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Berkeley City Council to Vote on MMJ Sanctuary Resolution

[Courtesy of Berkeley Patients Group] Friends, Tomorrow night (1/29/08), the Berkeley City Council will be considering a very important resolution. Co-sponsored by Kriss Worthington and Darryl Moore, this item would: 1. declare Berkeley a "sanctuary city" for medical cannabis in the event that the DEA raids any of our dispensaries, 2. call on the Berkeley Police Department, the County District Attorney, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, and the State Attorney General not to cooperate with the DEA in its efforts to undermine state and local medical cannabis laws, 3. urge Governor Schwarzenegger to publicly stand with the more than 200,000 medical cannabis patients in the state and to let Congress and the Bush Administration know that DEA interference is uncalled for and will be resisted by local and state government, and 4. encourage the City to plan for continued safe access in Berkeley in the event of a DEA raid on one or more of our dispensaries. See the draft text at: Click on the pdf for the 1/22 meeting, and look for Item 22. ASA and others have worked extensively with Councilmembers Moore and Worthington, and with many other supportive city staff, to craft this resolution, and we expect the full support of the Council, the City Manager and the City Attorney tomorrow night. Obviously this is a VERY important moment for medical cannabis patients, and I want to encourage you to attend tomorrow's City Council meeting if at all possible. We plan to have a rally at 6:45 p.m., before the Council meeting, on the steps of Old City Hall. Wear your ASA shirt, sport a medical marijuana pin, and let's fill the hall with supporters to celebrate the moment--and thank our Berkeley elected officials for taking this significant step to defend patients' rights! City Council Meeting - 1/29/2008 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Be well, Becky DeKeuster Community Liaison Berkeley Patients Group 2747 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley, CA 94702 510-540-6013 ext. 0
Berkeley, CA
United States

Stop CBS4 Attacks on Cannabis Patients -- Tell CBS Not to Air the Attack on Disabled Veteran Kevin Dickes

[Courtesy of] Call CBS4-Denver at 303-830-6464! CBS4-Denver has been attacking medicinal marijuana patients and their caregivers in Colorado. The last person to be the focus of a CBS4 medicinal cannabis "investigation" (Ken Gorman) ended up murdered less than a week after the story aired. Now they are trying it again by attacking a disabled veteran. These attacks have to stop. This Thursday (Jan. 31), CBS4 is scheduled to air an "investigation" of Kevin Dickes, former Marine and disabled Gulf War veteran. Dickes was prescribed cannabis for a war injury and has a valid Medical Marijuana Registry identification card issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In 2000, Colorado voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that allows patients to legally use cannabis as medicine with their physician's approval. Dickes was arrested in Aurora in March 2007. He was charged with felony cultivation and faced 6 years in prison. Because he was a registered patient, all charges against Dickes were eventually dropped. Colorado law says that police shall return the cannabis "unharmed", so Aurora police were forced to return his medicine to him. The CBS4 "investigation" scheduled to air this Thursday allegedly shows a former Marine who served with Dickes in the Gulf War who says Dickes' injury was not caused in the Gulf War. The fact that Dickes was injured is not in question. In the promotion for the CBS4 story, it clearly shows the 36-inch scar on Dicke's leg. Apparently, all that is in question is the cause of that injury. Dickes has provided medical records to CBS4 proving he was injured in the Marines, but CBS4 is still airing the story. Read the letter from Dickes' attorney, Robert Corry, here: This is a blatant attack on a law-abiding citizen for using a plant he grew himself to ease his pain. The cause of his injury is none of CBS4's business! This is an invasion of medical privacy. This sensational story is designed only to boost ratings at the expense of a disabled veteran. Kevin Dickes has already suffered with his arrest, prosecution and destruction of his medicine. This "investigation" serves no purpose other than to attack Dickes' and make him suffer more for his use of a legal medicine. All citizens should be outraged! In Feb. 2007, CBS4's Rick Sallinger aired a story about medical marijuana caregiver, Ken Gorman. Less than a week later, that caregiver was found brutally murdered in his home. Denver police have made no arrests and have no suspects in the case. See the story that aired one week before Ken was murdered: See the story about Ken's death: "I don't want to end up dead in my own home like Ken Gorman because of Rick Sallinger," Dickes says. What's next for Rick Sallinger? Will he start investigating all Gulf War veterans and their private medical histories? Is he going to continue to attack other medicinal cannabis patients just to boost his ratings? Why doesn't he do an investigation of Ken Gorman's murder and find out why the Denver Police refuse to investigate this case? Please call CBS4 to protest this attack on sick patients. Ask them not to air the story on Thursday: CBS4-Denver 303-830-6464 If CBS4-Denver does not pull the story, there will be a protest at their offices (1044 Lincoln Street) at 3pm on Thursday (1/31). Please check this website for updates before you go Bringing the 1st Amendment into the 21st Century...
Denver, CO
United States

