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Medical Marijuana: In Slap to DA, Jury Acquits San Diego Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operator

In a blow to hard-line San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who has yet to find a medical marijuana dispensary she considers legal and who has coordinated a series of raids on dispensaries in recent years, a jury in San Diego Tuesday acquitted the manager of a local dispensary of marijuana possession and distribution charges.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/medmj-bag.jpg
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Jovan Jackson, 31, a Navy veteran, cried as the not guilty verdicts were read. He was, however, convicted on possession of Ecstasy and Xanax, small quantities of which were found in his home during an August 2008 raid.

Still, Jackson expressed relief outside the courthouse. "I was very thankful," Jackson said. "This has been a long road. It hasn't been easy. I felt like a lot of weight was on my shoulders."

Jackson's was the first medical marijuana case to go to trial since a series of Dumanis-orchestrated raids on dispensaries in September that resulted in 31 arrests and the closing of 14 San Diego-area dispensaries. Dumanis led other mass raids in 2006 and in February of this year.

Jackson operated the Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, which was twice approached by undercover officers who had fraudulently obtained medical marijuana recommendations. Since the narcs had proper documentation under California law, and since they joined the collective by paying a $20 fee, Jackson let them purchase medical marijuana.

Prosecutors presented evidence of $150,000 in credit card receipts and five pounds of marijuana seized during raids at the dispensary as evidence that, "This case is about making money, plain and simple," as Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg put it to the jury.

But a large-scale operation is not out of line for a collective that boasted 1,649 members, as defense attorney K. Lance Rogers told the jury. He also reminded jurors that the narcs had signed up for the collective under false pretenses and that state law allows medical marijuana patients to legally buy marijuana from a collective that grows it.

Jurors agreed, acquitting Jackson on the marijuana charges. Jurors told reporters after the trial that they found Jackson innocent because the state laws regarding medical marijuana sales from collectives were vague.

"On a personal level, if you're going to hold somebody to a law, you have to define that law," said juror Perry Wright.

It's not the end for Jackson. He faces up to three years in prison on the Ecstasy and Xanax possession charges, although he will most likely receive probation. And he faces another round of marijuana distribution charges from a similar undercover buy made this year.

Given the verdict in this case, DA Dumanis might want to consider whether a re-run trial is worth the taxpayers' money and whether any of her pending dispensary prosecutions should go forward. But she probably won't.

Feature: Medical Marijuana Gets Historic First Legislative Hearing in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania House committee in Harrisburg held the first hearing ever on medical marijuana in the Keystone State today. The hearing, which featured a raft of supportive witnesses, sparked interest and questioning from legislators and left medical marijuana advocates optimistic.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/pamedmjvigil.jpg
PA night of candlelight vigils for medical marijuana, July 2009 (courtesy HempNews)
The hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee was on HB 1393, introduced by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). The bill would provide immunity from arrest for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses who have a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana and a registration ID card. Patients could possess an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The bill also provides for state-licensed compassion centers which could sell marijuana to patients. Such sales would be subject to state and local sales taxes.

Witnesses included patients, medical marijuana advocates, physicians, attorneys, and a rabbi. It wasn't completely one-sided -- there to testify against the bill were the Pennsylvania Elks and a woman who lost a daughter to a drug overdose.

Some witness testimony tugged heart strings. In one such moment, Charles Rocha, who had travelled from Pittsburgh, told legislators how, at age 24, he obtained medical marijuana for his breast cancer-ridden mother and how it helped her get through end of life hospice care.

But Sharon Smith gave an equally emotion-laden presentation. Smith, who started a drug-treatment advocacy group after her daughter's death from a heroin overdose in 1998, worried that allowing medicinal use of marijuana would lead to drug abuse and addiction, citing supposed "abuses" that have occurred in other medical marijuana states.

Smith also said legislators shouldn't be the ones deciding whether any given substance is a medicine. "Let the medical experts decide, not the legislators," she told the committee.

Smith's concern about abuse potential was addressed head-on by Edward Pane, CEO of Serento Gardens Alcoholism and Drug Services, Inc. in Hazleton. He told the committee that the gateway theory had been discredited and that patients given small amounts of marijuana were unlikely to develop a physical dependency.

