Pages tagged "Raids"


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.

Bonnie Dumanis Continues War on Collective Cultivation in San Diego








Benjamin Gasper
Cultivation charges re-filed against legitimate medical marijuana patient after being previously dismissed in the same courthouse by different Judge.

By: Terrie Best and Eugene Davidovich - San Diego Americans for Safe Access

SAN DIEGO – In the summer of 2009, Benjamin Gasper, along with two other seriously ill medical marijuana patients rented a warehouse space in the Sports Arena area of San Diego in a heavily commercial district far from residences and other “sensitive uses,” and began to collectively cultivate medical marijuana there, for their own personal medical needs.



In fact, all three members of the collective, as court documents have shown, signed an agreement which stated, “As qualified medical marijuana patients under California law, we choose to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. All members of our medical marijuana collective will contribute labor, funds, or materials, and all will receive medicine.”

In November of 2009, several policemen entered the premises to conduct a “safety check”; according to the officers, they believed a burglary might have been in progress as the front warehouse roll up gate was slightly ajar. After over thirty minutes of searching, they happened on the entrance to the cultivation room which was completely isolated and sealed off from the main part of the warehouse.

After discovering and rummaging through the patient garden, even though the collective agreement, doctor’s statements and ID’s for all the members of the collective were present on site, they still arrested and charged Mr. Gasper with cultivation of marijuana.

In later court proceedings both members of the collective would testify on the stand they had signed the agreement and all actively contributed their labor, and money to the effort from the beginning all the way until the day of the raid.

Having gone through months of court proceedings and multiple hearings, Mr. Gasper’s charges were finally thrown out by a judge at 995 hearing in June of 2010.

Bonnie Dumanis the San Diego District Attorney (DA) however, did not give up persecuting Mr. Gasper. In line with her ‘fierce fight’ against patients and her commitment to waste precious law enforcement resources on investigating and prosecuting these cases; the charges were refilled and an entirely new case started.

Many thought that if the charges had been previously resolved in another case, re-filing the same charges would be ‘double jeopardy.’ This is unfortunately not the case. Through a technicality in the law, the prosecution circumvented the ‘double jeopardy’ clause, and filed the same charges against Mr. Gasper this time hoping for a different judge and a better outcome.

On Wednesday, May 18, Mr. Gasper was in court again, this time, for his second preliminary hearing this time in front of the Honorable William H. Kronberger.

Representing Mr. Gasper in his second case was defense attorney and San Diego Americans for Safe Access board member Melissa Bobrow. For Dumanis’ office, hand-picked by Bonnie Dumanis herself to oversee the prosecution in this case as well as all other medical marijuana cases in San Diego County, was veteran ‘chief patient prosecutor’ Steve Walter.

In describing how Mr. Gasper was identified to be arrested in 2009, at the hearing on Wednesday, the cross-deputized SDPD Detective/Federal Agent, John Joseph Tangredi testified that he and Skylar Voyce, another NTF agent on the scene, found Mr. Gasper’s contact information posted neatly on the wall, so they simply dialed him up, told him his place had been raided and arrested him on the spot as soon as he arrived a few minutes after their call. Tangredi went on to testify that only later did they obtain a search warrant for the premises via telephone.

The detective claimed they discovered “134 cannabis plants in various stages of development”, even though court qualified expert witness William J. Britt at the preliminary hearing in the first case had examined the plants and determined otherwise. At the first preliminary hearing, Mr. Britt testified that the majority of the plants discovered during the search were either dead branches the detectives seemed to have counted as individual plants, or un-rooted cuttings that had recently been planted and were preserved for a future harvest.

Mr. Britt also determined that the amount of actual usable medicine (plants, dried flowers, etc.) was absolutely reasonable for the collective to have, based on the patients’ individual conditions and size of the effort compared with other similar collectives across the state.

At Wednesday’s hearing the detectives true intentions and bias began to surface when Tangretti testified that he believed Gasper’s grow itself to be indicia of sales even though when cross examined by Ms. Bobrow he admitted to finding no scale, packaging, pay and owe sheets or any other materials indicia of sales.

Tangredi further testified that in his ‘expert’ opinion, backed up by his claims of a meager 1.5 hours of training, the 134 plants (mostly dead branches) would have yielded a whopping 150 pounds of dried flower had they been allowed to mature.

