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Ask your D.C. Councilmembers to stand up to Congress!

Ask your D.C. Councilmembers to stand up to Congress!

Dear Friends:

Although 69% of Washington, D.C. voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998, Congress passed the Barr Amendment, which blocked the law from being implemented. As a result, seriously ill District residents continue to be treated as criminals simply for using their doctor-recommended medicine.

We now have the opportunity to get Congress to remove this anti-medical marijuana language from the D.C. appropriations bill along with other ideological social policy riders. Please take a moment to call and urge the D.C. City Councilmembers to pass a resolution calling on Congress to stop overriding the will of D.C. voters and not include these riders in the FY2010 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bills. While calling is more effective, you can also e-mail your councilmembers if you prefer.

District councilmembers need to know that their constituents care about the fate of seriously ill District residents and D.C.'s ability to self-govern. This cannot happen without your help. Also, please forward any responses from councilmembers back to me at so that we can identify a sponsor and get the resolution passed in a timely fashion.

All patients suffering from a condition that could benefit from medical marijuana, medical professionals, law enforcement, or clergy please contact me at to see how you can be of special help in passing this resolution.  Other activists can pitch in too by reaching out to supportive patients, medical professionals, law enforcement, and clergy and encouraging them to contact me.

The result of Congress' interference is tragic. On September 24, 2004, 27-year-old Jonathan Magbie, a quadriplegic who used marijuana for his medical condition, died while serving a 10-day sentence in the D.C. jail after being convicted of marijuana possession and the jail failed to attend to his medical needs. Had the will of the District of Columbia and its voters been implemented, he would likely not have faced criminal penalties for relieving his symptoms, and he could still be alive today.

A resolution calling on Congress to stop this and other interference has been drafted and is awaiting a sponsor. In addition to calling on Congress to remove the Barr Amendment, it also urges Congress to remove other ideological social policy riders that limit the District's ability to self-govern and make its own policies regarding abortion, domestic partnerships, and contraceptive coverage.

Please take a moment now to call and e-mail your councilmembers. We need the Council to send the clear message to Congress that it must stop thwarting D.C. residents' ability to determine their own policies, including their decision to protect medical marijuana patients.

Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project.


Noah Mamber

Noah Mamber
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project

Washington, DC
United States

Press Advisory: Medical Marijuana Hearing Tuesday in House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee

Minnesota Cares logo

MARCH 22, 2009

Medical Marijuana Hearing Tuesday in House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee
Former Seattle Police Chief Expected to Dispel Myths About Medical Marijuana Laws

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)........................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, H.F. 292, at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. Among the scheduled witnesses is Norm Stamper, former chief of police for Seattle, whose testimony is expected to dispel many common myths about medical marijuana laws.

    WHAT: House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee hearing on the medical marijuana bill,     H.F. 292.

    WHO: Scheduled witnesses include:
      -- Norm Stamper, former chief of police, Seattle
      -- Robert Youcha of St. Francis, a paramedic who suffered spinal injuries in a 1998 ambulance accident, leaving him in constant pain

     WHERE: Rm. 10, State Office Building, St. Paul.

     WHEN: Tuesday, March 23, 12:45 p.m.


St. Paul, MN
United States

Medical Marijuana: California Dispensary Operator Faces Decades in Federal Prison at Sentencing Monday

The Obama administration may have put an end to the DEA raids on medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal (see story here), but the legacy of the Bush administration's crusade against medical marijuana continues. Morro Bay, California, dispensary operator Charles Lynch is a case in point. After having been convicted of federal marijuana law violations, he goes to court for sentencing Monday, where he faces a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence and the possibility of up to 100 years behind bars.
Charlie Lynch (from
Lynch did everything by the book. Before opening his business in April 2006, he first contacted the DEA, which eventually told him it was "up to cities and counties" to decide about dispensaries. He also sought and received all necessary business permits from the city of Morro Bay.

But that didn't stop a local law enforcement official bent on shutting down his Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers from going after him. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges unleashed an 11-month investigation into Lynch and the dispensary. He and his deputies surveilled the premises, took down license plate numbers and stopped the vehicles of dispensary workers and clients, and even resorted to using criminal undercover informants in a failed bid to get Lynch to violate state law.

