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Medical Marijuana: Los Angeles City Council Extends Moratorium

A year-old moratorium on the opening of new medical marijuana dispensaries within the Los Angeles city limits will be extended for at least another six months. The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to extend the moratorium for that period as it wrestles with new draft regulations covering the dispensaries.

Los Angeles is home to hundreds of dispensaries and had seen a dispensary boom prior to the moratorium that was first enacted in August 2007. Under guidelines published last week by Attorney General Jerry Brown, dispensaries are legal, but only if they are established as co-ops or collectives and are nonprofits -- a restriction that is certain to meet with legal challenges. It is unclear how many LA dispensaries meet those criteria.

The council voted to extend the moratorium on a 14-0 vote. Prior to voting, Councilman Dennis Zine said the continued moratorium would give the city attorney's office time to craft a dispensary policy that would ensure marijuana is made available to legitimate medical patients while preventing "abuses."

Under California's medical marijuana law, a legitimate patient is anyone who has received a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana. The broadly written state law does not limit such recommendations to a defined set of diseases or symptoms. Instead it lists a number of diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, then adds the words "or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."

Medical Marijuana: Washington State Fight Over Allowable Quantities Continues

After being roundly chastised by more than a hundred medical marijuana patients and activists at an angry Monday meeting, the Washington state Health Department has extended the deadline for comments on its proposed medical marijuana quantity limits until 5:00pm PDT today. Assistant Health Secretary Karen Jensen made the announcement at the end of the meeting in Tumwater.

Washington voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998 that allowed patients to have a 60-day supply, but just what that constituted has never been specified. Last year, the legislature passed a measure directing the Health Department to spell out acceptable amounts.

In an earlier draft proposal, the Health Department suggested allowing patients 35 ounces of marijuana and a 100-square foot growing space. But after criticism from Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), whose office argued that the original draft was too generous and had not had sufficient input from law enforcement and doctors, the department came back with a more restrictive proposal: 24 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants, and 18 seedlings.

At the Tumwater meeting, patients, doctors, and activists harshly criticized the new draft as unfair, unrealistic, and unduly influenced by law enforcement. "We're not criminals. We're patients," said Melissa Leggee of Spokane in remarks reported by the Seattle Times. "We just want to be left alone to do what we need to do to survive."

"You're going to make everyone in this room a felon," if the proposed limit is adopted, Steve Sarich, of Kirkland, told the panel of Health Department officials. Sarich is director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients.

Dr. Karen Hamilton, of Redmond, who has treated patients helped by marijuana, said the proposal would "effectively take treatment out of the doctors' hands," adding that there is no "one-size-fits-all" appropriate marijuana dose.

And speaker after speaker told the panel that six plants could not provide the amount of marijuana most patients need to alleviate their pain, nausea, and other symptoms of the more than a dozen diseases the drug can be used to treat. If patients cannot provide for themselves, they said, they will have to turn to the black market.

Gregoire's interference in the drafting process prompted Troy Williams of Clark County to urge the Health Department to stand up to the governor and protect the rights of patients. Department officials should "stand up, have some courage, and tell the governor to shove it," he said.

Assistant Secretary Jensen said that once the comments period ends today, the agency will take about a month to evaluate them and adopt a quantities rule. If substantial changes are made to the current draft, she said, a new round of comments will follow. Substantial changes are precisely what patients and their advocates want to see.

Feature: California Attorney General Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines -- Mostly Good But Some Problems, Say Advocates

After more than a decade of roiling confusion over what California's groundbreaking medical marijuana law and subsequent enabling legislation do and do not allow, state Attorney General Jerry Brown sought to clarify matters Monday by issuing a long-awaited set of guidelines for patients, providers, and law enforcement. In addition to clarifying what is permissible under state law, Brown also hoped to damp down the ongoing conflict between state and federal authorities over medical marijuana in California.
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Under the guidelines, medical marijuana dispensaries must operate as not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives, and are prohibited from buying marijuana from growers who are not themselves patients or registered caregivers. The only fees dispensaries can collect are those covering overhead and operating expenses.

