Pages tagged "media"

  • It's About Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After nine years of delay, the DEA finally denied the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) petition to reschedule marijuana.  While this may superficially seem like a setback, it now allows us to get a more fair hearing in federal court.  We even had to to file a lawsuit in federal court to compel any action on this decision, so it is a step in the right direction that we received a final administrative action on the rescheduling petition to set the stage for a court battle.  Now, we can present our evidence to a tribunal that will listen.

    Already, Time posted an article concluding that science demonstrates the following:
    if an appeals judgment were based on scientific evidence, rather than political considerations this time around, it's easy to imagine a very different outcome.

    Similarly, the International Business Report posted an article entiled, "Did U.S Government Miss the Mark with Medical Marijuana Ruling?"  You can guess the answer (or click on the link for the result).  The short of it is that we are getting a chance in court and we need to make the most of it.  And we will.
  • AG Holder: DOJ is Working to “Clarify” Federal Position on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At a press conference earlier today in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was peppered with questions about medical marijuana. This is understandable, given that a month ago U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha sent a letter to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and other state officials threatening:
    [C]ivil or criminal remedies against those individuals and entities who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries.

    Holder responded that the White House policy outlined in the Ogden memo, which de-emphasized federal interference, “made sense given…the limited resources that we have.” Addressing the obvious discord between policy and practice, Holder said he was working in Rhode Island and other parts of the country to “clarify what this policy means and how the policy can be implemented.”

    Holder further stated that:
    What we have to do is try to effectuate that policy in a way that we give comfort to somebody who is using it appropriately.

    Patient advocates are pleased that Holder wants to clarify this glaring contradiction in Justice Department policy. Rhode Island was not the only state to endure threats from U.S. Attorneys. The Justice Department sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 different states. These letters and the ongoing federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids occurring across the country have had a devastating impact on patients’ rights and safe access. Programs have been suspended not only in Rhode Island, but in Arizona and New Jersey as well. State and local laws were arguably curtailed by federal interference in California, Montana and Washington.

    Holder did say that he wants the process of clarifying federal policy to involve “dialog” and “communication.” We certainly hope he includes patients -- the ones directly affected by these policies -- in the dialog. But, we’re not waiting for his invitation so stay tuned for ways to make your voice heard.
  • San Diego Dispensary Operator Sentenced, Advocates Vow to Appeal

    On Wednesday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore told a crowded courtroom of patient advocates:
    “Medical marijuana is a scam.”

    [caption id="attachment_1101" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Jovan Jackson (right) and attorney Lance Rogers at Jackson's sentencing"]
    [/caption]

    During his vitriolic rants, Judge Shore found time to sentence Jovan Jackson, a dispensary operator who was recently convicted after being denied a defense at trial. Judge Shore harshly sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail, and imposed a $5,000 fine and three years of probation, during which time Jackson is prohibited from using marijuana to legally treat his medical condition.

    Unsurprisingly, Judge Shore also denied ASA’s motion for a new trial, based on double jeopardy and the denial of Jackson’s defense. This was the second time Jackson had been tried on the same charges-- the first time he was acquitted. Not satisfied with just skirting double jeopardy laws, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis fought to exclude Jackson’s defense on the most dubious grounds. Though not written into law, nor part of the 2008 California Attorney General guidelines on medical marijuana, the court held that most or all of Jackson’s patient membership must participate in the cultivation to be afforded a defense.

    Judge Shore’s contempt for medical marijuana could also be seen in other ways than just his bombastic statements from the bench. For example, patients were required to pass through a second metal detector placed directly outside the courtroom, a requirement unique to Jackson’s hearing. And, although there was no jury to influence at Jackson’s sentencing hearing, his supporters were once again prevented from brandishing Americans for Safe Access (ASA) logos on their shirts or bags, as if doing so would injure the court’s sensibilities. Judge Shore had imposed similar restrictions during Jackson’s trial.

    Judge Shore also ignored -- at his own peril -- the recent Los Angeles Superior Court decision and its affirmation of dispensaries’ right to operate in accordance with local and state laws. To make the laws less ambiguous, the LA court recommended more decisive regulations, rather than impeding the efforts of the patient community. Contradicting Judge Shore’s interpretation of state law, the LA court ruled in its unpublished decision that the Medical Marijuana Program Act,
    “does not deal with issues like who must be involved in the cultivation…”

    The irony of San Diego’s failed efforts to adopt a meaningful regulatory ordinance is not lost on the city’s patients. The San Diego City Council has been trying unsuccessfully to pass a local law for months, a law that would license the same activity for which Jackson was just convicted and sentenced. Coincidence? Whether or not foul play can be attributed, the patient community is demanding reasonable regulations to set a standard for the area’s dozens of dispensaries to meet.

