Pages tagged "Raids"


Has the Federal Government Changed Its Policy on Medical Marijuana Enforcement or Just Changed Its Reasons for Continued Interference?

It would appear that raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in medical marijuana states have declined since President Obama’s Justice Department issued its infamous memorandum in October 2009. But, in fact, raids have continued at an alarming pace. For example, in the 16 months since the Obama Administration’s policy change, the DEA has conducted at least 43 raids in California, Colorado, Michigan and Nevada. That’s nearly 3 raids per month on average. Although arrests were not made at all of the raids, President Obama’s Justice Department has seen fit to indict and prosecute at least 24 patients and providers in connection with those federal actions. Can this really be the result of a new federal enforcement policy? Attorneys for two of the most recently indicted cultivators from Michigan vehemently argue that their young caregiver clients were in full compliance with state law. If that’s true, do these federal actions have more to do with hostile DEA agents and bitter U.S. Attorneys -- angry that their decades-long drug war has been narrowed -- or are they based on willful deception by President Obama’s Justice Department? Maybe both. While it could be argued that some of last month’s arrests in Las Vegas, Nevada, which resulted in a total of 15 indictments, was based on the fact that Nevada law does not allow for centralized distribution. And, yet, how are patients supposed to obtain their medicine if they are too sick or lack the skill to grow it themselves? Would the DEA prefer that patients seek out their medicine from the illicit market? And, why should the federal government be able to prosecute violations of state law in federal court, where patients are prevented from using a medical marijuana defense? Did the American people envision their tax dollars going to such harmful and unnecessary federal actions, especially after a policy was issued claiming that such actions would cease? With popular American support for medical marijuana at more than 80 percent, we think not. It’s time for the Obama Administration to deliver on its promise to leave patients alone. The DEA must take a hands-off approach to enforcement of medical marijuana production and distribution. Any allegations of local or state law violations should be prosecuted in state court, and not in federal court (i.e. no more federal indictments). In addition, DEA agents should be refusing to assist local law enforcement in raids on patients and providers, period. Only after the federal government stands down on this issue will states and their localities be able to effectively implement medical marijuana laws passed by the people.

ASA protests in MI and NV

Medical cannabis patients in Michigan are upset that the US Department of Justice wants the state to turn over the names of legal medical cannabis patients in that state. This latest escalation in federal interference and intimidation brought protesters out into the streets Lansing and Grand Rapids this week. ASA is grateful to Michigan Chapter Coordinator Robin Schneider for braving the cold weather to let lawmakers know that patients’ privacy must be protected. (Video from Las Vegas - click More.)



Meanwhile in Las Vegas, ASA Chapter Coordinator Eric Woodson rallied in opposition to recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids and arrests in the city. According to the DEA, the most recent arrests were connected to dispensary raids conducted in September of last year. Nevada law does not provide for community-based access programs, leaving many legal patients who cannot or will not grow medicine with no legal option.


Aggressive Police Actions Taken Against SLO Medical Marijuana Delivery Services

A Narcotics Task Force (NTF) made up of local and state law enforcement agencies aggressively raided 5 collectively-run San Luis Obispo County medical marijuana delivery services on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, arresting at least 13 people on felony charges and holding them on bails of up to $100,000. Several of those arrested were charged with child endangerment, after Child Protective Services (CPS) removed at least 6 children from the homes of 3 different families. One of the people arrested on Monday suffered a heart attack because of the police raid and was taken to a local emergency room before being arrested. As of Thursday afternoon, at least four people were still in jail unable to raise bail. Read the ASA press release for more information.

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"]
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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.

