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Bill to Protect Prop. 215 Passes Assembly Appropriations Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 22, 2008

Bill to Protect Prop. 215 Passes Assembly Appropriations Committee
AB 2743 Would End the Use of California Resources in Federal Medical Marijuana Raids, Now Heads to Assembly Floor

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-668-6403 or 202-215-4205

SACRAMENTO -- In what advocates hailed as an important step toward protecting California law, the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed AB 2743 by a vote of 9-7 today. The measure, authored by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), would protect the integrity of California's medical marijuana law by making it the policy of state and local law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration or other federal agencies in raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

DEA raids on medical marijuana patients and providers who are allowed to cultivate and possess marijuana under California law have been assisted - and in some cases requested - by local law enforcement agencies in communities around the state, including Los Angeles, Bakersfield, San Mateo, San Diego and many others.

Jon Palmer, who uses medical marijuana to ease the agony caused by a rare blood disorder, lost his safe source of medicine when Kern County sheriff's deputies assisted the DEA in arresting the operators of Nature's Medicinal in Bakersfield. "Faced with the prospect of having to immediately double my morphine dosage and take to the streets to find my medicine, I was devastated," Palmer said. "The most outrageous part of the ordeal is that local officials used state and local tax dollars to arrest these individuals who were in full compliance with state and local laws."

"This bill is about maintaining the integrity of California law," said Aaron Smith, California state organizer for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Our medical marijuana law enjoys the support of three out of four Californians, yet in too many cases federal officials have intruded into our state affairs and raided patients and caregivers. Due to these federal prosecutions, sick, elderly and disabled Californians who almost certainly would have been found innocent in a state court are in federal prison right now. At a time when state and local governments are in fiscal crisis, California tax dollars shouldn't be used to undermine our own laws."

With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
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Medical Marijuana: GOP Attacks Obama for Suggesting He Would End Raids

With Sen. Barack Obama now the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, the Republican Party is looking for potential weaknesses and thinks it has found one in his relatively progressive stance on medical marijuana. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee issued a press release saying Obama's position on medical marijuana and the DEA raids on patients and providers "raises serious doubts" about an Obama candidacy.

The attack came after the San Francisco Chronicle published an article Monday detailing Obama's position on medical marijuana, from comments he made in November to a response he more recently provided to the paper's candidate questionnaire. In responding to the Chronicle's medical marijuana question, the Obama campaign said he endorsed a hands-off federal policy:

"Voters and legislators in the states -- from California to Nevada to Maine -- have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering," said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice -- though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (US Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs," LaBolt said. He added that Obama would end DEA raids on medical marijuana providers.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has also suggested she would end the raids, according to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, a New Hampshire-based activist group that specializes in trying to get candidates on the record on medical marijuana. Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has waffled on the issue, according to Granite Staters, which has him saying he would end the raids at one point, but saying he would not end them a few weeks later.

But in was Obama who was in the GOP bull's-eye over medical marijuana this week. "Barack Obama's pledge to stop Executive agencies from implementing laws passed by Congress raises serious doubts about his understanding of what the job of the President of the United States actually is," said RNC communications director Danny Diaz in the press release. "His refusal to enforce the law reveals that Barack Obama doesn't have the experience necessary to do the job of president, or that he fundamentally lacks the judgment to carry out the most basic functions of the executive Branch. What other laws would Barack Obama direct federal agents not to enforce?" Diaz asked.

Obama's refusal to countenance continued DEA raids would mean he would violate his oath of office by not protecting and defending the Constitution, the RNC charged. The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of Congress to regulate the use of marijuana, it noted.

Whether the Republican Party can gain advantage by attacking Obama on the medical marijuana issue remains to be seen. In poll after poll, American voters have said they support access to medical marijuana for sick people. It is currently legal in 12 states and under serious consideration in several more this year.