Sheriff Pat Hedges couldn't find enough evidence against Lynch to even get a search warrant from state courts, so he turned to the DEA. On March 29, 2007, the feds hit full-force, raiding the dispensary and Lynch's home in full paramilitary attire. Lynch was not arrested at the time, and reopened the dispensary on April 7, 2007. The DEA then threatened the dispensary's landlord with seizure of his property if he didn't evict the Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers. On May 16, 2007, the dispensary shut down for good.

The DEA wasn't done with Lynch. Two months later, in yet another paramilitary-style raid, they arrested Lynch at his home and charged him with five counts of violating the federal marijuana laws.

After a trial in which -- as is always the case in federal court -- neither California's medical marijuana law nor the fact that Lynch was operating under it could be admitted as evidence, a jury convicted him of all counts in August 2008.

Lynch has received strong support from his local community, as well as sympathizers across the state and country. Demonstrations have been (and will be) held to demand justice in his case. Whether community support for Lynch or the Obama administration's commitment to not prosecute cases that do not involve violations of state medical marijuana laws will have any impact will only be found out Monday.

With the Obama administration's pronouncements so far on medical marijuana, it may be that the era of federal raids on medical marijuana providers is over. But as long as people like Charles Lynch are facing years in federal prison and others are serving sentences there, there is still some unfinished business if justice is to be served.

Medical Marijuana: Attorney General Holder Sends Another Signal -- No DEA Busts Unless You Violate State Law

Three weeks after Attorney General Eric Holder first signaled an end to DEA raids against medical marijuana providers, he has reiterated those remarks. Again in response to a question posed at his weekly Wednesday press conference, Holder said federal agents would only target medical marijuana distributors who violate both state and federal law.
Eric Holder
Thirteen states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana even though federal law considers all marijuana possession, production, and distribution illegal. The conflict has been most intense in states with the broadest medical marijuana laws, California in particular. The DEA has raided dozens of dispensaries operating in the state in recent years, and US Attorneys have occasionally prosecuted their operators, exposing them to harsh federal mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws.

"The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law," Holder said Wednesday at the Justice Department. But he was quick to add that the feds will go after anyone who tries to "use medical marijuana as a shield" for dope dealing.

"Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that's inconsistent with federal and state law."

During his election campaign, President Obama promised repeatedly to end the raids on California dispensaries, but raids continued after his election and even shortly after he took office, prompting Holder's original statement three weeks ago. No raids have occurred since then.

Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes told the Associated Press he welcomed Holder's remarks. "It signals a new direction and a more reasonable and sensible direction on medical marijuana policy," he said.

But, he added, there is still unfinished business left over from the Bush administration's crusade against the dispensaries. More than 20 California medical marijuana providers are currently being prosecuted in federal court, including San Luis Obispo County dispensary operator Charles Lynch (see story here), who could face decades in prison when sentenced on Monday.

"There remains a big question as to what the federal government's position is on those cases," Hermes said.

Another question is just how aggressive the DEA and the US Attorneys will be in determining that a given operation is violating state law. Perhaps in recognition of medical marijuana's broad support in California, the feds have tended to portray dispensary busts as targeting "drug dealers," not legitimate medical marijuana providers.

And yet another question will be the degree to which hostile local law enforcement entities attempt to sic the feds on dispensary operators, as was the case with Lynch.

Medical Marijuana: Not in Iowa, Not This Year

There will be no relief for Iowa patients who could have been helped by medical marijuana. A bill that would have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in the Hawkeye State died last week, after it failed to get reported out of committee in time for a legislative deadline.

Introduced by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), SF 293 would have allowed patients with qualifying medical conditions to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation and registration with the state. The bill would also have provided for the creation of "compassion centers," which could produce medical marijuana for numerous patients.

"The bill is essentially an attempt to address the suffering that people are in," Bolkcom said during a hearing last week. "People with severe medical conditions are not being helped by conventional medications. Studies have found that marijuana is an effective treatment."