"Concerns that the medical use of marijuana will spur individuals into the world of chemical addiction are baseless," said Pane, a part-time instructor on addictions studies at the University of Scranton.

HIV sufferer Brad Walter of Larksville told the committee he smoked marijuana four or five times a day to alleviate gastrointestinal distress from the 14 pills he takes each day for his diseases. Walter said he obtained marijuana on the black market because nothing else, including Marinol, worked as well.

Also appearing before the committee was a delegation from the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, including Dr. Howard Swidler, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Warren Hospital, Conservative Rabbi Eric Cytryn of Harrisburg, and former Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker, whose husband died of brain cancer. The trio packed a punch, and legislators were especially intrigued by Swidler's testimony, interrupting him frequently with questions.

"Marijuana is non-addicting," Dr. Swidler bluntly avowed. "There is no physical dependence or physical withdrawal associated with its use. It is, from a practical standpoint, non-toxic. Marijuana is safer by some measures than any other drug," he told the committee. "There is simply no known quantity of marijuana capable of killing a person."

Saying she wanted to address a "common myth" that medical marijuana is a stalking horse for legalization, Damsker said: "This bill is about people like my late husband, Dr. Jeffrey Damsker, who could have benefited from medical marijuana while undergoing chemotherapy for a malignant brain tumor. This bill is about a better quality of life for Pennsylvania patients. This bill is about compassion, and it's about science."

"I am here to state that Jewish values and ethics unequivocally support passage of HB 1393," said Rabbi Citron.

While the committee Democrats were generally supportive, that wasn't the case with Republican committee co-chair Rep. Matt Baker (R-Wellsboro), who said that federal health officials had found little evidence of marijuana's medical benefits and that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "I can't support the legalizing of medical marijuana," he said.

Similarly, Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for his party's gubernatorial nomination, objected. In a letter to the committee, Corbett said the measure would weaken existing drug laws and make a dangerous substance more available.

With Republicans in control of the state Senate, the bill's immediate prospects are cloudy. Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Lawrence) have said Senate Republicans have no intention of moving on the bill even if were to pass the Democratically-controlled House.

But even a House vote is a ways off. Committee Chairman Frank Oliver (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to hold hearings across the state before taking a committee vote.

Still, after the session, supporters were stoked. "It was a great hearing," said Rep. Cohen, the bill's sponsor. "We moved the bill forward dramatically. There was a lot of thoughtful testimony."

"I feel very positive," said Chris Goldstein of Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana, which has led the campaign in the Keystone Stone. "This was the first medical marijuana hearing ever in Pennsylvania, and the legislators asked a lot of good questions. This was a non-voting hearing, and we still had 18 of 26 committee members show up, and they extended the hearing an hour past when it was supposed to end."

That the bill managed to get a hearing at all was a good sign, Goldstein said. "The legislature has been wrapped up dealing with the budget crisis, and there is a lot of stuff that isn't even going to get heard. That there were hearings at all says a lot. And, frankly, we look forward to having hearings all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

"Getting a hearing is always important, particularly in a state without a lot of progress before," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), whose Bob Ceppecchio testified at the hearing. "It has generated a lot of press interest, and even if a bill isn't going to pass immediately, the educational process takes a huge leap when you start airing the issue in this kind of official forum."

"This will inevitably succeed," said addiction specialist Pane. "On one side, we have overwhelming support and the scientific evidence, and on the other side, hyperbole."

Pane said he thought he had gotten through the hostility of Republican co-chair Baker when he reminded legislators about how they struggled to get drug treatment resources. "People are not endangered by marijuana being in the hands of doctors, but they don't give you the resources to keep it out of the hands of 12-year-olds."

"I think this has a realistic chance of passing in 2010," said Goldstein. "Progress has been lightning-fast so far. We just started talking about a bill in March, it got introduced in April, it was supposed to have a hearing in September, but the budget crisis happened. A lot of important issues are getting dealt with, but medical marijuana got a hearing today."

California Tax and Regulate Cannabis Initiative Suspends Signature Gathering--Because They Have Enough Already!