The defense’s expert witness, William Britt again testified that the amount was completely reasonable and would more likely have yielded five pounds of dried flowers at most. Compared with Detective Tangredi’s 1.5 hours, Mr. Britt’s training includes hundreds of hours of both in-class and hands on training in medical cannabis yields, dosages, cultivation techniques, and use of medical cannabis by qualified patients.

DA Walter’s cross examination of Mr. Britt was focused on the absence of a defined dosage amount on Mr. Gasper’s recommendation. Mr. Britt explained the lack of scientific data and the illegality of writing prescriptions for specific dosages as the primary reason why no amount was specified.

Also testifying for the defense at Wednesday’s hearing was one of the other members of Mr. Gasper’s collective. Prior to his testimony, in a thoughtful move, the Judge ordered an attorney be assigned to advise the witness of his rights and be on hand during Walter’s cross examination to specifically represent the patient. Walter’s cross examination of the collective member included a barrage of questions about what the patient’s specific task were in the cultivation effort along with personal questions into the patient’s medical condition.

In the end, even though there was overwhelming evidence of clear and unambiguous compliance with State law, Mr. Gasper second case was bound over for trial with the judge explaining that inasmuch as the 134 plants seemed to be above the safe harbor amount allowed, he would have required a physician to take the stand and testify to medical necessity in order to consider the charges for dismissal.

The Judge conceded however, that due to the lack of scientific research on recommended dosages, the law was difficult to understand even for him.

Adapting well, Ms. Bobrow, highlighted in her arguments that navigating this law for Mr. Gaper has been arduous as well and that aside from the many other reasons why this case should be thrown out of court, on the vagueness of the law alone the case should be dismissed.

The Judge disagreed and cited a lack of precedent in these sorts of cases as his reason. He sent Mr. Gasper on to face trial and set the issue for the jury to determine.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, attorney Melissa Bobrow said, “Although Judge Kronberger did come to reasonable conclusion based on the lack of precedent, it is unfair for legitimate patients and caregivers trying to follow the law to be dragged through the criminal courts. The DA’s office should provide clarity on the law through a guideline rather than through continuing to expand resources on cases like this, which should have never been pursued in the first place”.

Medical cannabis patients in San Diego continue to be in a situation where the only way for them to prove they were following the law, is to be dragged through criminal court proceedings and trials that ruin lives and cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Gasper remains free on his ‘own recognizance’ and will be arraigned on June 2nd. At 1:30 in Department 11 of the San Diego Superior Courthouse.

For more information please email: sandiegoasa@gmail.com

ASA on DOJ Pressure in the Huffington Post



From ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer in today's Huffington Post -
In February, Oakland City Attorney John Russo asked the Obama Justice Department whether his city's plan to regulate large-scale medical marijuana cultivation would get the approval of the federal government. As expected, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag responded to Russo with a declarative "No!" Little did patient advocates realize, though, that Haag's letter would begin a trend resulting in similar U.S. Attorney letters sent to local and state officials in at least 9 different medical marijuana states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Read the entire post online.

Urge Governors to Stand Up for Patient Rights

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In the past few months, United States Attorneys General in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont  have issued letters threatening federal action against any entity, including state employees, participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  While our community has seen these types of letters under previous administrations, it is disappointing to see President Obama sanction this behavior.



While many promises have been made by Obama to end raids on the medical cannabis community, these DOJ threat letters are yet another tactic of the federal government to interfere with patients’ right to safe access.  ASA recently issued Obama’s Medical Cannabis Report Card, showing he has failed at improving conditions for our community.  These threat letters are further evidence of the broken promises of the current administration and proof  that our community is under attack. 

Over the next couple of weeks, our community must call upon our state representatives for leadership.  We must urge our governors, whether they have received a threat letter or not, to join Americans for Safe Access in a push back against the U.S. Attorneys who have issued these threat letters against our community. 

In order to make this campaign a success, your governors needs to hear from you.  As a constituent, ask for his or her leadership against federal interference.  Call your governor today and use the following script.  Please find contact information for your governor below.  The District of Columbia should reach out to Mayor Gray whose number is listed below, and also included in the electronic action alert. 