Leonhart Gets a Pass

On Wednesday, November 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened for the nomination hearing of Michele Leonhart for the position of Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In preparation, ASA had submitted questions for the committee members to ask Ms. Leonhart, hoping that she would finally be taken to task for ignoring statements issued by the President, Attorney General, and Assistant Attorney General regarding ceasing raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. As both Deputy Administrator and Administrator, Ms. Leonhart has been behind an extremely large number of these paramilitary type raids on dispensaries, and ASA implored committee members to ask her why these raids were continuing, why she was continuing to prosecute those who were "in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law." Instead, Ms. Leonhart was praised for her work. Senators Franken and Klobuchar were both proud to claim the native Minnesotan as one of their own and Senator Feinstein was pleased to note that Ms. Leonhart and her family currently reside in California. The only real questioning on marijuana came that afternoon from Senator Jeff Sessions of Georgia (seemingly the only Republican Senator present and definitely the only one who asked any questions of Ms. Leonhart), and that was in regard to legalization. Senator Sessions believes legalizing is dangerous and the wrong thing to do and praised Ms. Leonhart agreed with him. This led to Ms. Leonhart's only comment of the day that was truly pertinent to medical marijuana when she said that she and the DEA would continue to enforce federal drug laws regardless of state law. It looks like we can expect more of the same old from the DEA in the near future.

Medical Marijuana Advocates Bring Attention to DEA Confirmation Hearings

Americans for Safe Access is urging Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) members to ask Acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head Michele Leonhart difficult and pointed questions on Wednesday, during her confirmation hearing, about her plan to address the growing divide between federal and state medical marijuana laws. Leonhart, a Bush-holdover, led aggressive attacks for many years against medical marijuana patients and their providers, and has obstructed meaningful research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. Read more about Leonhart’s confirmation hearing, her background as Deputy DEA Administrator, the questions ASA has submitted to the SJC, and the action patients are taking to hold Leonhart accountable for her actions.

[caption id="attachment_993" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart"]
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Troubling Trend of $1 Million Bails in Medical Marijuana Cases

A troubling trend of excessive bails in medical marijuana cases has begun to occur over the past month. The operators of a long-standing Santa Barbara dispensary, currently held on $1 million bail each, are the latest victims of this unprovoked attack on medical marijuana providers. On Friday, the Santa Barbara Police Department and Sheriff’s Department raided HortiPharm, a medical marijuana dispensary operated by Joshua and Dayli Braun. Police also raided a restaurant owned by Dayli Braun, and several other locations, seizing large amounts of medical marijuana and growing equipment, and arresting a total of 7 people. According to reports received today by Americans for Safe Access, the District Attorney has issued a warrant for HortiPharm’s bookkeeper and also intends to hold him on $1 million bail. Less than three weeks ago, on May 26th, a San Fernando Valley dispensary operator was held on $1 million bail after Sheriffs from Los Angeles and Ventura raided two of his distribution facilities and Ventura County home. Needless to say, holding people on $1 million bail is rare and typically reserved for people accused of seriously violent acts, not for those simply providing medicine to patients. In theory, we are supposed to be protected from unreasonable bail under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Arguably, the excessive bails we are seeing in recent medical marijuana cases are a violation of those rights. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office claims that HortiPharm violated the terms of the Compassionate Use Act, but has failed to provide any evidence. And, do such claims even justify holding people on million dollar bails? Two recent acquittals of dispensary operators by jury trial in San Diego have shown that criminal prosecution may not be the best way to address the issue of medical marijuana distribution. Local officials in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura and elsewhere would do better to approach alleged local or state law violations with civil, not criminal, actions. Keeping people needlessly locked up using excessive bail is not the right approach for a public health issue like medical marijuana.

reason.tv Video Update on Charles Lynch Trial

Last month, reason.tv released a video about Charles Lynch and one of the patients he served before being raided by the DEA. Now that the trial has gotten underway, reason.tv has released a video update on the trial. Check it out: For a first person point of view, take a look at Charles Lynch's blog post about his trial.

Obama: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws."