The Tax and Regulate Cannabis 2010 initiative, sponsored by Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, has laid off its paid signature gatherers, saying they already have sufficient signatures to qualify for the November 2010 ballot. Lee told the Chronicle this afternoon that more than 650,000 signatures have been turned in, and that he expects an additional 50,000 or so to dribble in in the coming weeks. Precisely 433,971 valid signatures of registered California voters are required for an initiative to be approved for the ballot. That leaves Lee and the initiative a substantial cushion of about a quarter-million signatures to make up for any invalid signatures. The campaign will wait to turn in signatures until January 15. If they were turned in this month, the initiative would appear on the June ballot, not the November ballot. Lee wants the initiative on the latter. Lee's initiative, which would allow individuals up to 25 square feet to grow their own and would allow counties and municipalities to opt to tax and regulate marijuana sales on a local basis, is controversial. Some national figures believe it is premature and risks going down in flames at the polls, thus setting the movement back, while some California activists believe it does not go far enough and does not entice voters with potential revenues for the crisis-ridden state budget. But it will be on the November 2010 ballot, provided the signatures are certified by election officials in February. It may not be the only legalization initiative on the ballot. At least two other signature-gathering campaigns for competing initiatives are under way.
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Congress is starting to listen...

Dear friends:

I wanted to say thank you to Sioux Colombe, an ASA Ambassador in Sacramento, California.  The email she received below demonstrates that Congress is starting to hear us.

Sioux had asked her Member of Congress, Representative Doris Matsui, to support the Truth in Trials Act.  Sioux got the response below, which is a perfect example of the kind of dialog we want to build with our elected officials.

This reply means that Rep. Matsui's office took the time to research the Truth in Trials Act and respond.  The next step is to ask Rep. Matsui to become a supporter -- a "cosponsor" -- of the bill.

Will you do the same for your U.S. Representative? 

If your Rep gets a phone call from you, they will start paying attention.

Here's what you have to do -- it will take 5 minutes.

1. Find out who your Rep is.  Go to http://www.house.gov and type in your zip code in the upper left corner.  If it asks for your full "Zip+4", just look at your last piece of junk mail.

2. Dial 202-224-3121.  Ask the operator to transfer you to your Member of Congress.

3. Tell your Rep ... "I'm calling from ______ and I want you to cosponsor HR 3939, the Truth in Trials Act."

4. Reply to this email and tell me who you called.

Thanks!

- Sanjeev, ASA

P.S.  The full email that Sioux received is below.


Sanjeev Bery
National Field Director
Americans for Safe Access


----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui
To: Sioux Colombe
Sent: Tue, December 1, 2009 12:22:29 PM
Subject: From the Office of Congresswoman Matsui


December 1, 2009 
 

Ms. Sioux Colombe
Sacramento, California

Dear Sioux:

Thank you for contacting me regarding medical marijuana.  I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

As you may know, 13 states, including California, currently allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  In these jurisdictions, state-level penalties for the cultivation, possession, and use of medical marijuana have been removed, and programs to regulate patients' use have been established or are currently being considered.  However, in these 13 states where medical marijuana use is legal, users remain subject to federal penalties for such use.

In an effort to correct this, legislation has been introduced in the 111th Congress to permit the use of medical marijuana under federal law in states where marijuana is currently being used for medicinal purposes.  The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act (H.R. 2835), would achieve this end by re-classifying marijuana into a less restrictive category of drug under the regulatory structure of the Controlled Substances Act.

Another piece of legislation, the Truth in Trials Act (H.R. 3939), responds to the Justice Department's directive on medical marijuana policy, which tells federal prosecutors to avoid pursuing cases against individuals who legally use medical marijuana.  Specifically, H.R. 3939 would allow a person on trial for a federal marijuana-related offense to introduce evidence that the alleged marijuana-related activities were performed in compliance with state laws.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding medical marijuana.  To learn more about my work in Congress, or to sign up for occasional e-mail updates, please visit my website at http://matsui.house.gov.