Governor (or Mayor for DC Residents)—

As a concerned medical cannabis community member and your constituent, I am worried about the impact these threat letters from the Department of Justice and the potential for federal interference will have on safe access to medical cannabis in my state.  Letters have been issued to eight states so far, and we need to send a message asserting our state’s right to safe access. We need you the lead the charge to end federal interference and work toward creating policies that will resolve the federal conflict once and for all.

Thank you.


You may also participate in our online action alert by clicking here to ask your governor and congressional leaders to take a stand for safe access.

REPRESENTATIVE CONTACT INFORMATION

ALASKA
Governor Sean Parnell
Tel: (907) 465-3500

ARIZONA
Governor Jan Brewer
Tel:(602)542-4331

CALIFORNIA
Governor Jerry Brown
Tel:(916)445-2841

COLORADO
Governor John Hickenlooper
Tel:(303)866-2471

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Mayor Vincent Gray
Tel:(202)727-2980

DELAWARE
Governor Jack Markell
Tel:(302)577-3210

HAWAII
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Tel:(808)586-0034

MAINE
Governor Paul LePage
Tel:(207)287-3531

MARYLAND
Governor Marin O'Malley
Tel:(410) 974-3901

MICHIGAN
Governor Rick Snyder
Tel:(517)373-7858

MONTANA
Governor Brian Schweitzer
Tel:(406)444-3111

Activists rally against the imprisonment of patients & in defiance of increased federal attacks in medical marijuana states

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) staged rallies yesterday in Sacramento, California and Washington, DC to bring attention to the unnecessary incarceration of more medical marijuana patients and to defy what has become an escalated federal attack on medical marijuana states. As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA members and supporters also delivered "Cease & Desist" orders to federal authorities in 10 medical marijuana states.





The rally in Sacramento was to support Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities, beginning a new chapter to their decade-long battle with the federal government. After being raided in 2001, despite approval to cultivate and repeated inspections by the local sheriff, they were eventually charged in 2005. Denied a medical defense in federal court, Fry and Schafer were convicted in 2007 of manufacturing, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They appealed their sentence, but it was vigorously fought by the Obama Administration. Be sure to urge Obama to grant Fry and Schafer clemency.

Additional photos of the Sacramento rally can be seen here and here.

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The same day, activists rallied in front of the Justice Department in Washington, DC chanting, "Obama be bolder, put a leash on Holder!" In recent weeks, raids in medical marijuana states have been on the rise. Since the Justice Department memo was issued in October 2009, discouraging federal enforcement actions in medical marijuana states, the Obama administration has conducted more than 90 aggressive SWAT-style raids against patients and their providers.

The most recent tactic being used by the Obama administration to undermine state medical marijuana laws is for U.S. Attorneys to send letters to local and state officials threatening them with criminal prosecution if they implement well-planned out production and distribution licensing schemes. Justice Department letters have so far been sent to officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. The letters have commonly been timed to coincide with legislative actions, which in several cases have had the effect of curtailing patients' rights and access to their medication. To help bring attention to this unwarranted harassment and intimidation, ASA gave President Obama a failing grade in a report card it issued in March.

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Rallies also occurred in Los Angeles, Detroit and a handful of other cities.

Focusing on medical marijuana states, ASA coordinated the delivery of "Cease and Desist" orders to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Attorneys' offices throughout the country, including in Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).

Last week, as Washington Governor Gregoire was vetoing provisions of a bill that would have licensed distribution facilities in that state, she said she wanted to discuss this issue with other governors to urge the Obama administration to reschedule medical marijuana. ASA is taking that proposal seriously and intends to follow up with governors from medical marijuana states to educate them on the rescheduling issue and how there has been a pending petition which has gone unanswered for 9 years.

May 2: Order the DEA to Cease and Desist, Rally for Patients' Rights!

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Stand in solidarity with me for a National Day of Action this Monday, May 2, 2011.  Our community is sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients. 



After previously giving us a false sense of security, the Obama administration now continues to ignore state laws and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities, while creating new ways to marginalize our community, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suit against state employees who participate in upholding state law. This community is still under attack. 

