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Medical Marijuana Patients Get Say in Counties' Legal Challenge to California Medical Marijuana Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access Step In to Represent Medical Marijuana Patients in Lawsuit SAN DIEGO A San Diego Superior Court ruled today that lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance will be permitted to intervene in a lawsuit brought by several California counties seeking to thwart the state's Compassionate Use Act, which makes medical marijuana legal for patients with a doctor's recommendation. The groups joined the case on behalf of medical marijuana patients and their caregivers and doctors in order to assure their adequate representation in the legal proceedings. "We look forward to the opportunity to stand together with patients in defense of the rights of states to allow medicine to those in need," said David Blair-Loy, an attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "We are heartened that the court recognized the necessity of giving voice to those truly at risk from the counties' ill-conceived actions." San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties argued in a lawsuit filed in state court that federal laws prohibiting all use of marijuana invalidate state laws that allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana. The ACLU, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Drug Policy Alliance (the Alliance) filed legal papers on July 7, 2006 seeking to intervene in the proceedings. "As the largest grassroots organization of patients, doctors and scientists advocating for safe and legal access, we feel it's critically important that California's medical marijuana laws be respected by everyone," said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA. Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Alliance, added, "These county governments have ignored the needs of their sick and dying residents and the advice of California's physicians. By intervening in the lawsuit, patients will have the chance to confront their rogue county officials in court and defend the legality of the Compassionate Use Act." In addition to entering the case, the group's filing asked for a court order compelling the counties to abide by and implement California's medical marijuana laws, as well as an order affirming that the state's medical marijuana laws are not preempted by contrary federal statutes. The lawsuit, initially brought by San Diego County and later joined by San Bernardino and Merced counties, challenges state laws that permit patients to use, and doctors to recommend, medical marijuana under explicit exemptions from state criminal laws that otherwise prohibit all marijuana use. The counties' lawsuit further challenges the state's Medical Marijuana Program Act, which calls for the implementation of an identification card program that would allow police and others to more easily identify legitimate medical marijuana patients. The ACLU, the Alliance and ASA maintain that state medical marijuana laws are not preempted by the federal ban on medical marijuana. While the federal government is free to enforce its prohibition on medical marijuana, even in states such as California that permit its use, all states remain free to adopt and implement policies of their own design an opinion shared by the California Attorney General's office and the attorneys general of several other states, including Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon, that permit medical use of marijuana. The groups represent Wendy Christakes, Pamela Sakuda, William Britt and Yvonne Westbrook, Californians who use physician-recommended marijuana to treat medical conditions and their side-effects, including chronic pain and sciatica, multiple sclerosis, rectal cancer, epilepsy and post-polio syndrome. The groups also represent Sakuda's spouse and caregiver, Norbert Litzinger, as well as Dr. Stephen O'Brien, a physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment in Oakland, California, and believes that many of his seriously ill patients benefit from the medical use of marijuana. In addition to being co-counsel, ASA is also a party to the proceedings on behalf of its membership, which includes thousands of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and physicians residing in California. The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is also represented by the groups. WAMM is a medical marijuana collective and hospice located in Santa Cruz, California, whose 250 members, the majority of whom are terminally ill, use marijuana to treat a range of conditions. The groups' legal papers are available online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/26090lgl20060707.html The ACLU's January 19, 2006 letter to the San Diego Supervisors explaining why California's medical marijuana laws are not preempted by federal law is online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/23565lgl20060119.html California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's opinion issued to the state's Department of Health Services affirming the validity of the state's medical marijuana laws is available at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/21194res20050715.html Additional background on the case can be found at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/23587prs20060124.html
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