Sincerely,


DORIS O. MATSUI
Member of Congress

Patients Out of Time: Announcing a New Look

Announcing a new look to http://www.MedicalCannabis.com/ Patients Out of Time is pleased to notify the professional health care community of the most unique educational platform for the exploration of medicinal cannabis (marijuana) science in the United States. This site provides visitors with a wide array of information related to the efficacy of cannabis as medicine. Links are provided to the faculty and agendas of five past accredited clinical conferences and to Google video and You Tube video of over 50 academic presentations of world-wide cannabis related science. A link is provided for registration for media, exhibitors, health care professionals and the public for The Sixth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics to be held April 15-17, 2010 in Warwick (Providence), RI. The forum is co-sponsored by Patients Out of Time, the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco , the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, and the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC). The forum will be located at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Crossings. Medical Doctors and Registered Nurses will also find continuing medical education credits (CME's) or continuing education contact hours available "on-line" that are based on clinical research conducted world-wide on the cannabis plant. These credits, authorized by the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association are provided by the UCSF School of Medicine, Office of Continuing Education through a direct link on the web site. Journalists and other media representatives are advised to seek the opinion of medical professionals of great expertise in therapeutic cannabis treatments and the interpretation of new cannabis science rather than the traditional sources of cannabis information which are staffed by administrators and lobbyists, not medical professionals. The four United States federally supplied cannabis patients, medical doctors and registered nurses are available for interview or consultation with Patients Out of Time. Contact: Al Byrne, Co-founder Patients Out of Time, 501c3 educational charity 1472 Fish Pond Rd. Howardsville, VA 24562 E-mail: al@medicalcannabis.com Tel: (434) 263-4484 Fax: (434) 263-6753

Feature: Medical Marijuana Gets Historic First House Hearing in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania House committee in Harrisburg held the first hearing ever on medical marijuana in the Keystone State today. The hearing, which featured a raft of supportive witnesses, sparked interest and questioning from legislators and left medical marijuana advocates optimistic. The hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee was on HB 1393, introduced by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). The bill would provide immunity from arrest for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses who have a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana and a registration ID card. Patients could possess an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The bill also provides for state-licensed compassion centers which could sell marijuana to patients. Such sales would be subject to state and local sales taxes. Witnesses included patients, medical marijuana advocates, physicians, attorneys, and a rabbi. It wasn't completely one-sided—there to testify against the bill were the Pennsylvania Elks and a woman who lost a daughter to a drug overdose. Some witness testimony tugged heart strings. In one such moment, Charles Rocha, who had travelled from Pittsburgh, told legislators how, at age 24, he obtained medical marijuana for cancer-ridden mother and how it helped her get through end of life hospice care. But Sharon Smith gave an equally emotion-laden presentation. Smith, who started a drug-treatment advocacy group after her daughter's death from a heroin overdose in 1998, worried that allowing medicinal use of marijuana would lead to drug abuse and addiction, citing supposed "abuses" that have occurred in other medical marijuana states. Smith also said legislators shouldn't be the ones deciding whether any given substance is a medicine. "Let the medical experts decide, not the legislators," she told the committee. Smith's concern about abuse potential was addressed head-on by Edward Pane, CEO of Serento Gardens Alcoholism and Drug Services, Inc. in Hazleton. He told the committee that the gateway theory had been discredited and that patients given small amounts of marijuana were unlikely to develop a physical dependency. "Concerns that the medical use of marijuana will spur individuals into the world of chemical addiction are baseless," said Pane, a part-time instructor on addictions studies at the University of Scranton. HIV sufferer Brad Walter of Larksville told the committee he smoked marijuana four or five times a day to alleviate gastrointestinal distress from the 14 pills he takes each day for his diseases. Walter said he obtained marijuana on the black market because nothing else, including Marinol, worked as well. While the committee Democrats were generally supportive, that wasn't the case with Republican committee co-chair Rep. Matt Baker (R-Wellsboro), who said that federal health officials had found little evidence of marijuana's medical benefits and that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "I can't support the legalizing of medical marijuana," he said. Similarly, Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for his party's gubernatorial nomination, objected. In a letter to the committee, Corbett said the measure would weaken existing drug laws and make a dangerous substance more available. With Republicans in control of the state Senate, the bill's immediate prospects are cloudy. Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Lawrence) have said Senate Republicans have no intention of moving on the bill even if were to pass the Democratically-controlled House. But even a House vote is a ways off. Committee Chairman Frank Oliver (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to hold hearings across the state before taking a committee vote. Still, after the session, supporters were stoked. "It was a great hearing," said Rep. Cohen, the bill's sponsor. "We moved the bill forward dramatically. There was a lot of thoughtful testimony." "I feel very positive," said Chris Goldstein of Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana, which has led the campaign in the Keystone Stone. "This was the first medical marijuana hearing ever in Pennsylvania, and the legislators asked a lot of good questions. This was a non-voting hearing, and we still had 18 of 26 committee members show up, and they extended the hearing an hour past when it was supposed to end." That the bill managed to get a hearing at all was a good sign, Goldstein said. "The legislature has been wrapped up dealing with the budget crisis, and there is a lot of stuff that isn’t even going to get heard. That there were hearings at all says a lot. And, frankly, we look forward to having hearings all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." "Getting a hearing is always important, particularly in a state without a lot of progress before," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), whose Bob Ceppecchio testified at the hearing. "It has generated a lot of press interest, and even if a bill isn't going to pass immediately, the educational process takes a huge leap when you start airing the issue in this kind of official forum." "This will inevitably succeed," said addiction specialist Pane. "On one side, we have overwhelming support and the scientific evidence, and on the other side, hyperbole." Pane said he thought he had gotten through the hostility of Republican co-chair *** when he reminded legislators about how they struggled to get drug treatment resources. "People are not endangered by marijuana being in the hands of doctors, but they don't give you the resources to "I think this has a realistic chance of passing in 2010," said Goldstein. "Progress has been lightning-fast so far. We just started talking about a bill in March, it got introduced in April, it was supposed to have a hearing in September, but the budget crisis happened. A lot of important issues are getting dealt with, but medical marijuana got a hearing today."
Location: 
Harrisburg, PA
United States