Stop Saying Medical Marijuana is Politically Risky and Just Look at the Polls

Karen Brooks at the Dallas Morning News blog badly misses the point in regards to Barack Obama's support for medical marijuana:

Just got a notice from the happy folks over at the Marijuana Policy Project that Sen. Barack Obama "stands with us" on access to medical marijuana.

I'm not sure this helps his campaign, although the growing number of states (a dozen, at least) that have approved the use and prescription of medical marijuana may mean that he'll get support on the issue. Here in Texas, the decriminalization legislation - way stronger stuff than what the Medical Pot People are pushing - comes from both sides of the aisle.

So I guess what I'm saying here is, uhm, who knows if this will help or hurt him.

Well, allow me to relieve you of your uncertainty. Polling consistently shows overwhelming public support for medical marijuana. Do you know what medical marijuana's record is with voters? It's 10-1 at the state level, losing only in South Dakota, which ain't really Obama territory anyway. Supporting medical marijuana is among the safest policy positions one can take in 2008, and there's not a shred of evidence to the contrary. I look forward to a point when it's no longer necessary to illustrate this.

Secondly, Brooks buy into the myth that federal interference somehow makes medical marijuana laws ineffective:

Anyway, these laws and ordinances quickly go up in smoke when the feds - who just can't stand the idea of anyone smoking pot and getting away with it - decide to bust down doors and haul away the cancer patients and their docs anyway.

While I appreciate the implied sympathy for patients and doctors, this hyperbolic assessment of the force of federal law vastly overstates the impact of the DEA's campaign against medical marijuana. Despite federal interference, medical marijuana is more available to patients than ever before. The number of dispensaries that have been raided is dwarfed by the number that are open right now, at this exact moment. The idea that medical marijuana laws have been crippled by federal law enforcement is just as fictitious as can be.

My point here is not to excuse the ongoing raids and other atrocities that do still occur. Rather, it must be understood that the Drug Czar badly wants the public to believe that these laws don’t work because he knows we're going to keep passing them in new states and we're 10-1 so far. The only reason DEA even bothers to keep conducting these ugly and unpopular medical marijuana raids is so that the media will falsely report that these laws just "go up in smoke" as Brooks now suggests. That argument is then used against new medical marijuana initiatives to imply that there's no point in passing them, even though existing laws protecting patients have generally been very effective at preventing sick people from getting arrested.

Both of the above points are common misconceptions, and I don’t fault Brooks for indulging them. Still, it is vital that the discussion of medical marijuana continue on a sound factual basis as we proceed towards a showdown between Obama and McCain on this issue.

So, to recap, I submit the following two propositions:

1. Medical marijuana is overwhelmingly supported by the American public.

2. Federal efforts to shut down medical marijuana distribution in states were it is legal have failed utterly.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Medical Marijuana: House Judiciary Chair Calls Out DEA on California Raids

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to the DEA questioning its priorities and asking for an accounting of costs incurred in the dozens of raids it has launched against California medical marijuana patients and providers in the last two years. The letter could be the prelude to hearings on the topic, if medical marijuana defenders, including a number of elected officials, have their way.

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John Conyers, at DRCNet event in 2005
In the April 29 letter to DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, Conyers wrote that he received numerous complaints from Californians, including elected officials, about "DEA enforcement tactics" regarding raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. The Californians were urging him to hold hearings, the chairman told Leonhart, but first, "I want to give you the opportunity to respond to these complaints."

Noting an increase in "paramilitary-style enforcement raids against individuals qualified to use medical marijuana under state law, their caregivers, and the dispensing collectives established to provide a safe place to access medical cannabis," as well as the sending of letters threatening property confiscation or even arrest to hundreds of landlords who rent to dispensaries, Conyers had a handful of pointed questions:

  • Is the use of asset forfeiture, which has typically been reserved for organized crime, appropriate in these cases? Has the DEA considered the economic impact of forfeiture in a stalled economy?
  • "Given the increasing levels of trafficking and violence associated with international drug cartels across Mexico, South America, and elsewhere," is this really where the DEA wants to spend its resources?
  • Has the DEA considered the impact of its tactics on the ability of California state and local entities to collect lawful taxes on an economic activity legal under state law?
  • Given increasing support for medical marijuana from medical associations and in the scientific literature, and the acting director's discretion in prioritizing DEA activities, "Please explain what role, if any, scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct raids on individuals authorized to use or supply cannabis under state law?"