My South Dakota Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Research

Our article about the South Dakota medical marijuana initiative and the likely lawsuit against state Attorney General Larry Long over what initiative supporters contend is his biased and possibly illegal description of the initiative that will appear on the ballot, got bumped this week, but we expect it to happen next week. I held off for a couple of reasons: First, the lawsuit has yet to actually be filed. Second, I couldn't manage to make contact with South Dakotans for Safe Access sole spokeswoman Valerie Hannah until Friday morning. Hannah, a Gulf War veteran who suffers from nerve gas exposure, will fill me in on what's going on Monday. We published the first story about the pending lawsuit last issue, beating the Associated Press, which came out with its own story Tuesday. While the AP explained that initiative supporters faulted the AG for his ballot language about doctors possibly losing their DEA prescribing licenses, it failed to mention the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Conant v. Ashcroft, where the court ruled quite clearly that physicians have a First Amendment right to recommend medical marijuana without administrative penalty. Conant is a precedent, but it is not controlling in other circuits since the US Supreme Court refused the Justice Department's appeal of the decision. That is the only possibly out for Long--his ballot language says "doctors may" face problems with the DEA. Yes, and monkeys may fly out my butt.
Location: 
United States

Patients Get Okay to Oppose County's Marijuana Challenge (San Diego County)

Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
North County Times
URL: 
http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/08/04/news/sandiego/21_03_458_3_06.txt

Md. high court rejects reckless endangerment convictions for drug use by pregnant women

Location: 
Annapolis, MD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Baltimore Sun
URL: 
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-te.md.court04aug04,0,347300.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

Search and Seizure: Five-Day Shackling in Colorado Prison to Find Swallowed Drugs Approaches Torture Level

Authorities at the Colorado state prison in Buena Vista kept an inmate shackled to a chair for five and ½ days without sleep or exercise, never turned off the lights, and strip-searched and cavity-searched him 17 times even though he was under the constant watch of a guard. Prison officials suspected inmate Brian Willert, 29, of swallowing bags of heroin and wanted to collect the evidence.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/jail1.jpg
They eventually did, but the judge hearing the case, Chaffee County District Court Judge Charles Barton, threw out the evidence, saying that prison authorities could have achieved the same goal in a few hours by obtaining a court order to administer a laxative. What prison officials did to Willert was an unreasonable search, Barton held.

"Forcing a shackled inmate to sit in a chair for over five days posed, in the court's opinion, an unreasonable risk to the life and health of the inmate," Barton said in his July 14 ruling. "It is difficult for the court to imagine a more intrusive procedure. Defendant was watched every minute for over five days. He was not permitted to meet the basic human need to lie down and sleep."

Barton also questioned what the repeated strip searches had to do with security and criticized prison officials for failing to check on Willert's health after he tested positive for methamphetamine on day four, suggesting a balloon had broken. But Barton rejected Public Defender Patrick Murphy's contention that what was done to Willert constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Willert was placed in a "dry cell" without a sink or toilet after his girlfriend told prison authorities she had passed balloons of what she thought was heroin to him during a visit. That is standard procedure for the Colorado Department of Corrections, director of prisons Gary Golder told the Rocky Mountain News. But "dry cell" stays rarely last more than a day, he said. Still, Golden said, the department's inspector general will investigate. "Did the staff violate the policies or do something inappropriate?" he asked.

Lawyers Say "Pill Mill" Alleviated Suffering

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
New Orleans Times-Picayune
URL: 
http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/index.ssf?/base/news-5/115380834338320.xml&coll=1

Inmate Shackled Five Days: Prison Officials Believed Man Had Swallowed Heroin

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Rocky Mountain News
URL: 
http://www.insidedenver.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4868291,00.html

