Pages tagged "media"

  • California Weekly Round Up

    Berkeley City Council Votes to Provide Sanctuary to Patients and Providers On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to adopt a Sanctuary Resolution, which will provide protection for patients and providers in the event of a DEA raid. The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved the Medical Cannabis Sanctuary Resolution co-sponsored by Councilmembers Moore and Worthington, thereby designating Berkeley a "sanctuary for medicinal cannabis patients, providers, and landlords." The resolution also called on the Governor to stand up against the DEA and call for an end to the interference in the implementation of state and local laws. This resolution came as a result of months of lobbing and outreach to the City Council by medical cannabis activists, patients, providers, and supporters. This is an important victory for patients, providers, and now third-party landlords in Berkeley and the East Bay.  Congratulations to all of those who worked on this important resolution to ensure protection and safe access in the Bay Area. To learn more about the City Council's resolution read the San Jose Mercury and Berkeley Daily Planet articles. California Legislation to Help and Protect Patients As the anti-medical marijuana efforts escalate with the most recent examples being the surge of DEA raids and the California Supreme Court's decision to deny a patient's right to work, several California state representatives are stepping forward to protect patients and providers in California.  The following is a brief legislative update on medical cannabis bills and a resolution that are being worked on in Sacramento currently. Last week, ASA reported that Assemblyman Mark Leno was introducing a bill that would protect a patient's right to work. This bill came on the heels of the California Supreme Court's ruling last week in the Ross vs. Raging Wire Communications case.  California Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA were waiting to respond in case of an adverse ruling like this. Assemblyman Leno announced only hours after the decision on Thursday that he will be introducing an ASA-sponsored piece of legislation that will amend California law to protect patients from this kind of discrimination. Senator Carol Migden has been a long time medical cannabis supporter. Last month, working with medical cannabis supporters, the senator introduced a California Senate Joint Resolution calling on Congress, the President, and federal law enforcement to stop raiding legal medical cannabis collectives and respect California’s law. Senator Migden’s resolution follows an unprecedented escalation in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) attacks on medical cannabis providers and threats against property owners who rent to hundreds of collectives all over California. Senator Migden also recently introduced to the Senate floor a bill that will ensure back tax relief for medical cannabis dispensaries.  The medical cannabis dispensaries would have back sales tax amnesty for all sales prior to October 1, 2005.   Senator Migden's sales tax relief comes in response to the 2005 decision by the California Board of Equalization (BoE) to adopt a policy to collect sales tax from dispensaries and other medical marijuana providers. At the time, ASA testified at several public hearings, presenting a position paper against collection of sales tax, as it would invariably be a cost absorbed by the patients. To read about ASA's position on sales tax,  click here. This bill is an important compromise for both dispensaries and the Board of Equalization, because it relieves the burden of paying large amounts of back taxes whilst encouraging compliance with and participation in the BoE's sales tax scheme.  Read more about Senator Migden's tax relief bill in the Bay Area Reporter. ASA will keep you updated as news comes in on the status of these three important pieces of legislation. New Northern California U.S. Attorney Says Raids Should be a Low Priority This week, the San Francisco station KCBS released a story about the new U.S. Attorney for Northern California, Russoniello.  The story highlighted a recent quote by Russoniello regarding DEA raids of state sanctioned and regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.  The new U.S. Attorney said,  "We could spend a lifetime closing dispensaries and doing other kinds of things and enforcement actions, bringing cases and prosecuting people, shoveling sand against the tide, it would be terribly unproductive and probably not an efficient use of precious federal resources." While the new U.S. Attorney's sentiments about funding raids are encouraging, the federal government and current Bush Administration has made it clear that they intend to shut out access for patients.   To listen to the full story on KCBS and the new U.S. Attorney for Northern California's statements click here.
  • Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order