The guidelines strongly urge patients to obtain state medical marijuana ID cards and advise police to accept such cards as proof of legitimate medical need. The guidelines also call on police to return seized marijuana to patients who are later proved to be legitimate. They prohibit medical marijuana patients from lighting up near schools and recreation centers or at work, unless employers approve.

Affirming that California's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, the guidelines further direct "state and local law enforcement officers [to] not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law" when an individual's conduct is legal under state law.

But while providing protections to patients and non-profit dispensaries organized as co-ops or collectives, the guidelines could provide a green light for law enforcement to go after the store-front dispensaries that have sprung up like mushrooms in some areas of the state. In ballyhooing a Friday raid against a Northridge dispensary by California Bureau of Narcotics Agents, Brown signaled Monday that a crackdown could be looming.

Accusing the Today's Healthcare dispensary and its operators of criminal behavior by operating a profitable business, Brown went on the offensive. "This criminal enterprise bears no resemblance to the purposes of Proposition 215, which authorized the use of medical marijuana for seriously sick patients," he said. "Today's Healthcare is a large-scale, for-profit, commercial business. This deceptively named drug ring is reaping huge profits and flaunting the state's laws that allow qualified patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes."

California law enforcement pronounced itself pleased with the guidelines. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, praised Brown for promulgating them. "Since Proposition 215 was passed, the laws surrounding the use, possession and distribution of medical marijuana became confusing at best. These newly established guidelines are an essential tool for law enforcement and provide the parameters needed for consistent statewide regulation and enforcement."

Despite the apparent threat to non-compliant dispensaries and their suppliers, most medical marijuana advocates also pronounced themselves generally satisfied with the guidelines. The medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access has been working with Attorney General Brown and his predecessor, Bill Lockyer, for several years in an effort to see guidelines promulgated. ASA spokesman Kris Hermes said this week that while the guidelines are not perfect, they are a step in the right direction.

"We've been urging them to come out with an official statement that can direct law enforcement and stop what has been rampant disrespect for state law in some areas," he said. "From that perspective, the guidelines are a huge step forward. They provide a blueprint for local law enforcement to develop sensible policies around patient encounters, and they recognize the validity and law-abiding nature of medical marijuana dispensaries in California. That's huge," said Hermes. "These guidelines are a boon for patients, police, and everyone else in the state and will greatly advance the implementation of state law."

"Given the vagueness of the initiative and the statutes, the guidelines are pretty good," said Bruce Mirken, San Francisco-based communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They establish parameters within which the distribution of medical marijuana is to be treated as legitimate and legal. That's important because some prosecutors have been adamant that there is no legal authority for dispensaries -- period. This cuts the legs out from under them," he said.

"They were about what we expected," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "Most of the guidelines are consistent with what our attorneys have been saying and advising their clients to do all along. There are a few problem areas, but these guidelines will help fill the vacuum."

One problem Gieringer pointed out was that the guidelines say dispensaries may possess and distribute only lawfully cultivated marijuana, and that they cannot purchase from or sell to non-members. "There is nothing in either federal or state law against purchasing marijuana, so we don't see any legal basis for saying it's illegal to buy from outside vendors," he said.

Another potential problem is that the guidelines say that co-ops and collectives should document their activities and record the source of the marijuana they purchase, Gieringer said. "That is going to be problematic until we have some assurance of protection from being arrested by the DEA, and we don't want to see the cops come in and seize the records, and then bust the growers."

"While there is much about the guidelines that is positive, we also have some worries about some of the dispensary language," Mirken said. "Requiring dispensaries to be non-profit is just silly. Is Jerry Brown going to demand that Walgreen's and Riteaid become charities, too? If society thinks private enterprise and the profit motive are a logical way to distribute goods and services, why not medical marijuana?"

Still, said Mirken, the guidelines are a step in the right direction. "Given that we have all these issues here in California, anything that moves us in the direction of an orderly system with some legal clarity is a good thing. When you have local authorities who just don't like medical marijuana and are looking for an excuse to bust people, which some of them have been doing all along, this is going to provide protection."

But at least one Bay Area dispensary operator was not so impressed. "Let's see how it all plays out," said Richard Lee, proprietor of Oakland's Bulldog Coffee Shop and SR-71 dispensary and key promoter of the Oaksterdam scene. "Hopefully, it will help people in more repressed redneck areas and not hurt people in more progressive areas like Oakland and San Francisco."

Although Brown's guidelines call for dispensaries to be organized as co-ops or collectives, Lee has not incorporated in that manner and has no plans to. "We've been here eight years," he said. "We were here before they even passed SB 420. Oakland has a system that allows reasonable profits; it's set up for the clubs to run like any other business, and we are fine with that. Does Jerry Brown really want to come in and mess with Oakland's system that works?"

While the guidelines could result in a temporary decrease in the number of dispensaries as non-compliant ones either close their doors or have them closed for them by law enforcement, the end result will most likely be more dispensaries opening in areas of that state that are currently underserved because of local law enforcement or official hostility.

"I'm not too worried about a short term decrease in the dispensaries if it brings a little more rigor," said Gieringer. "Things have been fast and loose, and we have some rogue operators who wouldn't normally be operating in a legal market. We will lose some of those people, which could result in a short term decrease in availability, but in the medium term, this should be balanced out by the increase in availability in currently underserved areas."

While not everyone is happy with all aspects of the guidelines, the state of California has now taken a big step toward legitimizing its medical marijuana industry, reducing the confusion surrounding the state's medical marijuana law, and sending a strong signal to the DEA that it intends to police itself.

Press Release: CA Attorney General Directs Law Enforcement on Medical Marijuana

MEDIA RELEASE Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: August 25, 2008 CA Attorney General Directs Law Enforcement on Medical Marijuana / Comprehensive recommendations include protection of dispensaries Sacramento, CA -- California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued long-awaited guidelines on medical marijuana today with support from advocates and law enforcement alike. The guidelines direct law enforcement on how to approach encounters with medical marijuana patients and establish a road map for local police policies. However, more significantly, the guidelines provide recommendations for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in accordance with state law. Specifically, the Attorney General states that, "a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law." The guidelines are the culmination of years of work by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other advocates to educate and urge action from the Attorney General and other state officials. "Today we stand beside the Attorney General of California in his effort to fully implement the state's medical marijuana law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "We welcome this leadership and expect that compliance with these guidelines will result in fewer unnecessary arrests, citations and seizures of medicine from qualified patients and their primary caregivers." The guidelines not only provide direction for patients and police, but also for lawyers, judges and public officials to better understand their rights, responsibilities, and obligations under state law. The guidelines firmly establish that as long as patients and caregivers are abiding by local and state laws, they "should be released" from police custody and "the marijuana should not be seized." In the event that medical marijuana is wrongfully seized from a patient or caregiver, and the court orders its return, the guidelines state that police "must return the property." Affirming that California's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, the Attorney General further directs "state and local law enforcement officers [to] not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law" when an individual's conduct is legal under state law. Contained within the guidelines is a controversial provision requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to operate on a not-for-profit basis. This interpretation of the law comes from California's Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420), passed by the legislature in 2003. However, while the voter-approved initiative Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, references the need for a distribution system, no mention is made of for-profit status. In prior discussions with the Attorney General's office, ASA had strenuously objected to this provision of the guidelines. The guidelines come at a time of escalating interference by the federal government. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice continue in their attempts to undermine state law through ongoing investigations, raids, seizures, prosecutions, and imprisonment of medical marijuana patients and providers. In response, several California mayors, including Gavin Newsom and Ron Dellums, have voiced their opposition to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and have called for oversight hearings. "It is now up to Congress and the new President to align federal policy with California and other medical cannabis states," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "It is time to resolve the federal-state conflict that serves only to undermine California and other states' sovereignty and inflict harm on seriously ill patients and their care providers." For further information: Guidelines issued today by the California Attorney General: Attorney General bulletin issued to all law enforcement after the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in /Gonzales v. Raich/:
United States

Salvia Divinorum: North Dakota Man, First in Nation Charged With Magic Mint Offense, Sees Charges Reduced

Kenneth Rau, the Bismarck, North Dakota, man with the dubious distinction of being the first person to be charged with a salvia divinorum possession offense in the US, got some good news last week. At an August 13 court hearing, prosecutors announced they were dropping charges of possession with intent to distribute, which could have earned Rau 10 years in prison (20 if a school zone charge were added on).
salvia leaves
Rau still faces a charge of salvia possession, which could still see him imprisoned for up to five years. He also faces misdemeanor drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession charges.

Salvia, a perennial herb native to Mexico with potent, if short-acting and generally unappetizing psychoactive properties, is not a controlled substance in the US. But in the last few years, almost a dozen states have moved to regulate its sales or ban it outright. The North Dakota legislature banned it last year.

Rau always claimed he was unaware of the new North Dakota law when he bought eight ounces of salvia leaves for a high bid of $32 on eBay this spring. Prosecutors once claimed the eight ounces amounted to hundreds of doses, thus the possession with intent charge, but Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Feland said in court last Wednesday that the amount Rau possessed was really only about eight doses.

Rau is scheduled for a September 22 trial date.

Medical Marijuana: California Supreme Court to Take Up Limits Issue

The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to revisit the question of how many plants and how much marijuana medical marijuana patients may legally possess. It did so by taking up a prosecutor's appeal of a May California Appellate Court decision that found a 2003 law designed to make the state's medical marijuana law operational conflicted with the voter-approved Compassionate Use Act by setting fixed limits on how much marijuana patients may possess.
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
The state's Compassionate Use Act does not specify the amount of marijuana a patient may possess. Instead, that law allows an amount of marijuana "reasonably related to the patient's current medical needs."

The case, People v. Kelly, began in 2005, when Los Angeles County deputies searched Patrick Kelly's home and found 7 plants in his back yard and 12 ounces of prepared marijuana in the house, along with a doctor's note saying Kelly needed marijuana for back problems, hepatitis c, and other ailments. After prosecutors told jurors Kelly had exceeded the limits of the 2003 law, the jury found him guilty. But the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned the conviction earlier this year, agreeing with Kelly's argument that the 2003 law was invalid because it conflicted with Proposition 215, which did not set any specified limits.

Medical marijuana activists are divided on the case. Some, like Americans for Safe Access, argued that the 2003 only set guidelines for police and that the numbers in the law constituted a minimum, not a maximum. Throwing out the law would remove a statewide standard that "protects qualified patients from unnecessary arrests," ASA attorney Joseph Elford argued in court papers.

But the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the 2003 law's eight-ounce limit applies to the 18,000 people who have registered with the state under that law's voluntary registration program. But Prop 215 still applies to all medical marijuana patients in the state, the ACLU argued. That means doctors may continue to prescribe greater quantities of marijuana and local entities may set higher limits.

Feature: The Drug Checkpoint That Wasn't -- Louisiana Lawmen Play Fast and Loose with the Constitution

In its 2000 decision in Indianapolis v. Edmond, the US Supreme Court held that the city's effort to attack the drug trade by holding a checkpoint to look for drugs was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection of the right to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures. But in the years since then, a handful of departments across the county, usually in the South, have brazenly trumpeted their resort to drug checkpoints.
nighttime driving checkpoint
The latest department to step into the breach was Louisiana's Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office, which held such a checkpoint last Thursday night near the town of Starks. Following the lead of sheriff's deputies, the local newspaper was all over the story.

"Narcotics checkpoint a success," blared the headline in Monday's Derrider Daily News story on the police action. The article went on to explain how, following complaints of drug dealing in the neighborhood, police decided to take action:

"The Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office set up a Narcotics Checkpoint Thursday night near Starks, Louisiana," the local paper reported. "Due to several complaints coming from the Fields area, the BPSO put together a joint operation with the help of Sheriff Ricky Moses and the DeRidder city police department. The operations utilized several BPSO deputies as well as the new Drug Interdiction team led by Detectives Dale Sharp and Greg Hill. Seven police units total were used for the operation in addition to four other units performing regular patrols."

The checkpoint resulted in three arrests for marijuana and hydrocodone possession, a quarter pound of marijuana being tossed from an unknown vehicle's window, and a number of traffic citations.

"If this really was a drug checkpoint, it is clearly unconstitutional," said Steve Silverman, executive director of the constitutional rights defense group Flex Your Rights. "If people went to court and fought it, the evidence would be dismissed -- unless they consented to a search. The sheriff down there must know checkpoints like this are constitutionally questionable, but they can still ask people to consent, and they know how to phrase that request in such a way that people are likely to consent," he said.

"If they are stopping and searching people without probable cause, that would appear to violate Edmonds, but we don't know for sure that's what they were doing," said Marjorie Esman, head of the ACLU's Louisiana affiliate. "Drug checkpoints are unconstitutional, but these guys sound like they are straight up trying to do one," said Esman.

While the Supreme Court has held drug checkpoints to be unconstitutional, it has allowed the use of checkpoints whose primary purpose is protecting certain safety-related governmental interests. Thus sobriety checkpoints are lawful, as are checkpoints to check drivers' licenses and motor vehicle registrations, as well as checkpoints designed to search for illegal aliens near the border. This week, the sheriff's office was busy arguing that it wasn't an unconstitutional drug checkpoint after all, merely a safety check.

"They're really safety checkpoints," backpedaled Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Joe Toler. "The newspaper has its own spin on it," he said, adding that the warning signs specified a safety checkpoint, not a drug checkpoint.

The newspaper article certainly did have a spin, but that spin was provided by Beauregard Parish Deputy Dale Sharp, head of the department's new drug interdiction team. "The Narcotics Checkpoint's main objective was to get the narcotics off of the street," the article said before quoting Sharp: "Anything off of the streets is not in the hands of kids or anyone else," Sharp said in the article.

Sharp also bragged that more checkpoints could be coming soon. "Definitely," says Sharp. "As more complaints come in, we will be doing more."

But Chief Deputy Toler was sticking to the official line. "There just happened to be narcotics officers out there, and it just so happened that we did our safety checkpoint in a certain area where they place is known for drug trafficking," he said. "It just so happened they were all in the right place at the right time," he added.

Drivers and vehicles were not searched without consent, Toler said. "Everyone pretty much consents," he said.

"You can still refuse a search at a checkpoint," said Silverman. "They are not constitutionally allowed to search you just because they set up a checkpoint. You can say, 'I know you guys are just doing your job, but I have to go somewhere, am I free to go?' If they search you without probable cause and without your consent and they find something, you'll get arrested, but it's highly likely the charges will be thrown out. If not, it could go all the way to the Supreme Court."

It appears the sheriff's office is playing a pretty transparent game. They set up the checkpoint because of drug traffic complaints, they searched for drugs, and they had drug detection dogs on the scene -- not, presumably, to assist in reading drivers' licenses. But as long as police are careful to say the right things -- "It's a safety checkpoint" -- they can get away with it.

Flex Your Rights' Silverman also pointed out another permutation in law enforcement drug checkpoint tactics: the drug checkpoint that isn't. "If you see a warning that says drug checkpoint ahead, don't throw your stuff out the window, don't exit at the nearest ramp, don't do a sudden u-turn to get away, because it's not a drug checkpoint ahead, but a ruse by police," said Silverman. "The Supreme Court has held that drug checkpoints are an unconstitutional infringement on your Fourth Amendment rights, but that doesn't mean police can't try to fool you. At those fake drug checkpoints, they will have officers waiting to see who throws what out his window, or who suddenly exits to avoid the nonexistent checkpoint, and they will find a reason to stop you."

So, driving public, if you see a large warning sign that screams "Drug Checkpoint Ahead!" it is either a ruse or an unconstitutional law enforcement activity. But if you run across a sign that warns "Safety Checkpoint Ahead!" know that it is just as likely that police are looking for drugs in the guise of public safety as they are for expired drivers' licenses.

Editorial: Why Hasn't Denver's Police Chief Been Fired for Violating Marijuana Laws?

David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden in Colorado
This week saw an unusual and encouraging move taken by the Hawaii County Council (the "Big Island"). Advocates seeking the deprioritization of marijuana law enforcement, and the continued rejection by the county of federal marijuana eradication grants, tried but didn't quite manage to gather a sufficient number of signatures to get their initiative on the ballot this November.

As it turned out, it was a sufficient number. The council, very uncharacteristically for such bodies, used its discretion to place the question on the ballot anyway. They thought it was important for people to have a chance to vote on this idea, and instead of protesting and resisting as governments have done in any number of places, they actually used their power to help it along.

Shift eastward across an ocean and two mountain ranges, one sees a different display of the use, or abuse, of power. In Denver, voters have passed marijuana reform initiatives not once, but twice. First, they voted to legalize personal possession of marijuana. Then, they voted to make marijuana enforcement police's lowest priority. They also voted in majority numbers for a failed statewide legalization initiative.

Nevertheless, city police continue to invoke state law to justify their flouting of the law that the voters who pay their salaries passed, and the city continues to allow them to do it. I understand that legal technicalities mean that police who don't cooperate with the statute can't be arrested for it. But if Denver has democracy, why hasn't the police chief who bears guilt for this continuing offense at least been fired?

Also this week, a panel required by the law -- the Marijuana Policy Review Panel, modeled after one that monitor's marijuana arrests in Seattle -- recommended that Denver police not do marijuana posession arrests during the Democratic National Convention coming up. Officials, not surprisingly given all that's preceded, have had discouraging words regarding their willingness to take the recommendation. But why should the recommendation even be necessary? It's the law, passed by the voters two times. Shame on them yet again.

And it's not like the panel only has marijuana reformers on it. According to the authorizing legislation: "The Panel shall consist of one at-large member of the Denver City Council; two residents of the City of Denver, as selected by the petitioner committee that initiated this ordinance; one drug/alcohol abuse prevention counselor; one member of the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee who is not also a member of law enforcement; one representative of the Denver Police Department; three criminal defense attorneys, one of whom shall be a public defender; one representative of the Denver County District Attorney’s Office; and one representative of the Denver City Attorney’s Office."

Time will tell whether Big Island voters take the same wise step that Denver's voters have. But unlike in Denver, Hawaii County's leaders appear to respect their constituents. That bodes well for the policy's prospects if it does get the voters go-ahead. Deprioritization of marijuana enforcement is only one small step toward undoing the hideously destructive war on drugs. But it's a step nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Denver officialdom won't take that step willingly, despite law that now requires them to do so. Instead they will have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. Better that than letting the arrests go on, with people who never hurt anybody getting dragged off in handcuffs every day.