Just yesterday, our community witnessed raid activity in Washington State and on Monday, our community will lose two more of our brothers and sisters to the failed war on drugs.  Dale Shafer and Dr. Mollie fry will turn themselves over to federal agents to serve five-year mandatory minimum sentences for legally participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  Enough is enough and Monday, May 2, 2011 is our time to take stand against federal interference! 

Fellow community members and local activists are preparing to deliver ASA’s Cease and Desist to local DEA offices and federal buildings across the country.  Commit to do the same. Join activists in several cities across the country.  Locations include, but are not limited to, the following areas: Washington State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Montana, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, Washington, DC, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Maryland.  To find out what is going on in your area, email action@safeaccessnow.org, or print out the Cease and Desist Order and take it to a local DEA Office or Federal Building near you on Monday!! Remember: if you don’t stand up for safe access, who will?

Special Patients' Rights Rallies will be occurring in both Washington, DC outside of the Department of Justice at 12pEST (event flyer) and outside of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento, CA at 12pPST for Dale Schafer and Dr. Mollie Fry (event flyer).

It's thanks to the support from our members that ASA is able to hold Days of Action like this one. Please consider making a donation to ASA today, so we can continue to strengthen our fight for safe access.

I look forward to participating in our National Day of Action for patients' rights with you on Monday, May 2, 2011.

We are Sick and Tired

Obama’s administration has taken its gloves off. After giving the medical cannabis community a false sense of security, Obama’s administration continues to ignore state laws, intimidate state officials, and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities.

This month, ASA launched our new national campaign, and we are sending a clear message to President Obama from the medical cannabis community: We are sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients.

ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign involves approaching the federal government from several angles, and we need your help to reach every corner of Obama’s administration.

Yesterday, ASA released the Obama Report Card. This details federal interference in medical cannabis laws under the Obama administration, and Obama fails. Even though he promised to not use federal resources to interfere with states’ medical cannabis laws, Obama’s administration has continued raiding legal patients and facilities. Additionally, the administration has launched new tactics and constructed new roadblocks for patients, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suite against state employees who participate in upholding state law.

Join us in calling on Obama to keep his promise. Sign ASA's petition urging Obama to end federal interference in existing medical cannabis programs, and legitimize medical cannabis for the sick and dying across the country.

But we’re not stopping there. ASA is hosting a National Day of Action on May 2, centered on Dale Schafer and Mollie Fry’s surrender date in Sacramento, CA. Mollie and Dale are legal patients and were arrested and convicted without a defense under President Bush. They appealed their sentence, which was vigorously fought by the Obama administration in the Ninth Circuit. Mollie and Dale's sentences were upheld in November. Additionally, a clemency petition was filed this week in an effort to shorten Mollie's sentence. Please mark your calendar to join ASA on May 2 and keep an eye out for Information about a rally near you.

ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign will bring new accountability to Obama’s administration. Please help ASA hold Obama to his word and protect patients across the nation.

We are sick and tired, but we won’t give up until there’s safe access.

Sincerely,
Steph Sherer

MT Governor vetoes repeal, but the fight continues

 

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Medical cannabis patients in Montana scored a victory yesterday, when Governor Schweitzer vetoed a bill that would have repealed that state’s seven-year old medical cannabis law, but there is little time to celebrate. The state House of Representatives just approved SB 423, a bill that would gut the state’s medical cannabis law and severely limit patients’ access. The bill is now in a joint committee for final revisions before going to the governor’s desk, so we must work for another veto.

The debate in Montana matters for medical cannabis patients nationwide. Powerful out-of-state lobby organizations are using the effort to repeal or severely curtail the state’s law as a rallying point in a nationwide push against safe access. If we do not draw the line in Montana, patients may soon be fighting to hold ground nationwide. ASA needs your help to ensure we keep moving forward, not backward.



It doesn't have to be this way. I was in Montana in March, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided 26 dispensaries, gardens, and homes. I toured the state organizing local resistance and energizing grassroots action. Newly trained and empowered patients in Montana are pushing back and making a difference.

If ASA had the resources, we could do the same in every state where medical cannabis opponents are attacking safe access. We need your help now more than ever to fight for medical cannabis in the states. Will you make a special contribution to ASA today?

Thank you for supporting ASA and helping us fight for safe access nationwide!

The Feds are Here!