I was heartened to hear last Saturday words that cut right through the federal war on medical marijuana patients by one of the likeliest candidates to be our next U.S. President. In an interview with Mail Tribune of Oregon, Barack Obama stated, in answer to a question on medical marijuana, “…I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate.” Obama then uttered the following decisive and sensible phrase, giving hope to medical marijuana patients and advocates throughout the country:
I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.
Ideally, Obama would commit to changing federal policy around medical marijuana and allow legal access to those who benefit from it. Unfortunately, the federal government continues to ignore the mountain of evidence that marijuana has medical efficacy for a number of health conditions. Eventually, the federal government will align with the vast majority of U.S. citizens that support medical marijuana, and maybe that day will come with Obama in the White House. In the meantime, however, we can at least get the Bush Administration to end its harmful medical marijuana raids. While Obama’s words may not be strong enough to pierce the flak jackets of this Administration’s DEA agents, they may eventually resonate with the new DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart or Attorney General Michael Mukasey (and maybe they need to hear from more of us too). What Obama’s words do give us is hope for the future; that, at the least, the federal government will not hinder states that choose to establish medical marijuana laws. No need to sit around for that day to come, though. There’s something that we can do right now to ensure that outcome and more quickly. Americans for Safe Access has been urging the top candidates to pledge that they will introduce an Executive Order to end DEA activity in states that have passed medical marijuana laws. Sound familiar? Maybe he lifted the idea from our Executive Order campaign. Regardless, he has not formally pledged yet. Here’s your chance to urge Obama and Clinton to officially pledge to introduce an Executive Order, if elected President, that cuts off funding to the Department of Justice for enforcement against medical marijuana in states that have adopted such laws. Please consider emailing either or both of them from our Executive Order campaign page, or write to them at the following addresses: Senator Hillary Clinton Hillary for President 4420 North Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22203 Senator Barack Obama Obama for America P.O. Box 8102 Chicago, IL 60680 Just last week, six dispensaries were raided by the DEA in the Los Angeles area, aptly illustrating how this issue could not be more timely and important for our next President. Act now!

California Weekly Round Up

California Supreme Court Affirms ASA Win in Return of Property Case From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court declined to review or "de-publish" the landmark ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County (Felix Kha case) that upheld the right to return of wrongfully confiscated medical cannabis, despite federal law! The decision in Felix Kha's case was a huge victory for patients, but we feared the worst after the City of Corona asked the Supreme Court to review the case. The Court might have "de-published" the case, making it impossible to cite as a precedent in other litigation.

Wednesday's ruling was an about-face from the Supreme Court's unconscionable ruling allowing employment discrimination against legal patients in Ross v. Raginwire Telecommunications.

Now that the Felix Kha decision has been vindicated, patients and caregivers can challenge the wrongful confiscation of medicine in any court in the state. This will leave local law enforcement with a tough choice - obey California law or face a torrent of litigation under this decision. No longer can they hide behind the illusion of enforcing federal law. We have been waiting a long time for a ruling that would put some teeth in Proposition 215. This is a big incisor! ASA spent years identifying this test case, preparing for the fight, and arguing in court. That is the kind of long-term, big picture thinking it is going to take to break the culture of resistance among some California police officers. This summer, ASA will beef up its return of property campaign to be sure every patient and caregiver in the state enjoys the full benefit of this precedent. Have a look at ASA Staff Counsel Joe Elford's blog on this topic at http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/blog/?p=74 ASA, Operators, and Advocates Call on State to Protect Tax Revenue

On Tuesday, advocates and dispensary operators from throughout the state met up in Sacramento to testify at the Board of Equalization's hearing to help protect safe access and sales tax. The group met with the Board to encourage them to protect an important source of revenue - $100 million in sales tax collected annually by medical marijuana dispensaries.

ASA's Chief of Staff, Rebecca Saltzman testified first saying that dispensaries' tax revenue is in danger, due to increased federal interference in the state medical marijuana program. In 2007 alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana providers, and they embarked on a new strategy, sending more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries, threatening property owners with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture. She also mentioned House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers' intent to hold the DEA accountable for their actions against patients in future oversight hearings. Read Saltzman's report on the hearing on ASA's blog.