Conyers also appears to call for an inter-governmental commission composed of lawmakers, law enforcers, and people affected by medical marijuana policy "to review policy and provide recommendations that aim to bring harmony to federal and state laws." Such a commission could be part of a process that eventually brings a relaxation of federal medical marijuana policy.

"Finally," Conyers concluded, "attached with this letter is a list of approximately 60 raids the DEA conducted between June 2005 and November 2007. Please provide an accounting of the costs, in dollars and resources, used to conduct law enforcement raids on the attached list of individuals. Please include information about: whether any arrests were made in the course of these raids, and, if so, how many people were arrested; under what circumstances was a warrant issued and for what content; whether any criminal or other charges have been brought by the DOJ; what, if any, content was seized or destroyed; and finally, the current status of these cases."

Also attached to the letter were statements condemning the DEA raids from the Los Angeles City Council, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and a resolution from the California legislature.

Ordinarily, one would not expect the DEA to be quick to reply to such inquiries, even from someone like Chairman Conyers. But with the threat of possible hearings hanging over its head, perhaps the agency will find the courtesy of a reply the lesser of two evils.

No Evidence Needed? War on Salvia Divinorum Heating Up -- YouTube Videos Play Role

Nearly a year ago, we reported on mounting efforts to ban salvia divinorum in states and localities around the country. Since then, the war on the hallucinogenic plant has only intensified, despite the lack of any evidence that its use is widespread or that it has any harmful physical effects on its users.

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salvia leaves (courtesy erowid.org)
Salvia is a member of the mint family from Mexico, where it has been used by Mazatec curanderos (medicine men) for centuries. Within the past decade, awareness of its powerful hallucinogenic properties has begun to seep into the popular consciousness. Now, it is widely available at head shops and via the Internet, where it can be purchased in a smokeable form that produces almost instantaneous intoxication and a freight train of a trip lasting a handful of minutes.

Fueled largely by the appearance of salvia-intoxicated youths on YouTube (there were some 3,500 such videos at last count), law enforcement's reflexive desire to prohibit any mind-altering substances, and legislators' wishes to "do something" about youth drug use, efforts to ban the plant are spreading. While some states have stopped at limiting salvia's use to adults, most recently Maine, more have banned it outright. Legislative measures affecting salvia have been filed in 16 more states too, as well as a number of towns and cities.

In 2005, Louisiana became the first state to ban salvia, making it a proscribed Schedule I controlled substance. Since then, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee have joined the list. (Tennessee bans ingestion -- it's a Class A misdemeanor -- but not possession. All the others excepting North Dakota have placed it in Schedule I.) In Oklahoma, only concentrated salvia is banned. Salvia is also a controlled substance in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

The press has also played a role in stoking fears of salvia and misstating its popularity. "Salvia: The Next Marijuana?," asked the Associated Press in a widely-reprinted story earlier this month.

Chris Bennett, proprietor of Urban Shaman Ethnobotanicals in downtown Vancouver, just laughed at the "salvia is the next marijuana" meme. "Anyone who says that is demonstrating their complete lack of knowledge of either salvia or marijuana," he said. "There is just no comparison. Cannabis is a mild relaxant and euphoric, while salvia is a very fast-acting visionary substance where some people report out of body experiences."