The feds are here, and they are making their presence known. In March alone, the DEA raided 26 medical cannabis facilities in Montana, two licensed dispensaries in California, and a doctor’s clinic in Michigan. We need to fight back and prepare for our response as a movement to future raids – and unfortunately the DEA has shown it’s just a matter of time.

ASA’s Emergency Raid Response program prepares patients, providers, and the community how to act and react during a raid, because when it comes to raids, preparation is essential for an effective response effort. We’re expanding the program to all medical cannabis states, and in order to do that, we need your help.


Our text message alert system is vital to informing local activists when a raid is happening in their area. This creates a visible community protesting the raid. Sign up for ASA’s raid alerts, so you can help show the nation that federal intervention will not be tolerated.

ASA has orchestrated over two hundred Emergency Raid Response efforts, which have protected countless victims, shortened raids, and helped frame this issue as a patients’ rights issue in the media. We do this by training staff at dispensing centers, preparing action plans for victims, contacting attorneys for raid victims, turning out protestors on the day of the raid, and framing media coverage in response to raids. Your support is vital to ensuring this program reaches patients and providers across the county at little to no cost.

With federal raids on the rise and recent warnings from US Attorney Michael Ormsby to landlords of medical cannabis facilities in Spokane, Wash., of federal intervention, an immediate response is required. We must prepare patients and providers for the potential of raids and have effective response methods in place before the next wave of raids hits.

Please help ASA expand our Emergency Raid Response program across the nation. Together, we will bring national attention to Obama’s Administration’s interference in states’ laws.

Stop the Raids!



UPDATE: Patients Speak Up in Montana.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and advocates to speak up in opposition to paramilitary-style raids on medical cannabis patients, growers, and providers in Montana and California this week. The Obama Administration needs to hear that Americans do not support targeting legitimate patients, who use medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and other serious conditions. The President and Department of Justice must allow states to implement and regulate medical cannabis laws, while developing a comprehensive federal policy that protects safe and legal access for every patient.



The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided twenty-six medical cannabis facilities in Montana over a two-day period this week. This would be egregious at any time, but these raids were timed to coincide with an important vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill that would repeal the state’s medical cannabis law. The bill died in committee on Monday, but the bills’ author, House Speaker Mike Milburn, vowed to reintroduce it on the floor of the Senate. A vote may be imminent.



It is no coincidence that the critical vote in the Senate will come right after shock-and-awe style raids statewide. Lawmakers and voters alike will be influenced by media reports suggesting widespread drug trafficking, money laundering, and the like. Conscientious citizens all over the country should be appalled by the fact that the DEA is so clearly used its federal police power to subvert the political process in Montana. Voters in Montana should also be asking which of their elected officials called in federal storm troopers when there were not enough votes to get the repeal bill through committee.

Montana was not the only state to see a federal crackdown this week. Two licensed medical cannabis collectives in West Hollywood, California, were raided by the DEA on Tuesday. Residents there are stunned, because West Hollywood is often cited as an example of a city that has properly regulated safe access to medicine. Its four legal collectives have business licenses, pay taxes, and operate under careful scrutiny. Was there some urgent threat to public safety that the Sheriff’s Department could not handle without federal reinforcements? Probably not. View more on the West Hollywood raids from Reason.tv.

The warrants for Tuesday’s raids in West Hollywood remain sealed, so we do not know yet why the DEA seems to have acted outside the guidelines outlined in a memo from Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in October 2009. Ogden wrote then that agents should not make medical cannabis enforcement a priority against “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Ogden’s memo was a watershed moment in the struggle for safe access, but we clearly have a long way to go to end federal interference and intimidation once and for all.

We must not give into complacency or the cynical view that the victims of this week’s raids were “doing something wrong.” We may never know the full story behind the raids. The US Attorney’s offices may or may not prosecute these cases, and if they do, no evidence or testimony about medical cannabis will be allowed in the federal courtroom. But we do know this for certain – until we harmonize federal law with the laws of the states that allow medical cannabis, every patient, grower, and provider is a criminal. That must change before we have the luxury of debating whether or not DEA raids are justified in any given case.

Americans must speak up in opposition to DEA interference in the Democratic process and the effort to implement and regulate medical cannabis laws. ASA calls on the Obama Administration to end federal raids, allow state and local regulation, and to finally develop a national policy to ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis for everyone who needs it.