But Sen. Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) said that while he supported the notion of medical marijuana, he thought the bill lacked "correct checks and balances." Bolkcom agreed that the bill was perhaps not perfect, but vowed to return to the issue in coming years.

The Upper Midwest has so far remained immune to the lure of medical marijuana, with the closest medical marijuana states being Michigan to the east and Montana to the west. But that could change this year. Although South Dakota legislators killed a bill last month, legislative efforts in Minnesota and Illinois are still moving ahead.

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for House Floor

A bill that would allow patients suffering from specified diseases and conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday on a 13-7 vote. The bill is now headed for a House floor vote next week.

Medical marijuana came before the House in 2007, too. But after passing out of committee, it was defeated on a vote of 186-177.

Last time, the committee made a "do not pass" recommendation to the House as a whole. This time, proponents hope the "do pass" from the committee can take the measure over the top.

The bill, HB 648, would set up a registry for patients with qualifying diseases or conditions whose doctors certified that they would be helped by the herb. Patients or caregivers could grow six plants and possess up to two ounces of marijuana. They could also possess up to 12 seedlings. Plants would have to be grown in a secure facility indoors.

"This is truly a matter of compassion. People who are suffering, at least in our state of New Hampshire, ought not to be called criminals," said Rep. Roger Wells (R-Hampstead), one of two committee Republicans to vote for the bill.

If it passed the measure, the committee would be going against the advice of "national drug experts," warned Rep. Peter Batula (R-Merrimack). "There is no right way to do the wrong thing," he said.

"The committee studied the bill very diligently, and now it has placed its stamp of approval on a well-written, responsible bill," said Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which supports the bill. "It was a good day for democracy."

It will be a better day for democracy if Granite State legislators enact the bill and the governor signs it into law. More than 70% of New Hampshire voters support medical marijuana, according to a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll.

Drug Raids: Cops Shoot Michigan Student Over "A Few Tablespoonfuls" of Marijuana

Grand Valley State University film student Derek Copp is an avowed marijuana aficionado, reform activist, and a "a left-wing hippie peace-keeping liberal," according to his Facebook page. As of last week, he is also a victim of the drug war, or, more precisely, of police heavy-handedness in enforcing what appears to be a petty violation of the marijuana laws. Copp was shot and seriously wounded March 11 by a police officer who was part of a task force raiding his residence with a search warrant.

According to a compilation of local media accounts of the shooting, an Ottawa County deputy coming through the apartment's back door shined a flashlight in Copp's face, causing him to raise his right hand to cover his eyes. The officer then fired one round, striking the student in the chest. Copp said he had no idea the man who shot him was a law enforcement officer.

"He never even had a chance to even see who was coming at him, with a bright flashlight in his face," said his mother, Sheryl Copp. "He had no clue. He heard someone knock on his door, and he had no clue."

According to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Copp was shot in the chest by a sheriff's deputy acting as a member of the West Michigan Enforcement Team, which consists of Ottawa County deputies and members of the Michigan State Police. Police have not identified the deputy, nor is it known whether he has been suspended. Investigators said Copp, 20, did not threaten or confront police when they entered his home. Nor have they revealed the search warrant, what they were looking for, or what they found.

But an attorney hired by Copp's family after the shooting said it was all over a very small amount of marijuana. In a Tuesday statement, attorney Frederick Dilley said: "I have been asked what drugs may have been seized by those executing the search warrant at Derek Copp's apartment. To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more," Dilley continues, "The primary concern remains the manner in which this raid was carried out. And the apparent lack of any justification whatsoever for the use of force... much less deadly force in executing a search warrant."

Dilley is not alone in his concerns. The Grand Valley State University Student Senate issued a statement the same day wishing "Derek a full and complete recovery" and questioning police conduct. "Even though this incident took place off-campus," the statement said, "Student Senate is greatly concerned with the actions of the law enforcement team. Student Senate will await a full and complete explanation from the Michigan State Police. Like all students, we want to know why the West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team entered Derek Copp's apartment and why a firearm was used."