ASA’s Medical Marijuana in the News: 1/25/08

Discontinuation of ASA's Weekly Media Summaries

Dear ASA Supporter,

This week's media summary will be the last that ASA produces in this form. We know many of you have enjoyed these news summaries, and we intend to keep you updated in other ways. Here are three ways to stay informed:

Continue to look for special announcements and news updates on the ASA national email list. For state specific news, please sign up for one of our state or local announcement lists.

Check the Online Media Buzz section of ASA's discussion forums, where users and staff post news articles and press releases daily. Read news analysis and more from ASA staff and guests on ASA's blog, Medical Cannabis: Voices from the Frontlines.

ASA would like to thank William Dolphin, who has compiled the news and provided analysis of important medical cannabis stories weekly for the past several years.

If you have questions or comments about this change, feel free to contact me at


Rebecca Saltzman
Chief of Staff
Americans for Safe Access

ASA ACTION: Fighting for Patients’ Right to Work

In a split decision on a workers’ rights case argued by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, the California Supreme Court decided this week that employers can fire workers for testing positive for marijuana use, even in the case of those who use it for medical reasons on the advice of a physician. The 5-2 ruling came despite a brief filed by all the authors of the California legislature’s Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB420), saying that it had been their intent to extend such civil protections to medical marijuana patients. One of the authors, Assemblyman Mark Leno, has taken immediate action to submit a new bill, sponsored by ASA, that would specify workplace protections for patients.

Calif. Firms Can Fire Medical Marijuana Users
by Karl Vick, Washington Post
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for marijuana even if they have a note from a doctor recommending its use for medical reasons. Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, the Oakland advocacy group that argued the case, said advocates would go back to the state legislature to seek more explicit protections.

Medical marijuana users can be fired: Calif. court
by Adam Tanner, Reuters
Companies can fire employees who use marijuana for medical reasons even if California law allows such use because federal law prohibits it, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. "We remain hopeful that the legislature will come to the aid of patients by preventing the sort of discrimination that is likely to occur from such a decision," said Joe Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access.

Court: Workers can be fired for using medical marijuana
Associated Press
Employers can fire workers found to have used medical marijuana that was legally prescribed, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday in another setback for California in its increasingly rancorous clash with federal law over medical pot use. The nonprofit marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, which represented Ross, estimates that 300,000 Americans use medical marijuana.

California Justices Put Limits on Medical Marijuana Law
by Jesse McKinley, New York Times
In the latest setback for advocates of medical marijuana in California, the State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers were within their rights to fire employees who fail drug tests.

Workers can be fired for using medical pot off duty, court rules
by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
The California Supreme Court weakened the effect of the state's beleaguered medical marijuana law, ruling Thursday that employers may fire workers for using physician-recommended marijuana while off duty, even if it did not hurt their job performance. Joseph D. Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access, which argued the case on behalf of Ross, predicted the ruling would spark an increase in employer sanctions against medical marijuana users.

Medical Marijuana and Workers' Rights
by Bonnie Goldstein, Slate
Veteran Gary Ross was badly injured while serving in the U.S. Air Force and became eligible for government disability benefits. He suffers chronic pain, which is eased by physician-recommended marijuana treatment. In 2001, Sacramento-based RagingWire Telecommunications hired Ross, but when his pre-employment drug test came back positive for THC, the company quickly fired him. Ross sued, arguing that he was not consuming marijuana on the job and that state fair-employment laws required "reasonable accommodation" for his disability.

Calif. Supreme Court Gives Bosses Leeway to Fire Medical Pot Users
by Matthew Hirsch, The Recorder
Medical marijuana users in California may have to choose between smoking their pot and keeping their jobs. In a 5-2 decision Thursday, the California Supreme Court backed RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. in its firing of plaintiff Gary Ross, denying him relief despite the state's Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Americans for Safe Access chief counsel Joseph Elford, who argued the case for Ross, said he was "extremely disappointed" in Thursday's ruling.