    Nationwide campaign launched today to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana With only a week left until Super Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates launched a nationwide campaign today to urge presidential candidates to end federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. The campaign urges candidates to issue an Executive Order upon taking office that would end federal interference in state-sanctioned medical marijuana laws. The proposed Executive Order would deny funds to the Department of Justice for federal enforcement efforts against patients and providers in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. "To match the increased level of federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws, we're asking candidates to clearly state their opposition by pledging to issue an Executive Order, if elected." said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, the advocacy group that launched the campaign. "We're spending millions of dollars on law enforcement actions that harm our most vulnerable citizens," continued Woodson. "And, the President wields the power to stop it at any time." Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stepped up its enforcement actions against medial marijuana patients and providers. While federal interference has occurred in multiple medical marijuana states, some have been hit harder than others. In California, the DEA has conducted more than 100 raids and threatened more than 300 landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue to lease to medical marijuana dispensing collectives (dispensaries). In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently prosecuting more than 100 medical marijuana-related cases. The campaign focuses on candidates that have already made supportive statements on medical marijuana: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, and Representative Ron Paul. These candidates are being asked to officiate their support by pledging to issue an Executive Order, which states that:
    "No funds made available to the Department of Justice shall be used to prevent States from implementing adopted laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. In particular, no funds shall be used to investigate, seize, arrest or prosecute in association with the distribution of medical marijuana, unless such distribution has been found by adjudication to violate state or local law."
    DEA actions have already garnered opposition from both local and federal lawmakers, including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. In December, Mayor Dellums made a public statement condemning DEA tactics. The same month, Chairman Conyers publicly voiced his "deep concern" over DEA "efforts to undermine California state law," and he committed to sharply question these tactics in oversight hearings.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    Victory in Kha Case Will Have a Major Impact for Patients This week, medical marijuana patients throughout California received a monumental victory.  On Wednesday, a California Appeals Court ruled that “it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws.” Ending years of dispute, the court ruled in favor of Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient seeking the return of his medical marijuana that was seized by police. In a ruling that rejects law enforcement’s claim that federal law preempts the state’s medical marijuana law, the court asserted “we do not believe the federal drug laws supersede or preempt Kha’s right to the return of his property.” Joe Elford, ASA's Chief Counsel, said it best when asked about the effect this case will have. Elford said, "This case will have beneficial ripple effects on all of our other cases, since the decision is so comprehensive.  This was an even better decision that I would have hoped." This victory is the result of years of work put in by ASA's legal staff, volunteers, activists, and patients.  Kha, a medical marijuana patient, was cited for marijuana possession and had his medicine seized in 2005.  The case was quickly dismissed, but the City of Garden Grove refused to return the unlawfully seized medicine.  After more than 2 years of waiting, the appellate court's decision puts an end to state law enforcement seizing medicine from patients, preventing future injustices like the one Kha faced. Since proposition 215 passed, the seizure of medicine by California law enforcement has been a far too common experience for many of California's terminally ill and chronic disease patients.  Just in the past two years, ASA has compiled reports from nearly eight hundred patient encounters with local or state police.  