Researchers say that while salvia's effects on consciousness may be disquieting, the plant has not been shown to be toxic to humans, its effects are so potent is unlikely to be used repeatedly, and its active property, salvinorin A, could assist in the development of medicines for mood disorders. While action at the state level would unlikely affect research, a move by the DEA to put it on the controlled substances list could.

There are hazards to messing with hallucinogens, one expert was quick to point out. "It's an hallucinogen, and while its hallucinogenic actions are different from those induced by LSD and other hallucinogens, it has the liabilities that hallucinogens do," said Bryan Roth, a professor of pharmacology at University of North Carolina's School of Medicine, the man who isolated salvinorin A. "When people take it, they are disoriented. If you don't know where you are and you're driving a car, that would be a bad experience."

Still, said Roth, while it may make you freak out, it isn't going to kill you. "There is no evidence of any overt toxicity, there are no reports in the medical literature that anyone has died from it. The caveat is that there have been no formal studies done on humans, but the animal data suggests that it doesn't kill animals given massive doses, and that's usually -- but not always -- predictive for human pharmacology."

The DEA has been evaluating salvia for several years now, but there is no sign that it is ready to take action. "Salvia is a drug we are currently looking at to see if it should or should not be scheduled," said Rogene Waite, a spokesperson for the DEA, which is tasked with evaluating potential drug "threats." The agency has initiated the process of evaluating the eight factors listed in the Controlled Substances Act in determining whether or not to schedule a drug, she said. "There is no time frame or limit on this process," she said, providing no further hint on when or if ever the DEA would move to add salvia onto the federal list of controlled substances.

But legislators across the land are not waiting for the DEA. In California, Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) introduced a bill that would ban salvia for minors at the urging of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, he told the Riverside Press-Enquirer. "If you have the opportunity to get in front of an emerging drug, I think, geez, you should do that," said Adams, whose district includes San Bernardino and Redlands.

On the other side of the country, Massachusetts state Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) is cosponsoring legislation that would criminalize salvia possession. "I believe by not making this drug illegal we are sending a message to our youth that it is okay, and there is no way that a drug that causes such mind altering effects on an individual should be considered legal," deMacedo told the Plymouth News.

Again, legislators took action after being alerted by law enforcement. DeMacedo said he agreed to sponsor the bill after hearing from Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph MacDonald. "I'd never heard of it before," deMacedo said. "It creates this psychedelic-type, mind-altering high, similar to LSD. I thought, 'You've got to be kidding. Something like this is legal?'"

In Florida, Rep. Mary Brandenburg wants to save the kids by sending anyone possessing salvia to prison for up to five years. "As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one," she explained.

While legislators attempt to stay ahead of the curve by banning any new, potentially mind-altering substances at the drop of hat, their efforts are misdirected, said Urban Shaman's Bennett. The YouTube kids may be the public face of salvia, but they are only a minority of users, he said. "It's all ages," he said, adding that his store does not sell to people under 18. "Every time there is some media attention, I get a bunch of middle-aged people coming in and asking for it."

Salvia is not a party drug, said Bennett. "The most serious users are people seeking a classic shamanic experience, seeking a visionary experience as part of their spiritual path. They feel they're accessing a higher level of consciousness," he explained. "And even they don't seem to use it more than once a month or so."

For all the commotion surrounding salvia, there is very little evidence of actual harm to anyone, said Bennett. "You'll notice you don't hear anybody talking about organic damage to the human organism," he said. "This is all purely fear and loathing of people having a visionary experience."

What little data there is on salvia use and its effects tends to bear him out. There are no reported deaths from salvia use, with the exception of a Delaware teenager who committed suicide in 2006 at some point after using it. (That unfortunate young man is widely cited by the proponents of banning salvia, even though there is no concomitant wave of salvia-linked suicides. Also, he was reportedly taking an acne medication linked to depression and had been using alcohol.) Users are not showing up with any frequency in mental hospitals or hospital emergency rooms.