Medical pot rights don't apply at work, court says
by Crystal Carreon, Sacramento Bee
In the latest blow to medical marijuana rights, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for the drug, even when it is used under a physician's advice.

Workers can be fired for using medical pot, state Supreme Court rules
by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle
An employee who uses medical marijuana at home can be fired for testing positive for the drug at work, the California Supreme Court ruled today.

Medical marijuana takes a hit
United Press International
The California Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling said employers can fire workers who are legally prescribed marijuana for illness.


Medical pot users need job protection
EDITORIAL, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
THE latest threat to ailing people who use doctor-recommended marijuana to ease their pain comes from a strange ruling by the California Supreme Court. The court ruled that employers may fire workers for using marijuana for medical purposes, which will prompt legislation to undo the ruling's damage. As one of 11 states that have legalized medical use of cannabis, Hawaii should enact similar workplace protections.

CALIFORNIA: City Officials React to DEA Raids

DEA raids in California have city officials from Los Angeles to San Francisco looking for ways to protect their communities. The city of Berkeley is considering a plan to step in on behalf of patients, but they would not be the first. Santa Cruz city officials distributed medical cannabis to patients at City Hall in the wake of a DEA raid on a patient collective there in 2002.

City considers aiding marijuana patients
by Doug Oakley, Contra Costa Times
Berkeley is considering a plan to help get medical marijuana to patients if the Drug Enforcement Administration shuts down any of the city-permitted cannabis clubs. The resolution before the City Council on Tuesday night declares Berkeley a sanctuary for medical marijuana users and distributors, and says "the city itself shall ensure a continuum of access to medical marijuana" if the DEA moves in.

CALIFORNIA: Senior Citizens Prosecuted for Medical Cultivation

Sheriff’s deputies were looking for someone else, but when they found medical marijuana growing on the property of an elderly couple, Richard and JoAnn McCabe, ages 65 and 74 respectively, they uprooted the plants and arrested them. The McCabes have vowed to fight, even though they cannot afford an attorney. Community members are starting a fundraising campaign on their behalf.

Medical Marijuana Growers in High Desert Fighting Charges
by Jason Sloss, KESQ ABC TV (Palms Springs)
An older couple in the high desert will appear in court after being arrested for growing and possessing of marijuana.

OREGON: Change in Medical Marijuana Law Sought

An Oregon attorney is seeking to make his state’s medical marijuana law more restrictive. Already considered one of the more limited such laws, if the changes are put into effect patients would be limited to two ounces and three plants. There is no provision for the legal buying or selling of cannabis. Advocates say the proposal has been advanced in a secretive fashion, but state hearings are scheduled.

Sweeping Changes to Medical Marijuana from Lawyer for Federal Contractor?
by Tim King, Columnist, Salem-News (OR)
Advocates for medical marijuana say a lawyer who often represents huge federal contractors is seeking to radically modify Oregon's Medical Marijuana Program.

DISPENSARIES: Ensuring Safe Access

Mendocino County has been a leader in carefully considering the needs of medical marijuana patients in the community, being an early adopter of regulations to oversee the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries there. Officials have just rejected an effort to impose additional limits or ban dispensaries altogether, noting that there have been no problems with the three currently operating in the county. This experience has been mirrored in other communities across the state, as outlined in ASA’s report on the issue, which can be downloaded at

Supes punt on pot dispensary regs
by Mike A'Dair, Willits News (CA)
Supervisors agreed to take no action on two draft ordinances that would have regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Mendocino County.

Operator says business is strong at Riverside medical marijuana clinic
by Gregor McGavin, Press-Enterprise (CA)
One week after the city of Riverside's first medical marijuana clinic opened its doors, staff and patients alike say business is coming along well.

ASA BLOG: Comments from ASA Staff and Guests

ASA's blog is helping keep activists informed on the issues and events affecting medical marijuana patients and providers.

Sometimes the Court Gets It Wrong
by Joe Elford
It was a very cold day today in the Bay Area. It was cold in San Francisco and, unusually, colder still in Oakland. Far colder was the California Supreme Court’s decision in Ross v. Ragingwire. . . .

Israel & Canada Move Ahead, while US Lags Behind in Medical Marijuana Research
by Rebecca Saltzman
Earlier this month, there were two exciting developments for medical cannabis internationally.

