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Americans for Safe Access: March 2008 Activist Newsletter

New Employment Bill Would Protect California Patients

California medical marijuana patients may soon have protection from employment discrimination, thanks to legislation sponsored by Americans for Safe Access that was introduced on February 20. The new law has been proposed in response to a January California Supreme Court ruling that said employers may fire qualified patients for no reason other than following the medical treatment recommended by their doctors.

Assemblyman Mark Leno Assemblyman Mark Leno

The employment rights bill leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption at the workplace and protects employers from liability by allowing exceptions for jobs where physical safety could be a concern.

"The California Supreme Court decision said that an employer may fire someone solely because they use medical marijuana outside the workplace," said Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the author of the bill. "AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patents need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine."

Joining Assemblymember Leno as co-authors are Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego).

The bill is designed to rectify a 5-2 decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire, a case which was argued by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford.

The court upheld a lower court ruling that qualified patients could be fired based on either their status as a patient or a positive test for marijuana. The plaintiff in the case, a 46-year old disabled veteran named Gary Ross, lost his job as a systems engineer in 2001 after testing positive for marijuana. His employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, would not make an exception for medical use, even though Ross did not use cannabis on the job and was treating injuries sustained during his military service.

Gary Ross Gary Ross, speaking to the media

"It's important that we not allow wholesale employment discrimination in California," said Ross. "If the court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination."

California joins Oregon and Hawaii in introducing legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

Since 2005, ASA has received hundreds of reports of employment discrimination from all across California. Employers that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or because of 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.

"We welcome and strongly endorse this clarification from the legislature," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "Despite the ill-conceived ruling by the California Supreme Court, the intent of state legislatures has been to recognize the civil rights of patients and to offer them reasonable protections."

Further information, see ASA’s website at: www.AmericansForSafeaccess.org/Ross.

Sixth Annual Medical Marijuana Week Another Success

For the sixth year in a row, Americans For Safe Access organized a Medical Marijuana Week. And for the sixth time, the event was a huge success, providing opportunities for patients and activists to learn about the issues, take action, and educate others.
Held every year during the week of 2/15 -- to commemorate the passage of Proposition 215, California's medical cannabis law -- Medical Marijuana Week this year had an activity or event for every day of the week from February 11-17.
Monday's focus was on membership, as ASA supporters reached out to friends and family to encourage them to join the nation's largest and fastest growing organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

On Tuesday, hundreds of activists throughout the country visited their U.S. Senators' district offices to ask their representatives to support access to new sources of cannabis for FDA-approved medical research. The senators were urged to support patients by signing on to the letter Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are circulating to enable FDA-approved research.

Wednesday, activists wrote letters to their local newspapers calling on Congress to support access for FDA-approved medical marijuana research. FDA-approved research is key to safe access nationwide. ASA created a Letter to the Editor action site as an easy way to submit LTEs online, using talking points provided by ASA's communications specialists.

For Thursday, patients were asked to plug into ASA's condition-based unions to further promote medical cannabis research and advocate for safe access.

On Friday, ASA released its first National Field Report, which paints a comprehensive picture of the local, state, and national campaigns ASA's chapters and affiliates work on and also highlights the 2007 accomplishments in the field. Patients and activists were asked to start or join a local ASA chapter.

Finally, the weekend was devoted to mobilizing local communities and getting signatures for ASA's Congressional research petition.

All in all, it was another fun, informative, and empowering week of activities for medical marijuana patients and activists across the country.

RESEARCH UPDATE

Osteoporosis May Be Treatable with Cannabinoids

New research out of Israel shows that osteoporosis, a degenerative bone condition afflicting 10 million Americans over age 50, may be treatable with cannabinoids.

Researchers found that the body's natural endocannabinoid system helps control how the body replaces old bone with new growth. In the study, activating CB2 cannabinoid receptors reduced bone loss and stimulated bone formation.

This would seem to confirm early studies that showed faster bone loss in mice that had fewer CB2 receptors.

Study Confirms Cannabis Helps People with HIV/AIDS

Cannabis has been commonly recommended to help people with HIV/AIDS combat nausea and appetite loss, and numerous studies have shown it to be an effective treatment.

A new Columbia University study, the first in nearly 20 years to examine cannabis' efficacy, has shown that not only is smoked cannabis effective, it's substantially more so than Marinol, the synthetic oral drug, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Patients in the trial gained almost 2.5 lbs over four days.

To produce similar weight gain, Marinol had to be given in doses eight times higher than current recommendations.

State Medical Marijuana Laws Do Not Increase Drug Use

A statistical study has found that passing state laws legalizing the medical use of cannabis does not increase the drug's recreational use.