While the YouTube kids may present a problematic public face of salvia use, there's not much to be done about that, said Bennett. "You can't control that," he shrugged. "And so what? Some kids are having a powerful visionary experience for five minutes on YouTube. Why is that somehow more threatening than watching someone in the jungle take ayahuasca or something on National Geographic?"

Bennett, for one, has no use for a ban on salvia -- or any other plant, for that matter. "We have a fundamental natural right to have access to all plants, and I don't care if it's salvia or marijuana or poppy or coca. That's just as clear-cut as our right to air and water," he said.

But Bennett's perspective is not one widely shared by legislators in the US. Instead, they reflexively reach to prohibit that which they do not understand. And the very "kids" they claim to be saving will be the ones going to prison.

Latin America: First Coca Plantations, Cocaine Lab Found in Brazil

In an ominous sign for US coca eradication efforts in South America, the Brazilian military said Sunday it had for the first time discovered coca plantations and a cocaine laboratory on its national territory. Coca has been grown by indigenous people in the Andes for thousands of years, and in recent years, three countries -- Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia -- have accounted for all the world's coca leaf.

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coca seedlings
The Brazilian army used helicopters and small boats to reach the coca fields and lab in a remote area near the northwestern city of Tabatinga, close to the borders with Peru and Colombia. The fields were discovered when satellite photos showed large clearings hacked out of the jungle.

Lt. Col. Antônio Elcio Franco Filho told reporters Sunday finding coca plants was a surprise. "It is the first time these plantations have been found in Brazil," he said, adding that the find had prompted authorities to look for more fields in the region.

"This is new in Brazil and it's a concern," Walter Maierovitch, an organized crime expert who once headed Brazil's anti-drug efforts, told the government's Agência Brasil news service. "It could mean a change in the geo-strategy of some Colombian cartels."

While coca grows well in the Andean-Amazon highlands, the climate in the Amazon basin is not believed to be favorable to coca cultivation. But according to Franco Filho, the leaf growing in Brazil could be adapted to that climate.

"We believe they are using a transgenic or an adaptation of the leaf used in the Andean region," Franco Filho said. "They are probably trying to find new locations to grow this, so we need to stay alert. Authorities need to crack down on them immediately. If we don't do anything it might even become a source of deforestation."

By Monday, US anti-drug officials were raising alarms. "Brazilian law enforcement is going to have to be vigilant on this front, so it doesn't become a major producer," DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney told the Associated Press. If coca can be successful grown there, said Courtney, "the Amazon would be a perfect area, with all the brush and uninhabited areas. It almost creates a perfect opportunity. Drug traffickers and organizations are always moving to new areas."

No one was arrested in the raid. Brazil, whose status as the world's number two cocaine consumer nation may be threatened by the rising popularity of the drug in Europe, may now be about to join the elite ranks of the coca producing nations.

DEA Opens Drug War Fantasy Camp

Last year, the DEA was teaching people how to cook meth. Now they're teaching people how to shoot other people with guns.

Just watch this news report about the DEA's exciting public outreach program, which shows almost nothing except a bunch of people shooting guns and seemingly having an exhilarating experience. There sure is a lot of shooting involved in saving us from drugs.

Of particular interest is the instructor's reaction when the participating FOX reporter accidentally shoots an unarmed suspect. He laments the inevitable newspaper headlines, as though bad press is the real tragedy when someone is accidentally shot in the drug war. To be fair, we don't get to hear everything he may have said, but the clip is creepy either way when one glances over at the pile of innocent bodies our drug war has accumulated.

As an undergrad criminal justice major, I had the opportunity to take on a million dollar "shoot/don't shoot" simulator at a sophisticated police training facility. It was a unique opportunity to appreciate the difficult positions police officers can find themselves in. The weapon was a real glock, outfitted to shoot invisible lasers instead of live ammo. When you pulled the trigger, an amplified boom shook the floor and a simulated kickback threatened to rip the weapon from your grasp.