These glaring trends will now be forced to end due to this court decision. As a result of this court decision, ASA will be revamping our Return of Property campaign to ensure justice for all patients who have had their medicine taken away. Noah Mamber, ASA's Legal Coordinator says about the decision, "The Legal Department is very excited about the possibilities that this decision creates. Since every Superior Court in the state must follow this decision, we intend to simplify our Motion for Return of Property template, and relaunch the campaign, encouraging all patients who were possessing their medicine legally and have had it confiscated to use this case in trying to get it back. The more motions we file, the more pressure the judges will exert on the district attorneys and police to stop harassing legal patients." Read more about the decision in our press release at:http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5251 Read the press coverage by: NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/us/30pot.html?ref=us SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/30/BAIFTLCNQ.DTL The Recorder: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1196361712064 Orange County Register:  http://www.ocregister.com/news/marijuana-law-kha-1931328-state-garden CBS 2: http://cbs2.com/local/Medical.Marijuana.Garden.2.598475.html Medical Marijuana Movement Loses Linda Senti From Chris Payaso, c/o Oaksterdam News and Weedbay.net: It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you all that a great shining light of compassion and freedom here in California has been snuffed out. Linda Senti, wife of cannabis activist Eddy Lepp, passed from this world at 8 pm PST Sunday, November 25. Linda was my closest confidant and friend in California, and although sad at her passing, I am happy she is no longer in pain from the cancer she has been fighting for decades. Please pray for Linda, and especially Eddy Lepp. He needs all the support and love that we can offer so that he can continue fighting for OUR RIGHTS. Both Eddy and Linda worked tirelessly for at least the last 20 years together on their vision. A vision that included personal freedom for everyone. Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Deny Dispensary Permit This week, in a disappointing  act, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors denied Creekside Medicinal Organics their permit in a 3-0 vote with two Supervisors missing.  Despite the large contingency of Sonoma ASA chapter members, patients, and activists who testified in support of Creekside Medicinal Organics, the board went ahead and voted the permit down, citing ordinance residential zoning rule.  The collective had met every stipulation of the county's ordinance with one small exception.  The land parcel site is 53 feet from residential zoning. The ordinance rule is 100 feet.  The physical building, however, is located over two hundred feet from the residential zoning, but because parcel line is only 53 feet away, the permit was recommended for denial and then voted down in a unanimous decision. ASA would like to thank Sonoma ASA and all the activists, patients, and concerned citizens that showed up in support of the collective.  Even though we did not win, we appreciate your hard work and your commitment to safe access. It is people like you that keep this movement alive and strong. Read more about the hearing at: http://www.ktvu.com/news/14710912/detail.html Update on Long Beach Raid Two weeks ago, DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers, seizing medicine and other resources and arresting the collective's operator, Samuel Matthew Fata.  The collective has remained closed since the raid, and ASA has not received reports of their plans to reopen. The raid was the first federal attack on a dispensary in Long Beach, and the DEA has released a press statement saying it will not be the last. The city of Long Beach does not have a dispensary ordinance, nor regulations in place, despite the reported 10+ dispensaries in the city. Several dispensaries in Long Beach have fallen under attack recently when the DEA issued asset forfeiture letters to the facilities' landlords.  ASA will report breaking news on access in Long Beach as well as upcoming court dates and support for the collective as we receive reports.  If you have any information about upcoming court dates for Fata, please contact [email protected] To read more about the raid, see the following news articles: Long Beach Press-Telegram:  http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7530132 and http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7544769
  • Fate of Medical Marijuana Patients' Right to Work Rests with the California Supreme Court