Researchers looked at two "high-risk" groups (ER patients and arrestees) in four states, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Researchers reported that "the introduction of medical cannabis laws was not associated with an increase in cannabis use."

This finding confirms a study of states with medical marijuana laws conducted by the US General Accounting Office (GAO), which found that legalizing medical cannabis has not led to increased recreational use.

Location: 
United States

People Don't Inject Marijuana With Hypodermic Needles. They Smoke It.

Via Paul Armentano at the new NORML Blog:
According to a recent news item making international headlines, a journalist in a forthcoming BBC 'documentary' will "inject" herself with the "main ingredient" of so-called "skunk cannabis" in an effort to warn viewers of the "dramatic" and "unpleasant" effects of marijuana.
And so, we're reminded yet again that there is simply no level of absurdity to which the purveyors of anti-marijuana hysteria will not stoop. It shouldn't be at all necessary to explain that no one shoots THC straight into their veins. So when we find this intrepid "journalist" rolling around on the floor soiling herself or whatever, let's just keep in mind that it won't happen again unless this ridiculous stunt somehow catches on. And if that happens, it will be BBC's fault, not marijuana's.

Of course, while this preposterous exercise will teach us nothing about the effects of recreational marijuana use, it does illustrate two important points worth considering:

1. Marijuana is sufficiently mild in its effect that anyone attempting to vividly depict its horrors must resort to the most extreme and unrealistic experiments imaginable. Showing footage of normal marijuana users using marijuana normally would be utterly boring and insignificant. Thus, the choice to approach the subject under such bizarre conditions tells you everything you actually need to know about the integrity of marijuana's critics.

2. Marijuana is so amazingly safe that this journalist can confidently inject its main ingredient straight into her veins. Do you think the BBC or the doctors involved in this mindless charade would have allowed this to proceed if there were any real danger? This whole trainwreck is really just a giant concession that marijuana is medically safe even in atypically massive doses.

Once again, we can count on marijuana reporting in the British press to be injected with everything but the truth.
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United States

Marijuana Policy Project: Are you planning to visit New York this spring?

[Courtesy of MPP] 

You’re invited to an exciting evening with the Marijuana Policy Project at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan on May 14.

MPP Medical Marijuana Benefit
Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th Street, New York City
Wednesday, May 14, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Please consider joining us for a night of comedy and music to celebrate MPP’s recent successes on the path to passing medical marijuana legislation in New York state (and other parts of the country).

The event will feature a performance by folk-rock band Nicole Atkins & The Sea, as well as special appearances by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Michelle Phillips and medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams. We’ll also honor Joel Peacock, a patient advocate from Buffalo who suffers from chronic pain resulting from a 2001 car accident.

Proceeds from the event will be used to change the law to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana. If the New York bill passes in the next few months, New York would become the 13th medical marijuana state in the country.

Last year, the New York Assembly passed the bill by a 95-52 vote, marking the first time that such a bill has received a vote on the floor of either chamber of the New York Legislature. Plus, more than 1,000 doctors in New York have spoken out in support of medical marijuana, in addition to the Albany, Buffalo, and New York city councils and most medical organizations in the state.

The New York legislation is at the brink of victory — and the prospects for some of MPP’s other bills look good in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Please join us and be a part of the tipping point that brings about these momentous changes!

Please don’t wait long to buy your tickets, since space is limited.

I look forward to seeing you on May 14 in New York City.

Sincerely,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)
Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your ticket purchase today will be doubled.

Location: 
New York, NY
United States

On Barry Cooper's latest avoid-getting-busted video release

Former Texas police officer Barry Cooper is at it again. Granted instant media notoriety when he switched sides and released a 2006 video, "Never Get Busted Again," Cooper provided tips and advice to people about how to travel with marijuana and avoid getting nailed. (Our colleagues at Flex Your Rights have criticized some of Cooper's advice, but that's not what this post is about.) Today, Cooper begins shipping his latest effort, "Never Get Raided," a primer on how to possess, grow, and sell pot without getting busted. Cooper is not well liked in the drug reform community. He got off on the wrong foot by falsely affiliating himself with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, as noted above, his advice has been criticized, and his personal behavior has been called into question as well. He has also been accused of being a mercenary (for not giving away his videos). I'm sure a lot of those criticisms are well-founded, but that's not what this post is about, either. I haven't seen Cooper's latest effort. I don't know if it delivers the goods, and I'm not here to say you should go out and buy it. But I certainly support any effort to blunt the ability of the cops to bust people for pot offenses. What roused me from my dogmatic slumber on this was LEAP executive director Jack Cole's quote in a Dallas Morning News article about Cooper and the new video. What Cooper is doing is wrong, Cole said: "We don't agree philosophically at all on these issues," said Cole. "He thinks he should be able to school people on how to break the law, we believe in changing the law." Sorry, Jack, I'm with Barry Cooper on this one. There is no moral, ethical, or philosophical justification whatsoever for terrorizing, arresting, prosecuting, and jailing people for marijuana offenses. Anyone who can teach the nation's millions of pot smokers have to avoid the cops deserves kudos, not criticism. It's not like he's teaching people how to be better killers or robbers. We are talking about a non-violent activity that does no harm to anyone except, arguably, the pot smoker himself. As old-school American dissident Henry David Thoreau once noted, ""Unjust laws exist. Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them and obey them until we succeed, or shall we transgress them at once?" Or shall we, like Mr. Cooper, tell people how to successfully transgress them? Hell, yeah. I understand where Jack Cole is coming from. LEAP needs to be viewed as responsible law enforcement opposition to the drug war, not as a bunch of drug crime facilitators. But I don't carry that particular burden, so I say good on Barry Cooper (provided, of course, that his advice is good). Yes, of course, we need to change the drugs laws. But in the meantime, as 800,000 people get arrested each year on pot charges, we need to reduce the harm, and helping people avoid arrest and prosecution for marijuana offenses is doing precisely that. The pot laws need to be subverted, and if Barry Cooper's videos help do that, more power to him.
Location: 
United States

Marijuana Policy Project's Medical Marijuana Benefit in New York City

The Marijuana Policy Project is hosting a benefit to benefit seriously ill New Yorkers who need safe access to medical marijuana. All funds raised will be used to help MPP pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. More than 1,000 doctors in New York have spoken out in support of medical marijuana, in addition to the Albany, Buffalo, and New York city councils and most state medical organizations. The event will feature special appearances by medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Michelle Phillips and a performance by folk-rock band Nicole Akins & The Sea. The event will also honor patient advocate Joel Peacock. Please join us for cocktails, hors d’ouevres, and dancing to celebrate MPP’s efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York and be a part of the tipping point that brings about this momentous change! For more information and to purchase tickets please visit: www.mpp.org/highline.
Date: 
Wed, 05/14/2008 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: 
431 W. 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
United States

Opponents of Marijuana Reform Constantly Contradict Themselves

This article on a marijuana decriminalization effort in New Hampshire provides a useful case study in the utter confusion and desperation of the anti-pot peanut gallery:
…Exeter Police Chief Richard Kane, among others, is adamantly opposed. "If we reduce the penalty for small amounts of marijuana, it will eventually lead to legalization and I think that's heading in the wrong direction," he said last week.

Nashua Police Chief Donald Conley also said it would be a mistake to take the sting out of the law. [Boston Globe]
So the Police Chief begins by arguing that we must go around stinging people for possessing pot. But when reform advocates argue that too many young lives are being derailed by harsh punishments for petty offenses, Conley completely changes his tune:
But Conley said it is rare for first-time offenders to get jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"As far as someone getting arrested and their lives being ruined, I don't think that's the case," he said. "Employers are more forgiving in this day and age, and police prosecutors frequently reduce marijuana cases down to violations…"
Wait, so should we be stinging people or not? He begins by defending aggressive sanctions and ends by claiming the sanctions aren't aggressive. The contradiction is transparent and embarrassing.

It is, in fact, not at all uncommon to hear defenders of harsh marijuana laws speak approvingly of the fact that most offenders avoid jail time. Thus, it is not necessarily the practice of ruining lives for marijuana which they crave, but rather the discretion to do so should the urge happen to arise. Meanwhile, millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans are branded as criminals so that people like Chief Conley can live out their authoritarian fantasies.
Location: 
United States

Europe: Czechs Call for Legal Medical Marijuana

As deputies in the Czech parliament debate a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and the growing of up to three plants (see story last week), activists from Cannabis Is Medicine called on them to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana while they are at it. The group is calling on the government to allow patients to grow up to three pounds of marijuana a year.

The call from Cannabis Is Medicine has been endorsed by a number of Czech personalities, including singer Marta Kubisova, former deputy Tana Fiserova, and film-maker Olga Sommerova. It comes less than a month after the Czech Supreme Court threw out a woman's cultivation conviction because she was using it medicinally.

Patients must be able to grow more than the three plants envisioned under the decriminalization proposal, said Jiri Richter, head of a grouping of nonprofit organizations working on drug prevention and treatment. "Only three cannabis plants, this is ridiculous," he told the Czech news agency CTK.

Richter added that he believed marijuana should be completely legal. But while support for decrim appears strong within the ruling coalition, proposals for legalization are not considered to have much chance.

Press Release: State Bill Protects Employment Rights of Medical Marijuana Patients

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: February 21, 2008 Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 or ASA Chief of Staff Rebecca Saltzman (510) 251-1856 x308 State Bill Introduced Yesterday Protects Employment Rights of Medical Marijuana Patients AB 2279 would reverse the State Supreme Court in Ross v. Raging Wire Sacramento, CA -- Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and several co-authors introduced a bill yesterday that would protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in California from employment discrimination. The bill leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption at the workplace and protects employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive positions. The employment rights bill, which is being co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), is in response to a January decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. National medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor of the bill. "The California Supreme Court decision said that an employer may fire someone solely because they use medical marijuana outside the workplace," said Assemblymember Leno. "Long ago, the legislature prohibited patient use of medical cannabis in the workplace or during working hours," continued Leno. "AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patents need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine." On January 24, in a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling that denied qualified patients a remedy from employment discrimination, based either on their status as a patient or a positive test for marijuana. The plaintiff in the case, Gary Ross, is a 46-year old disabled veteran who was a systems engineer living Carmichael, California, when he was fired from his job in 2001 at RagingWire Telecommunications for testing positive for marijuana. "It's important that we not allow wholesale employment discrimination in California," said former plaintiff Gary Ross. "If the court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination." The decision in Ross v. RagingWire closed the door on redress through the courts, shifting the debate to the state legislature. California is not alone in its attempt to affirm employment protections for medical marijuana patients. Both Oregon and Hawaii have introduced similar legislation aimed at clarifying the intent of the state legislatures. This recent multi-state effort builds on existing legislation adopted in ten out of twelve medical marijuana states, including California, which already sought to protect patients from employment discrimination. "We welcome and strongly endorse this clarification from the legislature," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "Despite the ill-conceived ruling by the California Supreme Court, the intent of state legislatures has been to recognize the civil rights of patients and to offer them reasonable protections." Before the court made its final decision, Ross enjoyed the support of ten state and national medical organizations, all of the original co-authors of the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420), and disability rights groups. Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from all across California. Employers that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or because of 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: Employment rights legislation introduced yesterday: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/AB2279.pdf California Supreme Court decision in Ross v. RagingWire: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Ross_Ruling.pdf Review legal briefs and more about the Ross v. RagingWire case here: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/Ross # # #
Location: 
CA
United States

The Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics: Re-Entering Mainstream Medicine

Patients Out of Time is pleased to announce, and invite you to, this amazing conference. Please join us for international experts representing the latest research and exciting developments in the knowledge and understanding of the unique properties of medical cannabis/marijuana. This cutting edge, accredited conference will bring replicated, science based research to clinicians, patients, legislators, the press and the public. Plan on being part of this important event. Located along the Pacific Coast within minutes of Monterey, Carmel, and Pebble Beach, Asilomar Conference Center is a unique and inspiring facility that will make this conference a memorable event. CME credits issued by the Medical School of the University of California, San Francisco. CEUs will be provided as well. For the conference agenda, see: http://medicalcannabis.com/agenda2008.htm For the conference registration, see: http://www.medicalcannabis.com/registration/ For the faculty list, see: http://medicalcannabis.com/faculty2008.htm For media credentials info, see: http://medicalcannabis.com/MediaCredentials.gif For more about Patients Out of Time and even more details about the conference, see: http://www.medicalcannabis.com/
Date: 
Thu, 04/03/2008 - 8:00pm - Sat, 04/05/2008 - 5:30pm
Location: 
800 Asilomar Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
United States

Urge Your Legislator to Oppose DEA Medical Marijuana Raids -- Support SJR 20

[Courtesy of CA NORML] CAL: URGE YOUR LEGISLATOR TO OPPOSE DEA MEDICAL MARIJUANA RAIDS - SUPPORT SJR 20 See: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=10990366&type=ST&show_ale... California Senate Asks Feds to Cease Harassing Law Abiding Dispensaries! Urge Your Senator to Vote YES on SJR 20! NORML is pleased to announce that SJR 20, a resolution stating the Senate's opposition to the federal government's crackdown on local medical cannabis providers, has been introduced in the California State Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Health. This resolution would reinforce the Senate's opposition to the Drug Enforcement Administration's raids on medical marijuana facilities that pay sales tax and comply with California law. If passed, the California State Senate will forward copies of this resolution to the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House, and all California representatives and senators, urging them to respect California law. Please take a moment and write your state senator today asking him or her to support SJR 20. If your senator sits on the Senate Committee on Health, then it is even more imperative that he or she hears from you. For your convenience, a prewritten letter will be sent to your state senator when you enter your zip code below. Click on: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=10990366&type=ST&show_ale... -- California NORML, 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114 -(415) 563- 5858 - www.canorml.org, http://www.canorml.org/.
Location: 
CA
United States

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