    In the meantime, ASA will be appealing Jackson’s conviction and sentencing well before he is scheduled to surrender to authorities on February 1st. ASA will also argue for Jackson’s release on bail pending appeal. Stay tuned for more from San Diego in the fight for safe access.
  • ASA in the Huffington Post

    Online news giant Huffington Post published an outstanding op-ed by ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer this election morning, helping to bring our “Not Cooley” message to millions of Americans. This is an important message in California, where ASA and allies are urging voters to defeat anti-medical cannabis candidate Steve Cooley in his bid to be Attorney General. But it is also important nationwide. Elected officials need to know that medical cannabis patients and supporters are a political force to be reckoned with. High-profile media is an important part of that effort. Having Steph’s op-ed on a web site with an online readership bigger than both the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post is the way to get that coverage we need. Well done, Steph!
  • "Impatience and frustration" in LA

    Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher told the Los Angeles Times that medical cannabis collectives in Los Angeles are experiencing "impatience and frustration” due to ongoing legal controversy surrounding the city’s tough new regulations. That may be the first thing Ms. Usher and medical cannabis advocates have agreed on in years. Don’t expect the amity to last long. The City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is trying to close more than one hundred legal collectives deemed ineligible to register under the city’s ordinance based on broad interpretive leaps. Los Angeles Times reporter Sandy Banks said she understands why the collectives feel like this is an “underhanded trick.”

    READ: LA Timnes - "Some compassionate pot shops caught in L.A. law's red tape" (Sandy Banks, October 19, 2010)



    The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on an amendment that might have settled some of the controversy this morning. Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised in hundreds of lawsuits now consolidated in Los Angeles District Court. Delay in unfortunate. Some small improvements in the ordinance now could do a lot to diffuse the impatience and frustration felt by collective operators who have tried to support and comply with the city’s convoluted regulatory process. Unless the City Council stands up to the City Attorney’s capricious interpretation of the law, the there may be little goodwill left for implementation after the dust settles in the courtroom.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil Applauds New Documentary Film “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer”

    A new documentary by Len Richmond, “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer,” is starting to turn heads. Dr. Andrew Weil recently reviewed Richmond’s film, calling it “excellent,” and last week answered a question about medical cannabis on his web site.
    [E]xciting new research suggests that the cannabinoids found in marijuana may have a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. A number of studies have shown that these compounds can inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. In part, this is achieved by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow. What's more, cannabinoids seem to kill tumor cells without affecting surrounding normal cells. If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.
    Though not referenced in Dr. Weil’s answer, much of the recent investigation into inhibiting cancer growth using cannabis comes from Dr. Sean D. McAllister, of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and medical cannabis researcher Jahan Marcu, who is also on the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Richmond’s film is narrated by Emmy-winning actor Peter Coyote and has a host of medical cannabis experts, including Dr. McAllister, Dr. Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Integrative Oncology at UCSF, Dr. Robert Melamede, University of Colorado Biology Chairman and ASA Advisory Board member, as well as researchers from Spain and Israel. Richmond’s film asks:
    Could the chemicals found in marijuana prevent and even heal several deadly cancers? Could the tumor-regulating properties of “cannabinoids” someday replace the debilitating drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation that harms as often as it heals?
    The film also includes a bonus comedy puppet short, “Kurt Cannabis Meets Connie Cancer,” with the voices of Roseanne Barr and Malcolm McDowell. Drawing attention to the federal government’s outdated position that “marijuana has no currently accepted medical use,” Dr. Weil concluded in his review of Richmond’s film:
    If we need more evidence that our current policy on cannabis is counterproductive and foolish, here it is.
    Richmond’s film will be screening at the Sausalito Film Festival on Sunday, August 15th, at 1:30 pm, followed by a panel discussion on cannabis and cancer with Richmond, Dr. Donald Abrams, Dr. Jeffery Hergenrather, Dr. Sean McAllister. For additional information, go to Len Richmond’s web site: http://LenRichmondFilms.com.
  • Calaveras Sheriff Brazenly Engages in Identity Theft to Entrap Medical Marijuana Provider