California Weekly Round Up
by Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
California Court Rules Against Patients’ Rights- Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA Respond with Legislation; San Francisco Democratic Committee Calls on Mayor Newsom to Take a Stand



Find out about ASA at More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at

United States

DrugSense FOCUS Alert: Use Medical Marijuana - Lose Your Job

In the latest blow to medical marijuana rights, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for the drug, even when it is used under a physician's advice. "Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and duties of employers and employees," wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar in the 15-page opinion. "Under California law, an employer may require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions...The Compassionate Use Act does not eliminate marijuana's potential for abuse or the employer's legitimate interest in whether an employee uses the drug." The decision is on line here: "The majority's holding disrespects the will of California's voters, "wrote Justice Joyce L. Kennard, whose dissent was joined by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, calling the decision "conspicuously lacking in compassion." The voters "surely never intended that persons who availed themselves" of the medical marijuana act "would thereby disqualify themselves from employment," Kennard wrote. Thus five of the seven justices - who will never face a drug test - showed their contempt for the people of California. Daily newspapers throughout California, as well as major national newspapers, covered the story. Please write letters to the editor to your local newspapers giving your views about the decision. A sample of the coverage may be found at this link: ********************************************************************** Style guides for writing effective letters to the editor are available at MAP's Media Activism Center: ********************************************************************** Please Send Us a Copy of Your Letter Please send copies of your letters to the sent letter list ( if you are subscribed, or email a copy to if you are not subscribed.
United States

Press Release: CA Supreme Court Denies Medical Marijuana Patients' Right to Work

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: January 24, 2008 Contact: ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford (415) 573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 CA Supreme Court Denies Medical Marijuana Patients' Right to Work Advocates to call on state legislature to prevent discrimination Sacramento, CA -- The California Supreme Court ruled against medical marijuana patient Gary Ross today in his fight against employment discrimination. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court claimed that Ross could not rely on the Fair Housing and Employment Act or the state's medical marijuana law to prevent discrimination at the workplace. The Court did indicate in its decision that the state legislature had not adequately clarified employment rights of medical marijuana patients. "Obviously, we are very disappointed by today's decision," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that argued the case. "However, we remain hopeful that the legislature will come to the aid of patients by preventing the sort of discrimination that is likely to occur from such a decision." The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Joyce L. Kennard, stated that the ruling "has seriously compromised the Compassionate Use Act, denying to those who must work for a living its promised benefits." Despite a clearly worded amicus "friend of the court" brief filed in support of Ross in July 2006 by all of the original co-authors of SB 420 (state legislation that helped to define the rights of medical marijuana patients), the Supreme Court failed to believe that it was the intent of the entire legislature. Advocates assert that they will seek a different response from the state legislature in the form of a bill introduced in the next few weeks. Gary Ross, a 45-year old disabled veteran and a medical marijuana patient living in Carmichael, California, is at the forefront of a landmark employment case, with significant ramifications for patients in California and across the country. Ross was fired in September 2001 for failing an employer-mandated drug test while working as a systems engineer for RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc. "All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," said plaintiff Gary Ross. "I was not fired for poor work performance, but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana,” continued Ross. “This practice allows employers to undermine state law and the protections provided for patients.” Ross's physician recommended cannabis for chronic back pain that resulted from injuries sustained during his military service. But Ross's employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, refused to make an exception to its policy of terminating anyone testing positive for marijuana. Ross filed suit after he was fired in 2001, arguing that RagingWire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition. However, a Sacramento Superior Court, and then the Third Appellate District Court both rejected his argument. In October 2005, ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court on behalf of Ross. Strong public support has been shown for Ross and the plight of California patients to seek and maintain employment. Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from across California. Companies that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or a positive test for marijuana, include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union employers. Further information: Today's California Supreme Court decision: Photo of Gary Ross: Legislative-based amicus brief: Review legal briefs and more about the Ross v. RagingWire case here:
Sacramento, CA
United States

Marijuana: Burlington, Vermont City Council Rejects Decriminalization Measure

The Burlington, Vermont, City Council Tuesday narrowly defeated a watered-down ballot question on marijuana decriminalization. The measure would have asked the governor and state legislature "to explore an alternative to the criminal system for dealing with small quantities of marijuana." It failed 7-6.

If the measure had passed, it would have gone before voters at the next annual Town Meeting.