More than a few of my classmates panicked quickly, emptying their clips at the slightest provocation, and earning admonishment from the instructor. I performed well, taking down a disgruntled employee on a shooting rampage in an office building, then managing not to shoot an angry motorist who reached for his wallet in an aggressive manner. I've spoken ever since of my newfound appreciation for the awesome responsibility law enforcement officers bear when making life and death decision within a fraction of a second.

I've also never been more convinced that police must not be asked to make such decisions in the name of preventing drug transactions between consenting adults. The risk is too great and the reward far too small.

                                                                                                                                                                        [Thanks, Paul]

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Judge Throws Out DEA Agents' Lawsuit Against "American Gangster"

I had a feeling this wasn't going very far:
A Manhattan federal judge Thursday tossed out a $55 million suit filed by former federal drug agents who say the movie "American Gangster" tagged them as criminals.

Three former Drug Enforcement Administration agents sued NBC Universal last month, contending they were slandered by an on-screen claim that Harlem druglord Frank Lucas' cooperation "led to the convictions of three-quarters of New York City's Drug Enforcement Agency."

For starters, Judge Colleen McMahon said, the New York City Drug Enforcement Agency doesn't exist.

"It would behoove a major corporation like Universal (which is owned by a major news organization, NBC) not to put inaccurate statements at the end of popular films," McMahon wrote. "However, nothing in this particular untrue statement is actionable." [NY Daily News]
Cool. And now that we've thrown DEA out of civil court, let's toss a few of their criminal cases too. Starting with this one
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Press Release: Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2008 Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 or ASA Director of Government Affairs Caren Woodson (510) 388-0546 Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order Nationwide campaign launched today to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana Washington, D.C. -- 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. Further information: ASA Executive Order Campaign Page: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/ExecutiveOrder Proposed Executive Order: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Proposed_Executive_Order.pdf Background Information on Increased DEA Actions: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/dea_escalation.pdf Video footage of Candidates' Position on Medical Marijuana: http://safeaccessnow.org/blog/?p=48 Statement by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers: http://judiciary.house.gov/newscenter.aspx?A=889 # # #
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United States

Medical Marijuana: Berkeley Declares Itself a Sanctuary City

The Berkeley City Council gave a collective raised middle finger to the DEA Tuesday night, unanimously approving a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary in the event the federal agency attempts to interfere with its medical marijuana dispensaries. Passage of the resolution was greeted with loud applause, according to the Daily Californian, the student newspaper at Cal Berkeley.

The resolution was opposed by the DEA, and softened last month to accommodate grumbling from Police Chief Douglas Hambleton and City Manager Phil Kamlarz, but it still puts the city on record as "opposing the attempts by the US Drug Enforcement Administration to close medical marijuana dispensaries, and declaring the City of Berkeley as a sanctuary for medicinal cannabis use, cultivation, and distribution that complies with State law and local ordinances in the event that" the DEA tried to raid one of the city's regulated dispensaries.

The resolution also reinforces a 2002 Berkeley policy directing police not to cooperate in federal medical marijuana investigations. City police were criticized last fall after arriving at the scene of a DEA action related to a raid on a Los Angeles dispensary. The resolution reemphasizes that the Berkeley police and the city attorney's office are not to cooperate with the DEA in "investigations of, raids upon, or threats against physicians, individual patients or their primary caregivers, and medical cannabis dispensaries and operators" operating within California law.

In addition, the resolution directs the city clerk to send letters to Alameda County, of which Berkeley is a part, to state Attorney General Jerry Brown, and to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, urging them to appropriately support medical marijuana.

The city of Berkeley has now committed itself to ensuring that its residents have access to medical marijuana, but it's not clear just yet exactly what that means. The resolution directs the police chief and the city manager to try to find ways to turn the resolution into reality. If the DEA shuts down Berkeley's dispensaries, will the city provide medical marijuana? Will it help new dispensaries set up? The answers are in the making.

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