    Stooping to a new low, local law enforcement in California has resorted to identity theft in order to entrap, arrest and prosecute law-abiding medical marijuana providers. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department has admitted to using the physician’s recommendation and identity of legal medical marijuana patient Robert Shaffer in order to entrap and arrest Jay Smith, operator of the local “K Care Alternative Collective” dispensary. The Sheriff’s Department was in possession of Shaffer’s documentation as a result of an unrelated arrest. Despite complying with state law by refusing to sell Deputy Sheriff Steve Avila any medical marijuana before verifying the recommendation that he fraudulently used, Smith is still being prosecuted for felony marijuana sales and transportation. Surprisingly, at a recent hearing, Calaveras County Superior Court Judge Douglas Mewhinney overlooked Smith’s compliance with the law and said there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Shaffer’s physician, Dr. Philip A. Denney of Carmichael, verified that Shaffer was indeed a patient when K Care contacted Dr. Denney’s office after Deputy Avila deceptively used Shaffer’s valid medical marijuana recommendation. Dr. Denney, upset that his patient, Robert Shaffer, did not authorize such use of his medical records, told The Record that the investigation against Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
    Dr. Philip Denney: The prosecution of Smith “smacks of entrapment and sleaziness.”
    Calaveras Sheriff Dennis Downum defended the actions of Deputy Avila, but seemed confused about the letter of the law. In an appearance before the Calaveras Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Downum claimed erroneously that, “to provide medical marijuana to someone, there has to be a caregiver relationship.” In fact, if Sheriff Downum had brushed up on the law, he would have realized that for Smith to be in compliance with state law, he must operate as a collective or cooperative, not as a “caregiver.” While Sheriff Downum has no excuse to be ignorant of the law he’s upheld to enforce, Calaveras District Attorney Jeff Tuttle has no excuse to falsely prosecute Smith based on the same flawed interpretation of state law. In an interview with the Calaveras Enterprise, Tuttle echoed Sheriff Downum and said that his “understanding of the law is that…you have to be a primary caregiver to provide [patients] with marijuana.” In response to accusations of impropriety, District Attorney Tuttle said:
    Law enforcement officers and investigations are allowed to do many things that as citizens we would be penalized criminally for, but the reason they are is that they are doing it as part of an investigation. They can mislead people, they can lie they can try to trick people.
    Smith’s attorney, Ean Vizzi, called Tuttle’s assertions “absolutely incorrect,” not knowing whether Tuttle was just “mistaken or [if] he’s purposefully ignoring the law.” Sheriff Downum and Distriact Attorney Tuttle should not be let off the hook so easily. At best, they have seriously misinterpreted California’s medical marijuana law, and at worst the Sheriff could be responsible for “investigatorial misconduct” against Smith and Shaffer. If it’s determined that the Sheriff’s Department has violated any ethical or legal standards by assuming Shaffer’s identity to entrap Smith, the case against Smith should be promptly dismissed and Sheriff Downum should have to face the legal consequences.
  • Eat, Sleep, Swim… and Smoke

    US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in the Beijing games last year, was photographed smoking cannabis at a college party in November. He issued the standard apology after a picture of him holding a water pipe surfaced in the tabloids this week, telling the Associated Press he engaged in “regrettable” behavior and “demonstrated bad judgment." Time will tell if the incident will have any effect of Phelps’ career or his lucrative endorsement contracts. So why is cannabis use by a 23-year old athlete considered newsworthy? Phelps is a public figure, of course, and tabloids need to manufacture controversy in order to sell copies and ads. But setting aside the shortcomings sensational media, there is still a great public ambivalence about using cannabis. Parents and pundits will wring their hands in the op-ed pages worrying what message Phelps’ transgression sends to children. Medical cannabis advocates would do well to take note of the brief public controversy surrounding this photograph. 80% of Americans support medical cannabis, but that does not mean they are comfortable with its use – especially when they see it publicly or in their neighborhood. As the state of California moves closer and closer to full implementation of its medical cannabis laws, neighbors and local representatives are encountering the issue of medical cannabis use in very up close and personal ways – loved ones are getting recommendations, dispensaries are opening nearby, and advertising for medical cannabis is increasingly commonplace. Most Americans have some experience with cannabis use, theirs or a loved one, and not all of those experiences are good. Much of that baggage will come up as we continue to engage this issue in neighborhood councils, City Councils, and other local forums – in California and other medical cannabis states. Advocates for medical cannabis should not underestimate this concern in the neighborhoods as we push for implementation, especially for local regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries. The seeds of a backlash lie in this ambivalence, and the consequences can be severe – even late in the process.
  • California Weekly Roundup