The council did pass an even more watered-down resolution. It voted 11-2 to assign the council's Public Safety Committee the task of exploring "creating another option of handling small quantities of marijuana."

Councilman Ed Adrian, who introduced the original decriminalization measure and who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the committee will listen to "perspectives from all sides" in the marijuana debate. "I was disappointed that it wasn't put on the ballot so the people could weigh in on this, but that's the way the democratic process works," he said in remarks reported by the Burlington Free Press.

The decrim move in Burlington comes in the context of an emerging debate over drug policy in Vermont. The legislature this session will contend with decriminalization and industrial hemp, as well as bills seeking to crack down on hard drug trafficking, and the level of debate has been rising.

Marijuana: New Hampshire Decriminalization Bill Wins Support at Hearing

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 1.25 ounces of marijuana won broad support at a New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday. Only representatives of the state attorney general's office and the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police spoke against the measure, while both a police officer and a corrections official were among those speaking in favor of it.
marijuana plant (
The bill, HB 1623, would make possession of less than 1.25 ounces a violation, punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Simple possession is currently a Class A misdemeanor. The bill would also eliminate "penalties for the manufacture or sale of less than 1.25 ounces of marijuana." It was sponsored by Reps. Jeffrey Fontas (D-Nashua), Andrew Edwards (D-Nashua), and the ironically named Charles Weed (D-Keene).

Decriminalization offers a more sensible way of handling small-time marijuana offenses, New Hampshire police officer Bradley Jardis told the committee. "I have been kicked, I have been punched, I have been choked, I have been dropped to the ground, I've had two people jump on top of me punching me while I was on duty -- by people who had been drinking alcohol," he said. "I have never been to a domestic violence call or a fight call where someone smokes marijuana."

The bill also gained support from Richard Van Wickler, superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, who told the committee decriminalization has worked in other places. "Jurisdictions globally and nationally that have passed laws such as the one that's before you today have had success with it," he said. "It has served the purpose of justice; it has moved closer to crime policies based on fact rather than fiction."

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency, head of the police chiefs' association, was asked by Rep. Timothy Robertson (D-Keene) if he would also be in favor of reinstating Alcohol Prohibition. After a pause, Morency said it was something he would consider.

That sparked a reaction from the New Hampshire Coalition for Commonsense Marijuana Policy, which issued a press release the same day as the hearing criticizing Morency's views. "Alcohol Prohibition is widely considered an enormous disaster that increased crime and violence," said the group's Matt Simon. "We all want safer communities, but Chief Morency's ideas for how to achieve that are as misguided regarding alcohol as they are regarding marijuana."

According to Rep. Fontas, HB1623 is more about preserving the opportunities of young people rather than anything to do with marijuana. He told the Laconia Citizen a marijuana possession conviction could bar young people from receiving federal financial aid for college or see them excluded from certain jobs. "If we are concerned enough about young people going down the wrong track then we should not prevent them from opportunities that get them on the right one," said Fontas.

The hearing concluded with the committee deciding to form a four-member subcommittee to study the bill further and come back with a recommendation before taking the bill to a full committee vote. If it passes that hurdle, it's on to a full vote in the House, and then off to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana: Employers Can Fire Users, California Supreme Court Rules

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers may fire workers who use medical marijuana in compliance with California's Compassionate Use Act -- even if they are off duty and even if their use does not affect their job performance. The ruling came in Ross v. Raging Wire Telecommunications.

In that case, Gary Ross, whose doctor recommended medical marijuana for chronic back pain resulting from an injury incurred while serving in the Air Force, was hired by Raging Wire as a systems engineer in 2001 and was required to take a drug test as a condition of employment. He provided the company with a copy of his doctor's recommendation, but the company fired him a week later because of a positive test result.

Ross sued, alleging that the company violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by not accommodating his disability. He also argued that the company fired him in violation of public policy because the Compassionate Use Act legalized medical marijuana in the state.

"All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," Ross said in a written statement. "I was not fired for poor work performance but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana."

His case was watched with great interest by California medical marijuana users. Hundreds have complained of being fired, threatened with firing, or not being hired as a result of their medical marijuana use.

But in siding with employers, the state high court said the Compassionate Use Act protected users only from criminal prosecution. "Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and duties of employers and employees," wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdeger for the majority. "Under California law, an employer may require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions."