    Analysis of oral arguments before the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire on 6 November 2007 Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Tuesday's oral arguments before the California Supreme Court (CSC) on whether employers like RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc. have the right to discriminate against medical marijuana patients like Gary Ross. At the time the CSC granted review in November 2006, I was the Legal Campaign Director at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Without a doubt, it was a proud day for me and everyone else at ASA to have this case finally get heard. I was equally excited, in my new role as Media Liaison at ASA, to see the extent of news coverage on this important issue, with articles in AP, SF Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, The Recorder, and FindLaw. When I viewed the oral arguments after the fact, on the California Channel, which ran a live feed from the courtroom, I was left with much optimism for a ruling that favors Ross's struggle to be free from discrimination. The three areas I felt the court focused on most were: whether RagingWire, the employer, would be unreasonably inconvenienced to be required to hire or continue to employ medical marijuana patients; whether federal law somehow prevented RagingWire from hiring or continuing to employ medical marijuana patients; and whether the People of California or the State Legislature intended to exclude medical marijuana patients from the workforce. It was my impression that ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford and attorney Stewart Katz, each acting as co-counsel arguing before the court, nailed each of those issues extremely well, while opposing counsel for RagingWire foundered and failed to provide solid responses to the court. I will attempt to detail each of the three issues below. Regarding unreasonable inconvenience, Elford rightly claimed that concerns over unlikely interference by federal law enforcement at the workplace, or elsewhere, did not rise to the level of needing to carve out a large exception to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) simply to allow employers to discriminate in this way. Nor did it rise to the level of forcing more than 200,000 medical marijuana patients in California from the workplace and denying them a right to thrive. Elford also points out that some of the existing accommodations required of employers by FEHA (he used the example of ramps for wheelchair-bound workers) far surpass any inconvenience that might be posed by accommodating the productive employment of medical marijuana patients. The Compassionate Use Act (or Proposition 215) is pretty clear in conferring "the right" to "seriously ill Californians" to "obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes." To have any meaning, this "right" must not prevent patients from earning a living. Regarding the issue of supposed state-federal conflict, it was amply answered that there is none. By granting Ross, who is a productive, disabled veteran, the same right to work as others in his field, the employer is in no way violating federal law. The Drug-Free Workplace laws pertain only to on-the-job intoxication, possession, or distribution of illegal substances. As offensive as many drug-testing requirements are, the federal government never meant Drug-Free Workplace laws to reach into the homes of productive workers. The specter of losing federal contracts is also a red herring, since such forms of punishment absent of wrongdoing (under state or federal law) by the worker(s) and employer would be unjustified and arguably illegal. Regarding the intent of the legislature, Ross wins hands down. The fact that the California Legislature only implied the right to work by indicating that employers need not accommodate on-the-job medical marijuana use compelled the court to ask multiple questions on the matter. That the legislature made note of employment in the Medical Marijuana Program Act but failed to provide employers with a blanket right to discriminate against patients speaks volumes to their right to work. However, we don't even need to go there. There should be no question as to the intent of the legislature, since an amicus 'friend of the court' brief was filed by all five of the original co-authors detailing their intent to provide medical marijuana patients the same discrimination-free opportunities as other productive workers in California. The CSC will decide this case on or before February 5, 2008. The livelihood of literally hundreds of thousands of patients is now in the delicate hands of the court. However, regardless of the outcome, the strong conviction of a majority of Californians voters and a legislature that endorsed the rights of medical marijuana patients will continue to compel us to strive for justice. For more information, see ASA's web page on the Ross v. RagingWire case, which is also located on ASA's Brief Bank page.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA Fights in the California Supreme Court to Protect Patients' Rights to Work On Tuesday, November 6, Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel Joe Elford argued an appeal of the discriminatory decision of September 7, 2005, when the Court of Appeals for the Third Appellate District denied a qualified medical marijuana patient any remedy for being terminated from his/her employment simply for testing positive for marijuana. In Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., the court relied on federal law to defeat Gary Ross' state law causes of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy and employment discrimination in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. “Neither the People of California nor the state legislature intended to exclude medical marijuana patients from a productive workforce,” said Joe Elford. “California must continue its leadership role in protecting disabled workers,” continued Elford. “The Court must rule on the side of Ross, and on the side of thousands of California patients that risk discrimination on a daily basis.” After the lively hearing, Elford and Ross met with dozens of reporters outside of the courthouse. The Associated Press story was picked up by more than 200 papers nationwide. FindLaw and The Recorder offered legal analysis of the hearing, and Drug Law Blog posted YouTube clips of the highlights of the arguments. A ruling in the case will be issued within 90 days of the hearing. For further explanation and links to the legal briefs, go to ASA's Brief Bank page on Ross v. RagingWire. Federal Defendant Bryan Epis Remains Free Bryan Epis was the first medical marijuana patient convicted in federal court after the passage of California’s Proposition 215. Epis was arrested June 25, 1997, after Butte County sheriff's officers discovered marijuana plants growing in the basement of his home in Chico. After an incredibly lengthy federal trial process, on September 14, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell sentenced Epis to 10 years in prison. Epis has been out on bail since August 9, 2004, pending his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Damrell denied the prosecution's request to imprison him immediately. Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland, then filed a motion for continued bail pending his appeal, and after reading it, the U.S. Attorney conceded, and did not oppose the motion. In a piece of great news, this means that Epis will remain out of federal prison and home with his family for at least the next 18 months, which is the soonest he can expect a decision on his case from the Ninth Circuit. An in-depth report of Epis' sentencing hearing by Vanessa Nelson is available (with pictures) here. Congratulations again, Bryan, from ASA staff and membership!
  • Steph Sherer Shares Her Story with Drew Carey