    Assemblyman Leno and ASA Introduce Patients' Employment Rights Bill This week, Assemblyman Mark Leno, working with ASA, introduced AB 2279, a bill that would protect a patient's right to work and will help end discrimination against patients in the workplace. The employment rights bill, which is being co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), is in response to a January decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. ASA argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor of the bill. AB 2279 marks a historic milestone for the medical cannabis community. This is the first bill that ASA has co-sponsored and the first California bill that specifically focuses on expanding the civil rights of medical cannabis patients. If passed, this bill will end employment discrimination against patients. We are very excited to work with Assemblyman Leno's office on passing this bill and will keep you updated on how you can help to ensure a patient's right to work. For more information, contact [email protected]. Read ASA's press release and the Oakland Tribune article about the bill introduction. Medical Marijuana Awareness Week, For Patients By Patients Title Provided by SF ASA Organizer, Alex Franco Last week the medical cannabis community celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week 2008. Thousands of patients, activists, and supporters participated in ASA's daily action, generating letters to the editors, joining ASA as members, and meeting with elected officials. Locally, the week started out with Sunday's Medical Cannabis University, sponsored by San Francisco ASA. Twenty patient-students graduated from the Medical Cannabis University. On Tuesday, San Francisco ASA sponsored a free legal training at which over 30 patients learned their constitutional rights and developed skills on how to deal with a raid situation. Meanwhile, in Arcata, Humboldt County ASA honored several medical cannabis supporters, including Rep. Mike Thompson, for their leadership around medical cannabis issues. San Francisco ASA sponsored the 5th Annual ASA SF Valentine's Day Spread the Love Seed Planting to deliver a special Valentine to mayor Gavin Newsom asking him to write letters to both Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to publicly support medical cannabis and Congressman John Conyers encouraging him to hold investigative hearings. The Valentine also stated that if patients lost safe access to medical cannabis because of his inaction, we will ask him to personally grow the medicine for us. Over 50 patients participated in the event and 20 plants were given to Mayor Newsom. On Friday, East Bay ASA hosted a testimonial video filming walk-in day with dozens of patients participants. LA ASA celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week at their monthly meeting by hosting ASA's Medical Advisory Boardmember, Jahan Marcu, to speak.The week also featured two separate film screenings, first on Wednesday, at Oaksterdam University with a Sneak Preview of an unreleased medical marijuana film and on Saturday, with a free film festival featuring several medical cannabis documentaries. The week came to a close on Sunday with SF ASA's 5th Annual 215 Party, which featured live music, raffles, and live djs. Over 100 advocates and patients turned out for the event. Thank you to everyone who helped organize the events and actions. It is volunteers and supporters like you that made Medical Marijuana Week 2008 a success! Fullerton City Council Vote Leaves Safe Access Up in the Air After originally voting 3 to 2 against a ban on dispensaries several weeks ago, the Fullerton City Council met on Wednesday and voted against banning dispensaries, and at the same time voted against developing dispensary regulations, leaving the situation up in the air. The police department made a presentation against collectives. Orange County ASA members and other advocates attended the hearing and spoke in support of safe access in Fullerton. What is next in Fullerton remains to be seen. Patients and activists are preparing materials to follow up with the council and will decide how to move forward after meeting with the local representatives. Local patients will be crucial in this effort, so please keep you eyes on ASA's forums and the upcoming Weekly Alerts for updates.
  • Is Newsom Waiting Until the Feds Come Knocking in San Francisco?

    It was interesting today to see three local newspapers (SF Chronicle, Associated Press, and Bay Area Reporter) cover the issue of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) interference in California's medical marijuana law and its impact on San Francisco dispensaries. No less than seven of the twenty-eight operating facilities are shutting down or have already closed due to fearful landlords. The closures are in direct response to threats of asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution the DEA has made to more than 300 landlords across California. This cynical tactic, unveiled by the DEA in July 2007 in southern California, was opposed by the Los Angeles Times and has also met with significant political opposition. Local elected officials from Los Angeles City Council member and former police officer Dennis Zine to Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, from Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums to SF Supervisors and Berkeley City Council have condemned the DEA tactics against patients and providers. SF State Senator Carole Migden recently introduced legislation calling on the DEA to end its interference in California and threw her support, with others, behind House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, who expressed his deep concern and called for DEA oversight hearings. So where is Mayor Newsom? It seems that Mayor Newsom is in hiding. Alex, at Drug Law Blog, rightly notes Newsom's silence on the issue and links it to the political vulnerability found around the issues of both medical marijuana and gay marriage, with pragmatism as the possible reason for his silence. However, unlike gay marriage, medical marijuana enjoys the support of at least 80% of Americans, not to mention a full 91% in SF. Regardless of any potential political justification for his actions, it is unconscionable that Newsom is refusing to say anything. Let's hope that this round of media compels Newsom, the anti-drug war Mayor, to not only defend safe access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients in his city, but to also protect the same facilities that contribute millions of dollars in sales tax to the state budget. The time for Newsom to act is now. Local and state officials must seize the opportunity to defend safe access to medical marijuana and the will of San Franciscans, Californians, and states that have fought for such assumed protections.