ASA Press Release on Americans with Disabilities Act Medical Marijuana Case

For Immediate Release­: July 25, 2006 Americans for Safe Access State, National Groups Add Support to Medical Marijuana Employment Case Legislators, Medical Organizations, Disability Advocates File in Supreme Court San Francisco --­ Medical organizations, California state legislators and disability rights organizations have all filed supporting briefs with the California Supreme Court in a landmark employment rights case involving medical marijuana. The amici curiae or ‘friend of the court’ briefs all argue that medical marijuana patients deserve civil employment protections provided by California state law. The case is being litigated by the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), on behalf of Gary Ross, a systems engineer fired in September 2001 for failing an employer-mandated drug test because he uses medical marijuana on his doctor’s advice. “This case is an opportunity for the California Supreme Court to make clear that medical marijuana patients enjoy the same civil rights as everyone else,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA. “Like all disabled persons, Mr. Ross deserves equal protection under the law.” Ross’s physician had recommended he use cannabis for chronic back pain resulting from injuries sustained during his military service. But his employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, refused to make an exception to their policy that anyone testing positive for marijuana use be terminated. Mr. Ross went to court, arguing that RagingWire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition, but a state superior court and then an appellate court rejected his argument. ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court, which decided to review the case in November 2006. The amicus brief filed by ten national and state medical organizations, with the help of the Drug Policy Alliance, makes the case that medical marijuana patients should be considered no different than other patients who require medication to live and work effectively. The medical organizations argue that allowing the firing of medical marijuana patients "erects an unnecessary and unfortunate barrier to effective relief for potentially thousands of members of California’s workforce who suffer from acute or chronic pain, or other debilitating medical conditions." The organizations signing the medical amicus brief in support of ASA’s case are the American Nurses Association, American Pain Foundation, American Medical Women's Association, Lymphoma Foundation of America, American Nurses Association, California Nurses Association, AIDS Action Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis, National Women's Health Network and Doctors of the World-USA. (www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_medical.pdf) The legislative amicus brief is being filed by all five of the sponsors of Senate Bill 420, the 2003 legislation that expanded and clarified California’s medical marijuana law. In it, the current and former lawmakers make clear their intent to extend the state’s normal civil protections and guarantees to medical marijuana patients, including the medical disability protections afforded Californians by the Fair Employment and Housing Act. “[T]he FEHA, together with the Compassionate Use Act, authorize and protect the use of medical cannabis by employees away from the workplace and during non-business hours,” according to the brief signed by former Senator John Vasconcellos, the bill’s author, and Assembly members Mark Leno, Jackie Goldberg, Paul Koretz and Loni Hancock, who were all co-authors of the bill. (http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_legislative.pdf) In addition to those briefs, two disability rights organizations are also weighing in on the issue: Equal Rights Advocates and Protection and Advocacy. In their brief, the disability rights advocates note that the lower courts’ decisions, upholding the firing of Mr. Ross, “plac[es] individuals for whom marijuana is safe, effective and needed treatment in legal limbo, with their ability to earn a living dependent on the continued indulgence of their employers.” (http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ross_disability.pdf) Americans for Safe Access is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Information about ASA is available at http://www.SafeAccessNow.org. # # #
Location: 
CA
United States

Douglas County Gets Thousand From Festival-Goers Caught With Drugs (Kansas)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/15074239.htm

Search and Seizure: Vermont Judge Says State Constitution Provides Protection Even if Federal Doesn't

The US Supreme Court ruled last month that police officers who violated "knock and announce" search warrant rules could use the ill-gotten evidence against defendants, but that's not good enough for at least one Vermont judge. In a Monday opinion, District Court Judge Robert Bent threw out the evidence in a "knock and announce" search where police rushed the home as soon as the door opened while they were gathering out front.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/texasraid.jpg
warrant needed in Vermont
Under centuries-old common law and decades of US legal practice, most search warrants require police to knock and announce and allow the resident a reasonable time to answer the door. Police who can convince a judge special circumstances require them can apply for a "no-knock" warrant. Last month's Supreme Court ruling effectively gutted the "knock and announce" requirement -- at least in the federal courts.

Vermont should hold itself to a higher standard, said Bent in the case of Ellen Sheltra, who was arrested on marijuana charges after the cops rushed her door. "Evidence obtained in violation of the Vermont Constitution, or as the result of a violation, cannot be admitted at trial as a matter of state law," Bent wrote, citing an earlier state case as precedent. "Introduction of such evidence at trial eviscerates our most sacred rights, impinges on individual privacy, perverts our judicial process, distorts any notion of fairness and encourages official misconduct."

In their dissent in the US Supreme Court case, four justices warned that allowing police to use illegally obtained evidence would lead to police officers ignoring the law. Bent agreed. "The exclusionary remedy should remain in full force and effect," Bent wrote, "at least in our small corner of the nation."

The district court decision is not binding on other judges, but they are likely to take it into consideration in deciding similar cases. Prosecutors have not decided whether to appeal Bent's ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court, where, if it is upheld, it would become binding.

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