Pages tagged "Medical marijuana"

  • 9.9.9. Raids Remembered



    By: Eugene Davidovich

    The month of September has eternally been etched into memories of medical marijuana patients in San Diego. September 9th, marks the second anniversary of District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis’ Operation Green Rx raids; the largest one day swat style assault against medical marijuana access in San Diego County’s history.

    In the early hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2009, Dumanis’ underlings, in collaboration with local DEA agents all part of the County’s cross-jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force (NTF), were set loose on the San Diego patient community.

    Under the guise of “cracking down on illegal drug dealers,” that morning, federal and local law enforcement descended on over twenty dispensaries in the County. NTF agents seized medicine, money, patient records, and anything else they could get their hands on.

    When the dust settled, it was discovered that only fourteen of the twenty plus locations raided had signed search warrants issued against them. The rest were intimidated into letting the NTF teams in without any paperwork. The operation was designed to instill fear and chaos into the patient community and to achieve a single goal; outright eradication of access to medical marijuana in the County.

    It was also later discovered that detectives involved in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards themselves. All were obtained under aliases and by falsifying medical conditions by which they duped local doctors into issuing recommendations.

    Detectives joined dispensaries as members and began regularly purchasing medicine from them prior to the raids. This allowed them to identify key management personnel as well as to understand the layout of the facilities in preparation for the day of raids.

    Although dozens of sick and dying patients were arrested on 9/9/9, Dumanis’ office ended up filing charges against only small handful. Jovan Jackson, the director of Answerdam was among the few charged in State court. James Stacy director of Movement in Action, along with a few others were tossed over to the US Attorney’s office for federal prosecution.

    In Stacy’s case, the federal charges carried with them a threat of life in prison. After a year of fighting to be allowed to bring up the words “medical marijuana” at trial, Stacy succeeded.

    With the community’s full support and great legal representation by federal public defenders, the Federal Judge agreed Stacy was in full compliance with state law. Although an official medical marijuana defense was not granted, the Judge agreed there was no way to keep the mention of medical marijuana and Stacy’s compliance with state law out of trial which potentially could have resulted in a federal acquittal, mistrial, or outright jury nullification.

    In order to avoid further embarrassment the day before trial was to start, the US Attorney’s office made Stacy an unprecedented offer. They guaranteed no jail time and agreed to drop all charges if Stacy pled guilty to one count of cultivation.

    Overnight, Stacy went from facing the possibility of life in federal prison, to three years probation with no jail time. Such an unprecedented offer was impossible to refuse and was a clear sign of the US Attorney acknowledging the sheer failure of the raids on legitimate patients.

    Although the US Attorney technically got a conviction in that case, their offer paved the way for all dispensary operators in compliance with state laws who are charged in Federal court to either take their case to trial or demand the ‘Stacy Deal’.

    In Jackson’s case, the raid on September 9th was the second time his facility had been hit in less than a year by Dumanis’ office. The day before the second raid, on September 8, while attending a routine court hearing for charges related to the first raid, Jackson was suddenly and without explanation taken into custody.

    With Jackson in solitary confinement, Answerdam was raided for a second time on September 9th and a new case with a second set of identical charges was filed by Dumanis’ office.

    When Jackson’s first case went to trial, it lasted almost three weeks. Having been assigned a fair Judge, twelve jurors examined all the facts of the case and carefully considered them against the State’s complete medical marijuana law. As a result, they quickly and unanimously found Jackson in compliance and not guilty of all the marijuana related charges.

    In Jackson’s second trial however, Dumanis managed to hand pick Judge Howard Shore, a former prosecutor and traditional prohibitionist who blocked Jackson from using the medical marijuana defense in state court. This time, the jury only saw a redacted version of the laws which specifically excluded the language about collectives and cooperatives, the very language which jurors from the first case relied on in finding Jackson not guilty.

    Having been denied knowledge of the previous trial and unable to apply the medical marijuana defense, jurors in the second trial were forced to convict him. Jackson’s second case is currently under appeal by Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group.

    Two years later and without question, Operation Green Rx has been an utter failure and colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Aside from Stacy and Jackson, the vast majority of the patients raided on 9/9/9 have not been charged, prosecuted, or even summoned for a court appearance. All the money, cannabis, and other personal property seized that day has not been returned, and those patients who attempted to get their property back through the courts, were told by Dumanis’ office that felony charges would be filed if they tried.

    After realizing that her eradication campaign failed, instead of working with patients to find common ground, Dumanis renamed the operation from ‘Green Rx’ to ‘Green Dope’ to better match her rhetoric of “going after drug dealers” and in the meantime, instructed the NTF Raid Teams to keep their focus on individual patients cultivating medicine, rather than mass raids, and to especially target those contributing their excess to the dispensaries.

    Stemming from raids and investigations conducted by Dumanis’ office post Green Rx and in connection with the new and improved ‘Operation Green Dope’, several cases are already making their way to trial.