    If you're familiar with ASA's work, you've probably heard a lot about our Executive Director, Steph Sherer. What you might not have know though is that she is a medical marijuana patient. Drew Carey recently interviewed Steph, as part of The Drew Carey Project, and she talked to him about her experiences as a patient and her inspiration to found Americans for Safe Access. Please watch the interview with Steph and Drew Carey's segment on medical marijuana: If you like what you saw, please help us spread the word by passing on a link to the video to your friends, co-workers and family: www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/DrewCarey
  • ASA's Trip to LA: Protest, DEA Raid & Interviews

    ASA's trip to LA two weeks ago for the rally calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Patients' Rights was apparently well documented. On Thursday, hundreds of patients and advocates rallied outside of Governor Schwarzenegger's Los Angeles office: Later that night, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. ASA and LA activists jumped into motion and coordinated a protest outside of the dispensary: During the weekend, Dean Becker interviewed me for a documentary he's working on, and I discussed the increase in raids and ASA's response to DEA actions (my interview follows the one with Dr. Mitch Earlywine):
  • Obfuscation by Kern County Officials Means No Access for Hundreds of Area Medical Marijuana Patients

    In the latest saga of obfuscation by Kern County officials, District Attorney Ed Jagels has recommended the banning of dispensaries in the county. The Bakersfield Californian quotes Jagels in an October 10 article as saying, "I do not think we benefit from the cooperative/collective licensing ordinance." Who doesn't benefit, and what exactly are the problems caused by the existing ordinance approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2006? Let's be very clear about this. The people who stand to lose the most from a lack of dispensaries in Kern are the hundreds of patients now forced to travel to other counties to obtain their medical marijuana. Let's be clear about another thing. The Kern County Sheriff was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee the dispensary permitting process as defined by the county's regulatory ordinance. The fact that Sheriff Youngblood cooperated with federal DEA agents to raid and close the same dispensaries that had been permitted by his office is cause for great concern. I wonder if Sheriff Youngblood understands that medical marijuana patients and providers are prevented from using medical evidence at their federal trial. Is it possible that Sheriff Youngblood couldn't figure out how to file charges under state law, or was he trying to ensure a conviction in federal court for conduct with which he disagreed, even if he had to violate his own ordinance to do it? There's one more thing to be clear about. The Kern County Board of Supervisors did the right thing in adopting the 2006 ordinance regulating dispensaries. The dispensaries that were permitted under the ordinance and the communities surrounding them had very few problems. But, Sheriff Youngblood wasn't the same Sheriff that took part in drafting the ordinance, and now he has succeeded in undermining both state and local law. The solution is not, as suggested by DA Jagels, to shut down dispensaries or ban them from Kern County. The best solution is one of the options offered by the Kern County Counsel -- maintain the current ordinance, but appoint another agency to oversee the permitting process. Kern County patients rely on these facilities, and it's up to county officials to figure out how to effectively regulate them.
  • Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Pres.) Ice Cold to wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient

    Wow, take a look at Gov. Romney's cold dismissal of wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient and muscular dystrophy sufferer Clayton Holton. Holton tries to explain to Gov. Romney that marijuana works for him in a way that other medicines have not. Gov. Romney's tired rejoinder is that Colton should ignore what his own body has told him and seek Marinol or addictive opiate-based pain medications, even though
    "It makes me sick. I have tried it, and it makes me throw up," Holton said.
    Holton then asks the key question:
    "Will you arrest me or my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"
    Romney brusquely states:
    "I am not in favor of medical marijuana being legal in the country."
    and then coldly walks away, continuing to refuse to answer the question, even after several entreaties by the wheelchair-bound patient and others. Taking the Governor on his word, if he becomes President, he does in fact intend to raid, arrest and prosecute sick patients like Clayton Holton and throw them in jail for using marijuana to help ease debilitating ailments like muscular dystrophy. Traditional Media, including CNN, from whence the link came, pick this up, Romney absolutely will arrest the sick and dying. That's just sad.  Gov. Romney, I urge you to look to your religious beliefs which you so often cite as inspiring you to public service, and try to find compassion in your heart.  Even if you do not endeavor to change your stance on medical marijuana, you can still commit to ending the raids that put the sick and dying in jail.  It's the compassionate thing to do.
  • New Documentary Illustrates the Need for and Benefit of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

    In a time of increased federal raids and DEA attacks on patients and providers across California, it is important to have educational tools like the new documentary, "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," to illustrate the importance of understanding and protecting dispensaries as an integral part of safe access and the successful implementation of state law. According to the producers of this important documentary:
    In the hour-long documentary "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," voices from inside discuss practices and issues involved in distributing medical cannabis. Of the twelve states in 2006 that permit medical cannabis use, California is the only state that allows for the distribution of the medicine. How and where do people get their medicine? How does one insure that their medicine is clean, safe and of sufficient quality? Tours of five cannabis dispensary models provide an unprecedented look into this quasi-legal business. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, patients and caregivers share their perspectives and concerns.
    The documentary is a finalist in the La Femme Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 11 at 10am at the Wilshire Screening Room, 8670 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills (cost is $10). The Director/Producer Ann Alter will be in attendance at the screening. The filmmakers are interested in holding additional screenings in the Los Angeles area between October 11 - 14. Contact distribution coordinator Ben Shaw at 707-496-9439 or [email protected] for details. A trailer for "Dispensing Cannabis" can be viewed here, and you can purchase a DVD by visiting the official "Dispensing Cannabis" website. For more information on medical cannabis dispensaries and to hear what public officials across the state have said about them, refer to ASA's report, "Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation."