for legal patients. That bill passed the state legislature, but was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggr.

    California Senator Mark Leno re-introduced this important legislation this year as SB 129. Many of you have already helped promote this important bill in the Senate, and we have a lot more work to do. Unfortunately, the bill will not come for a vote before the full Senate during this crowded legislative session. The upside is that we will have until January of 2013 to build support among voters, labor, employers, and patient advocates. Between now and the next session, I hope we can count on your continued support.

    In the meantime, we need to focus on opposing Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847. Find out more about this misguided legislation and what you can do to help stop it today.
  • Momentum in Massachusetts

    Guest blog by MMPA Organizer Matt Allen - In Massachusetts, optimism and ambition are high among medical marijuana advocates as the new legislative session is starting up.  Turnout at our stakeholder's meeting November (facilitated by ASA Executive Director Steph Shrer) exceeded expectations, helped us build connections amongst one another, and left everyone motivated to take action and work together to pass medical marijuana reform in the next two years.  In addition the meeting provided Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance with valuable information about the hopes and concerns of the medical marijuana advocacy community that we were able to relate to Chairman Smizik, lead sponsor of the medical marijuana bill that will be filed, and a long time supporter of our cause.  Individual patients and family members who want to see Massachusetts catch up to other states in the region like Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine, are now contacting their state reps and asking them to cosponsor the medical marijuana bill that will be filed next week.  We accomplished a lot last year through outreach at community events and lobbying legislators as well as seeking support from other public health groups.  But our coalition wasn't even founded until the middle of last session.  This time we are organized and will be able to present a unified grassroots presence at the state house from day one.  As the organizer for MPAA I've already had the opportunity to join some patients on visits to their reps to discuss the issue, and it has been awesome!  We are getting the message out that this is a real public health issue and that its wrong to deny patients their medicine.  Legislators are listening, and the public is behind us.  And we are growing!  Visit us at masscompassion.org to follow the campaign in Massachusetts, or e-mail [email protected] if you're a Massachusetts resident who wants to get more involved.
  • CA Senate Committees Approve AB 2650

    Two California Senate committees approved a bill this week that will require a 600-foot buffer zone between medical cannabis collectives and schools statewide. AB 2650 was approved by the Senate Health Committee and the Local Government Committee over the objection of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other medical cannabis advocates. However, ASA and allies can claim a victory in the bills march towards final approval by the Senate. The initial draft would have required a 1,000-foot buffer zone around a laundry list of sensitive uses. Pressure from the medical cannabis community forced the author, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), to retreat to the less onerous provision. AB 2650 is expected to win final approval in the Senate this session. Cities and counties can adopt smaller buffer zones before January 1, 2011, when the new legislation takes effect. Local governemnt retains the right to adopt larger buffer zones at any time. The bill is sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), a law enforcement lobbyist group that opposes medical cannabis.