    Dumanis recently announced her candidacy for the City of San Diego’s 2012 Mayoral race. If elected she would become Mayor of the largest jurisdiction in the County and a City which over 180 dispensaries as well as over 50,000 medical marijuana patients call home.

    In recent statements in response to media inquiries about her attacks on patients, Dumanis continues to dupe voters, still publicly claiming to support medical marijuana and justifying her incessant attacks on access as fighting “nothing but illegal drug dealers”.

    Patients, caregivers, advocates and concerned citizens, are committed to fight Dumanis’ bias driven war, and will not rest until the she is held accountable and the public is made aware of her track record on this issue.

    As a direct result of Dumanis’ actions, September 9th, will always be remembered as a dark day in San Diego’s medical marijuana history and one that will continue to serve as a clear example of the failed war on medical marijuana patients.

    For more information contact Eugene Davidovich at [email protected]
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Trial Court Denies Challenge to Anaheim Ban on Dispensaries for a Second Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In an anticipated trial ruling in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Chafee denied a challenge to Anaheim’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries after he was reversed by the Fourth Appellate District one year ago. In this week’s unpublished decision, which has no precedential value, Judge Chafee decided that the Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”) does not forbid a city from banning “mass distribution” of medical marijuana through storefront dispensaries. However, under the MMPA qualified patients and their primary caregivers are not subject to criminal sanctions for sales where they associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical use.

    The trial court’s emphasis on “mass distribution” has no basis in the law and is contradicted by the State Attorney General Guidelines, which interpret the MMPA as permitting storefront medical marijuana distribution facilities. When the Fourth Appellate District reversed Judge Chafee in 2010, the court held that state law was not preempted by federal law and that federal law could not be used as a means to ban local distribution, but ultimately sent the case back to Judge Chafee for further factual development. The case is expected to be appealed, leaving open the possibility of another reversal.

    Americans for Safe Access filed an amicus brief on behalf of Qualified Patients Association in 2010 and will likely be involved in the second appeal.
  • 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.
  • Medical Cannabis Community on Red Alert



    [caption id="attachment_1695" align="alignnone" width="275" caption="Deputy US AG Cole"]
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    Under the Obama Administration, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo reinforcing the intent of the federal government to interfere with state medical cannabis laws, specifically the creation and licensing of dispensing centers. Compromising the legitimacy of dispensing centers will jeopardize access for patients in medical cannabis states across the country.  The time has come for great action on our part to show the federal government that our state's right to medical cannabis will not be trumped. 

    Our community is on red alert.  ASA suggests that everyone revisits their emergency response plans, and if you do not have one, now is the time.  Sign up for ASA Raid Text Message Alerts by clicking here.  If you are a medical cannabis related business, sign up your business for our Raid Response Program.

    For more information, click here to view our press release, and click here to read ASA’s Blog reaction.

    Americans for Safe Access will be holding a conference call on Tuesday, July 5 2011 at 5:30pPST/8:30pEST-6:30pPST/9:30pEST to discuss our course of action to respond to this event.  To dial in on Tuesday, call 832 431 3335 and enter participant code 1618568. 

    In the meantime, it is very important to build support from our political leaders, and question the Obama Administration for their actions. 

    If you live in a medical cannabis state, take one minute to call your state's governor using the following script.  To find your governor's phone number, click here.

    Governor--
      
    I am outraged at the Obama Administration's continual disregard for our state's medical cannabis laws.  We need your leadership to come out against the Obama Administration's actions, and support the rights of medical cannabis patients! 

     

     

     



    Thank you.  President Obama--

    I am outraged with your Administration's recent Department of Justice Memo from Deputy Attorney General Cole.  You made promises to protect our community, and they have been broken.  Denying patients the right to access medication through dispensing centers is an attack on the patient community.  Issue a policy that allows states to implement their laws, and protect patients rights to safe access! 

    Thank you.

    If you have not done so already, sign ASA's Petition to Obama to end federal interference with state law by clicking here.

    We look forward to talking to you on Tuesday, July 5 about our next steps.

    Everyone across the country should take minute to call Obama's reelection campaign using the following script.  His campaign hotline is 312-698-3670.  The White House Comment line is 202-456-1111.
  • Congress to AG Holder: Let States Implement Medical Marijuana Laws without Federal Interference



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week urging him to re-avow his commitment to an October 2009 memorandum that de-emphasized federal enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

    The 2009 memo was drafted by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and sent to all of the U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states. Since then, some of those same U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 states, threatening some of them with criminal prosecution if they implement licensed production and distribution systems.

    According to The Hill, Frank and Polis in their June 20th letter pointed to the stark divide between federal policy and practice:
    Recent actions by United States Attorneys across the country have prompted states to deny patients safe and reliable access to their medicine.

    Further emphasizing this point, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to Oakland, California City Attorney John Russo in February stating that the Justice Department:
    will enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

    Letters sent to lawmakers in the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington have killed, derailed or suspended the implementation of local medical marijuana laws. Frank and Polis responded to this intimidation by explaining how obstructing medical marijuana laws needlessly expends precious federal resources and “harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.”
    There are now hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in states where the medication is legal. These patients will either purchase medical marijuana safely at state-regulated entities or seek it through unregulated channels in the criminal market.