Following Rebecca Saltzman was Californial NORML's Dale Geiringer who broke down the numbers for the BOE, focusing on the amount of tax revenue dispensaries produce. He also discussed the problem of the DEA seizing assets from dispensaries.

Geiringer was followed by several dispensary operators and former operators from Berkeley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma who explained the DEA threats they have been forced to face. Read more in Rebecca Saltzman's blog about the hearing.

DEA Raids 5 Los Angeles Dispensaries

On Thursday, the DEA raided 6 dispensaries and the private residence of an operator in Los Angeles. All of the dispensaries are from a single family of collectives. The collectives raided were:

The Holistic Caregivers, Compton Western Caregivers Group, LA Crenshaw Holistic Caregivers Group, LA THC Gardena, Gardena Southern California Caregivers Group, LA (SFV) Med Ex, LA

No arrests were made and the collectives, which took only minor losses due to careful precautions, are expected to reopen today. During one of the raids, acitivists at the site protesting over heard one of the DEA officers tell the others that "the alert has gone out" and "they're on the way." This further shows that ASA's Raid Response Emergency Text Messaging system is working!

Sign up for ASA's Emergency Response Text Messaging System to receive instant alerts about raids in your area. Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert

Look for an announcement over the next few days about LA ASA's response to the raids at Los Angeles City Hall and the downtown Federal Building on Tuesday morning.

Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

Federal Judge Frank C. Damrell sentenced Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer to five years in prison for "conspiracy to grow marijuana and manufacturing it in a medicinal marijuana case." During the four hour sentencing hearing, Judge Damrell said he had no choice but to issue the statutory minimum of five years in federal prison with an option to appeal the decision. The couple has posted bail at $25,000 per person as they await appeal.

On September 28, 2001, the DEA raided the Cool, California (El Dorado County) clinic of medical marijuana physician and breast cancer patient Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney and hemophilia and chronic pain patient Dale Schafer, and seized patient records. Almost immediately after the Raich decision, on June 22, 2005, Fry and Schafer were arrested and indicted for marijuana found on the premises during the raid. In 2002, the federal government also successfully revoked Fry's DEA license to practice medicine.

In order to convince the jury to convict on charges of cultivation of more than 100 plants, the U.S. Attorney took the unusual and controversial step of aggregating the plants in gardens from three different years. Additionally, Judge Damrell did not allow them to explain to the jury that the El Dorad County Sheriffs and District Attorney had previously given them active permission to grow their relatively modest garden.

Fry and Schafer are currently caring for three beautiful children and two grandchildren in their home.

Read more about the hearing in the Sacramento Bee.

Local Updates: Santa Barbara Approves Dispensary Ordinance and Sacramento Votes Against ID Cards This week, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously voted to approve a citywide dispensary ordinance. The vote came after a 6-month moratorium which began last summer. The Santa Barbara ASA chapter has been diligently working to urge the city council to develop and implement a dispensary ordinance for over a year. Santa Barbara has seven dispensaries. Under the new regulations, only one dispensary will be in full compliance. The city council foresaw this problem and placed an addendum to the ordinance allowing the current dispensaries three years to fall into compliance with the new ordinance.

While the Santa Barbara City Council was voting for new regulations to protect safe access for patients, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted against implementing the state medical cannabis ID card program. The County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against the program. Many patients testified at the hearing asking the board to adopt the program, but the board refused. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney testified against the program citing concern that the program would encourage marijuana use.

Thank you to Sacramento ASA chapter, Aaron Smith from the Marijuana Policy Project, and all of the other medical cannabis advocates who have been working for months to urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt the program.

To read more about Santa Barbara and Sacramento read the Santa Barbara Independent Article and the Sacramento Bee Article.