Additionally, Werdeger noted, even though medical marijuana is legal under state law it remains illegal under federal law, and "the FEHA does not require employers to accommodate the use of illegal drugs."

Justice Joyce Kennard was scathing in her dissent. The decision was "conspicuously lacking in compassion," she wrote. "The majority's holding disrespects the will of California's voters." The voters "surely never intended that persons who availed themselves" of the medical marijuana act "would thereby disqualify themselves from employment," Kennard said.

Reaction was rapid and only beginning on Thursday evening. The Los Angeles Times reported that Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced the same day he would introduce legislation to prevent employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users. "The people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana," he said.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) told the Times the decision was a slap at patients. "The court is claiming tha California voters intended to permit medical use of marijuana, but only if you're willing to be unemployed and on welfare," Mirken said. "That is ridiculous on its face, as well as cruel."

The ability of medical marijuana users to function in society is not just an issue in California. Legislative efforts are afoot in Oregon to explicitly allow employers to fire medical marijuana users. In Montana, the Department of Corrections wants to ban probationers and parolees from using medical marijuana. In some other states, like Rhode Island, protections for users are written into the law. Look for a feature article on this issue next week in the Chronicle.

Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Paraplegic Sues Over Seizure of Plants, Grow Equipment

One of New Mexico's first registered medical marijuana patients is suing Eddy County Sheriff's deputies for seizing his marijuana plants and grow equipment and turning them over to the DEA. Leonard French of Malaga received a license to grow and use marijuana for pain resulting from a spinal cord injury, but that didn't stop the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, headed by Dave Edmundson of the Eddy County Sheriff's Department, from seizing his plants and equipment shortly after he began growing last summer.
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Now, with the help of the ACLU of New Mexico, French has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that the task force's actions violated the state's medical marijuana law, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, as well as its asset forfeiture statute; an injunction to stop the task force from again raiding French and his garden; and compensatory damages for his stolen property.

"The New Mexico state legislature, in its wisdom, passed the Compassionate Use Act after carefully considering the benefits the drug provides for people who suffer from uncontrollable pain, and weighing those benefits against the way federal law considers cannabis," said Peter Simonson, ACLU executive director, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "With their actions against Mr. French, Eddy County officials thwarted that humane, sensible law, probably for no other reason than that they believed federal law empowered them to do so."

When at least four Eddy County deputies acting as members of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force showed up at French's home last September 4, he thought they were checking his compliance with the medical marijuana law, so he presented them with his license, and showed them his grow, which consisted of two small plants and three dead sprouts. They then turned the plants and the grow equipment over to the DEA, which does not recognize medical marijuana or the state laws that permit its use. French has not been charged with any offense under either state or federal law.

"With the Compassionate Use Act, New Mexico embarked on an innovative project to help people who suffer from painful conditions like Mr. French's," said Simonson. "The law cannot succeed if the threat of arrest by county and local law enforcement hangs over participants in the program. With this lawsuit, we hope to clear the way for the State to implement a sensible, conservative program to apply a drug that traditionally has been considered illicit for constructive purposes."

And maybe teach some recalcitrant cops a lesson about obeying the law.

Law Enforcement: Virginia Narcotics Officer Killed Busting Down Door in Marijuana Grow Raid

Chesapeake, Virginia, Police Detective Jarrod Shivers was killed by a bullet fired through a door as he attempted to break it down during a raid on a suspected marijuana grow operation on January 17. Shivers was a veteran narcotic detective and SWAT team member whose specialty was "breaching" doors during drug raids. The home's resident, Ryan Frederick, was arrested in the shooting.

As Drug War Chronicle noted in a recent review of drug war-related law enforcement deaths last year, making drug arrests is not an extraordinarily risky endeavor -- only one officer died doing a drug raid last year, and the total number killed doing any drug enforcement was five. But there are risks, especially when police rely on dynamic forced entries, as appears to have been the case in Chesapeake.

While police said they did a "knock and announce" before entering the home, one local press account said Shivers "died doing his specialty -- breaking down doors" -- when he was shot.

Police had obtained a search warrant based on information from a confidential informant that "the marijuana was growing in portable shelters with a hydroponic system," according to local press reports. This week, police announced they had indeed seized marijuana and growing equipment, though without explaining why they waited five days to say so.

Shivers was buried on Tuesday. The alleged shooter, Frederick, remains in jail. He is now charged with first degree murder.

All this over some pot plants.

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