    Any day now, Holder is expected to announce a “clarification” to the Ogden memo. Patients and supporters are encouraged to contact his office and let Holder know that the federal government should let local and state governments implement their own medical marijuana laws and to focus on developing a federal policy that recognizes marijuana’s medical efficacy. Anything less would be a disservice to our most vulnerable.
  • Imperial Beach to Ban Collective Cultivation; City Council Refuses to Implement State’s Medical Marijuana Laws

    By: Eugene Davidovich and Marcus Boyd



    Imperial Beach, CA - On June 15, 2011 at 7pm, the Imperial Beach City Council will discuss and vote to enact an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and all collective cultivation efforts in the City of Imperial Beach.

    Although the staff report compiled for the June 15th meeting states, “the ordinances would not ban medical marijuana in the city,” the actual wording of the proposed law goes much further than merely banning storefronts. If approved, medical cannabis patients in Imperial Beach would be banned from associating to collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana, an activity explicitly authorized and protected under State Law.

    The proposed ban severely limits legal access for seriously injured, sick and dying patients and their caregivers. Those with no space to cultivate, those without the requisite gardening skills to grow their own, and most critically those who face the sudden onset of serious illness, would be forced to ‘plow the fields’ themselves.

    “Is that legal?” asked John, a resident of Imperial Beach and supporter of local dispensaries when told about the City’s proposed ban.

    “The proposed restrictions are absurd and would serve to undermine the will of the people, not to mention the 2010 Grand Jury recommendations”, commented Terrie Best Board Member of the San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group.

    In August of 2009 when the City first enacted it’s moratorium on dispensaries, City officials promised the community that they would be moving towards an ordinance regulating access rather than banning it. In December of 2010 however, after seeing a modern-day Reefer Madness, 'Smear with Fear' eradication show, presented by San Diego County Sheriff and self proclaimed medical marijuana expert, Detective Michael Helms from the Licensing Division, the City began to shift direction.

    Recently, at the request of IB City officials Detective Helms once gain presented the County’s eradication show, this time to the Kiwanis Club of Imperial Beach. Following his presentation which was interrupted multiple times with questions and debate, it was clear that out of approximately ten Kiwanis members present at the meeting only one voiced opposition to well regulated dispensaries in the city.

    IB residents and supporters of medical cannabis however, have not given up and have been busy writing and mailing letters to their Council members all urging them to adopt reasonable regulations instead of a ban.

    “As part of the Imperial Beach Stop the Ban Campaign, volunteers have collected hundreds of letters all stamped and mailed to the attention of the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager” said Marcus Boyd, Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. “If the ordinances are approved as written, they will force sick and dying patients to obtain their medicine from illicit sources rather than from local, safe and regulated dispensing centers”.

    One cannot help but wonder why the council members are favoring a ban at the expense of the City’s most vulnerable residents.

    Concerned citizens and residents are urged to attend the June 15th City Council meeting no later than 7:00pm and speak out against the illegal ban. Sick and dying patients in the City of Imperial Beach deserve safe regulated access rather than a continued bias driven effort to overturn state law.

    June 15th, 2011 – 7pm - Imperial Beach City Hall 825 Imperial Beach Blvd

    Further Information:

    Proposed Zoning Ordinance

    Imperial Beach Proposed Ordinance Amending Business Licensing and Regulations

    Staff Report for June 15th Meeting

    Imperial Beach City Council Shifts Course on Dispensaries from Regulation to Eradication
  • 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.
  • Oppose SB 847 - Don't choke off safe access in CA!

    [caption id="attachment_1513" align="alignnone" width="247" caption="CA Senator Lou Correa"]
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    UPDATE: The CA Senate approved SB 847 on June 1. Now we must work to stop the bill in the Assembly!

    The California Senate will vote soon on a bill that will make it much more difficult to establish a legal medical cannabis patients’ cooperative or collective. Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847 will require that all cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from residential zones or use – effectively excluding vast portions of most California cities. This would be on top of the existing requirement that facilities be located 600 feet from schools.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and supporters to oppose SB 847 today. ASA's Online Action Center makes it easy to find your Senator and send a message right now.



    SB 847 is burdensome. It is already hard enough for patients to organize and operate legal cooperatives and collectives. This new rule may make it almost impossible in some cities. Most medical cannabis patients rely on cooperatives and collectives for access to medicine, so onerous restrictions like this serve to choke off safe access. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 calling on lawmakers “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

    SB 847 is unnecessary. Research conducted by ASA and more than fifteen years of experience with medical cannabis in California have taught us that sensible local regulations reduce crime and complaints. We do not need to usurp local control on medical cannabis. Instead, legislators should be cooperating with local government and other stake holders to adopt state laws that facilitate safe, reliable, and legal access to medicine.

    Email your California Senator today and ask him or her to vote no on SB 847.

    Thank you for helping!