Even the university president demanded to know what had happened to one of his students. In a Monday e-mail to the university community, President Thomas Haas wrote: "The fact that this incident took place off-campus diminishes neither my interest nor my concern. The university's campus security staff was not involved. Like many of you, I await a full and complete explanation from law enforcement, and I have made a formal request for such information. I want to know what brought the Enforcement Team to Derek's apartment and why a firearm was discharged."

The shooting has also led to at least two protest demonstrations by students demanding answers. "Justify This Shooting!" demanded one sign held by a demonstrator. "We want answers!" read another. "Marijuana or not, unjust shot!" and "Our campus is not a war zone!", students chanted at a campus demo on Friday.

The Michigan State Patrol is investigating the shooting. That means the state police are investigating themselves, since the Western Michigan Enforcement Team consists of state police and Ottawa County sheriff's deputies.

Obama to Reconsider Federal Blockade Against Medical Marijuana Research

Wow, it's almost hard to keep up. Here's yet another potentially major breakthrough on the medical marijuana front:

Days before President Bush left office in January, his administration fired a parting shot at Professor Lyle Craker's eight-year quest to cultivate marijuana for medical research by abruptly denying him a federal license despite a nearly two-year old Drug Enforcement Administration law judge's recommendation that he receive one.

But the new administration led by President Obama, who has publicly backed the use of marijuana for medical purposes to stave off pain, might reverse the decision and keep Craker's license application from going up in smoke.

A source familiar with the case said the White House will likely demand that the decision be reviewed.

"Basically they want to do an autopsy of what occurred and have it go through a proper review," the source said. [National Journal]

Anonymous sources can be misleading, so I called Aaron Houston at MPP, who told me the story is true and graciously did not request anonymity.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the administration's review ultimately results in reversal of the research blockade, but the fact that they're looking into it is a very positive indication. It should prove difficult to examine this issue without seeing it for what it is: a prolonged and transparently dishonest effort to obstruct medical marijuana research by preventing researchers from producing marijuana and denying them access to existing sources.

Given yesterday's reaffirmation of Obama's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws, it seems that a positive pattern has emerged here. The new administration is re-evaluating the issue from multiple angles and finding that medical marijuana has been mishandled at the federal level in more than one way. It's tremendously encouraging to see the executive branch taking interest in corrupt political obstructionism at the DEA. I'd encourage them to expand the inquiry beyond just medical marijuana.

Attorney General Holder Says Feds Will Respect State Medical Marijuana Laws

At a press conference yesterday:

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states -- a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy. [Los Angeles Times]

This should remove doubt once and for all about the direction the new administration is heading with regards to medical marijuana. There's been some confusion about this, but Holder himself has been consistent in maintaining that medical marijuana providers operating legally under state law will be left alone.

The biggest remaining question is what will become of unresolved criminal cases initiated during the Bush administration. Charlie Lynch, whose recent federal conviction has become a national controversy, will be sentenced next week. Lynch and others like him are lingering casualties in a war that's been called off at the highest levels of government. The president and attorney general are on the right track, but the job isn’t done until the innocent victims of the war on medical marijuana are set free.

The Debate Over Medical Marijuana Should Have Ended a Decade Ago

NORML's Paul Armentano has a piece at reason marking the 10th anniversary of the government-funded Institute of Medicine report, which proved beyond any doubt that marijuana is medicine. The debate should have ended right then, but our opponents adopted a desperate strategy of claiming that the report said something other than what it clearly said.

Fortunately, the American people took matters into their own hands we've made tremendous progress over the past decade towards increasing patient access and changing the tone of the debate. Our opponents have almost entirely conceded marijuana's medicinal value and now resort to the pathetic fallback position of saying that smoking is bad and patients should take THC pills instead.

We've been proven right morally, scientifically and even politically. But it's still amazing to think that only a few short years ago our opponents were still claiming that marijuana wasn't medicine. Now that everyone knows those people were dead wrong, it's worth considering how phenomenally irresponsible it really was to withhold the truth about a medicine that could have helped people.

Paul makes an important point that after years of legal medical access in several states, anyone can plainly see that opponents of medical marijuana weren't just wrong about science. They were wrong about every single bad thing they said would happen if medical marijuana became legal. Many of those people are still considered experts on drug policy. They shouldn’t be.

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