SAFER: Breaking DNC/marijuana news

For Immediate Release: August 20, 2008 Denver Mayor's Panel Calls on Police to Halt Marijuana Enforcement During 2008 Democratic National Convention Mayor's Panel recommendation rebuffs police who said they would ignore the will of Denver voters, who approved measures making adult marijuana possession legal in 2005 and the city's lowest law enforcement priority in 2007 Official memo from panel will be delivered to Denver mayor and police chief following press conference TOMORROW (Thursday) at 12 p.m. in front of the Denver City and County Building (1437 Bannock St.) DENVER -- A city panel appointed by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has officially recommended that the Denver Police Dept. "refrain from arresting, detaining, or issuing a citation" to any adult for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver next week. (See full recommendation and PDF of memo below.) The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel's recommendation comes in response to news reports in which a spokesman for the Denver Police Dept. said police would be arresting or citing adults for marijuana possession despite ballot measures approved by Denver voters calling on them to refrain from doing so. In 2005, Denver voters approved a ballot measure making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, and in 2007, voters approved a measure designating adult marijuana possession Denver's "lowest law enforcement priority." "The People of Denver have made it clear they do not want adults in this city punished for simply possessing a drug less harmful than alcohol," said panel member Mason Tvert, who led the campaigns for the two ballot measures. "Now a panel appointed by the Mayor of Denver has echoed that call, and we hope police will not defy the people of this city or its mayor when the international spotlight hits the Mile High City next week. "Tomorrow we will deliver an official memo from the panel to the chief of police and the mayor, and we expect police to abide by this very logical recommendation," Tvert said. "If police expect the taxpayers to cover their $1.2 million in overtime during the DNC, it is only fair that they respect the laws adopted by those taxpayers. There will be plenty for police to do during the DNC aside from arresting or citing adults who are simply making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol." WHAT: Press conference and delivery of memo from Denver mayor's panel to Denver police chief and mayor WHEN: Thursday, August 21, 12 p.m. (noon) WHERE: Press conference in front of the Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St. Then the memo from the panel chair will be delivered to the Denver Mayor's Office in the Denver City and County Building, and to the office of Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman at 1331 Cherokee St. (around the corner) WHO: Mason Tvert, Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel member # # # Resolution adopted on August 20, 2008, by the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper: The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel recommends that the Denver Police Department should refrain from arresting, detaining, or issuing a citation to any adult 21 years of age or older for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Denver, CO
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill Passes Both CA Houses

PRESS RELEASE Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release:* August 20, 2008 Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill Passes Both California Houses / Anti-discrimination bill AB2279 now heads to the Governor's desk Sacramento, CA -- A medical marijuana employment rights bill, which would protect hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in California from employment discrimination, passed the State Senate today. AB2279 had already passed the State Assembly in May, which means the bill now heads to the Governor's desk. Advocates expect the bill to reach Schwarzenegger's desk in the next few weeks. AB2279, introduced in February by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), reverses a January California Supreme Court decision in the case /Ross v. RagingWire/. Support for the bill has been widespread, coming from labor, business, and health groups at the local and national level. "Now that both houses of the California legislature have voted in favor of employment rights for medical marijuana patients, the onus is on Governor Schwarzenegger to do the right thing," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy group that argued the case before the Court and a sponsor of the bill. "The Governor has a chance to include medical marijuana patients as productive members of society, thereby protecting the jobs of thousands of Californians with serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS." The bill leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption at the workplace or during working hours and protects employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive positions. "AB2279 is not about being under the influence while at work. That's against the law, and will remain so," said Mr. Leno, the bill's author. "It's about allowing patients who are able to work safely and who use their doctor-recommended medication in the privacy of their own home, to not be arbitrarily fired from their jobs," continued Mr. Leno. "The voters who supported Proposition 215 did not intend for medical marijuana patients to be forced into unemployment in order to benefit from their medicine." On January 24, in a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that an employer may fire someone solely because they use medical marijuana outside the workplace. 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. The decision in /Ross v. RagingWire/ dealt a harsh blow to patients in the courts, shifting the debate to the state legislature. But, 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. Further information: Employment rights legislation AB2279: ASA web page on AB2279, including Fact Sheet and Letters of Support: Legal briefs and rulings in the Ross v. RagingWire case: # # #
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School