Medical Marijuana Action Center

Write Congress in Support of Federal Medical Marijuana Legislation This page will soon offer links to legislative campaigns in all the states that currently have medical marijuana bills filed. In the meanwhile, please read our review of state medical marijuana activity in 2009, or our archive of reporting and announcements related to medical marijuana. Click here to see how your US Representative voted on the 2007 Hinchey pro-medical marijuana amendment. (Click here if you're not sure who your Rep. is.)

Support Medical Marijuana Legislation in Congress

URL: 
/medical_marijuana

Why Legalizing Marijuana Will Reduce Violent Crime

Miami Herald has the story of a pot deal that went horribly wrong:

An argument over marijuana inside a Hialeah apartment Tuesday left one man dead, one wounded and a third under arrest, police said.

Really awful stuff. One guy thought he was gonna get robbed, pulled a gun and everything went crazy from there. You couldn't possibly keep track of how often things like this are happening.

And I can just picture the anti-drug crowd crowing, "and you want to legalize this stuff?" You're damn right we do. We want to decide who sells and where they'll be located. We can keep this business out of apartment buildings filled with children and put it in a safe place instead. Until that happens, you can never know when or where the next violent tragedy will occur. Currently, it's being sold in all the wrong places by all the wrong people. We can fix that. Easily.

Fortunately, the folks at The Miami Herald seem to be on the right track here. Right next to the story is a poll asking "Do you think legalizing marijuana would reduce crime?" So far 75% say yes, and maybe you guys can help bring that number up even higher. It's a good sign that the press is beginning to make that connection. There's no better time to discuss legalization than when lives are lost over a bag of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Stakeholder Meeting

**Calling all Patients, Providers, and Advocates** SAVE THE DATE: Sensible Colorado and allies will be hosting a Stakeholder Meeting to craft a unified legislative agenda for 2010. In the face of a new legislative session, when numerous state officials have declared their intent to run statewide medical marijuana-related bills, it is crucial that the voices of patients and advocates are not forgotten. Please attend this important meeting which will include presentations by legislators and national and local leaders. Come hear an update on pending legislation and give input on what policies you think would best help patients and caregivers. This event is free and open to the public. Join patients, providers, legislators, and advocates.
Date: 
Sat, 12/19/2009 - 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: 
2255 East Evans Ave.
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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