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Rhode Island Senate Votes to Open Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Legal access to medical marijuana could soon be coming to the east coast:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island would be the third state in the nation and the first on the East Coast to allow nonprofit stores to sell marijuana to medical patients under legislation approved Tuesday by state lawmakers.

The state Senate voted 30-2 to adopt a measure permitting three stores to sell marijuana to more than 680 patients registered with the state Department of Health. It now heads to Gov. Don Carcieri, who has previously vetoed bills legalizing marijuana for medical use.

A veto from the governor is almost certain, but towering majorities in the House and Senate should make it possible to override the veto. That's exactly how Rhode Island's original medical marijuana law was passed. Maybe Carcieri should just sign the damn thing and save himself the double embarrassment of not only trying to stand between seriously-ill patients and their medicine, but also failing at it.

Congress Calls on DOJ to Better Explain Medical Marijuana Policy

Via Ben Morris at MPP:

The House committee that oversees the Department of Justice (DOJ) passed an amendment today that adds language to the committee’s report urging the DOJ to clarify its position on state-legal medical marijuana. The provision is a non-binding recommendation, but carries weight given the committee’s role in funding the department.

The language, sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), states, “There have been conflicting public reports about the Department’s [DOJ] enforcement of medical marijuana policies. Within 60 days of enactment, the Department shall provide to the Committee clarification of the Department’s policy regarding enforcement of federal laws and use of federal resources against individuals involved in medical marijuana activities.”

Although federal interference with state medical marijuana laws has been sparse since Obama took office, we have seen evidence of a potential loophole in the attorney general's pledge to respect state laws. As long as charges are brought in federal and not state court, there exists no mechanism for determining that state laws were ever violated, thus DEA could theoretically raid legitimate dispensaries based on unverified claims that local laws were being broken.

That's why Hinchey's effort to ensure accountability is so important. Although public outrage has been a powerful force towards pushing federal medical marijuana policy in a more reasonable direction, we simply cannot count on DEA to execute the new policy in good faith. The more pressure that's applied early on, the better our chance of ensuring that the worst excesses of the war on medical marijuana are behind us.

Press Release: House Appropriations Committee Seeks Clarification on Medical Marijuana Policy

JUNE 9, 2009   

House Appropriations Committee Seeks Clarification on Medical Marijuana Policy
Amendment Seeks Explanation in Light of Attorney General Holder's Recent Statements

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 202-215-4205 or 415-585-6404

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In light of recent statements by Attorney General Eric Holder indicating that the Obama administration would not pursue prosecutions of individuals involved in medical marijuana activities sanctioned by state law, the House Appropriations Committee has added language seeking clarification of the new policy to the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

     The language, sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), states, "There have been conflicting public reports about the Department's enforcement of medical marijuana policies. Within 60 days of enactment, the Department shall provide to the Committee clarification of the Department's policy regarding enforcement of federal laws and use of federal resources against individuals involved in medical marijuana activities."

     In past years, Hinchey and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) have sponsored an amendment aimed at ending Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers. But in recent months, Attorney General Eric Holder has disavowed any intent to pursue such attacks. Last week, Holder told KOB-TV in Albuquerque, "For those organizations that are doing so sanctioned by state law and do it in a way that is consistent with state law, and given the limited resources that we have, that will not be an emphasis for this administration. ... Medicinal marijuana ... that is something for the states to decide."

     "We are glad to see the federal government finally moving toward sanity on medical marijuana," said Marijuana Policy Project director of government relations Aaron Houston. "No one battling serious illness and following their state's laws should live in fear of our federal government, and we look forward to clear assurances that suffering patients will be left alone."

     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


Washington, DC
United States

ASA Sponsored Resolution Calls for Federal Change

Dear ASA Supporter,

California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) introduced Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14 yesterday. This ASA-sponsored resolution calls on the President and US Congress to end medical cannabis raids in California and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it." If adopted, SJR 14 will be the first time a state legislature has officially called for a change in federal medical cannabis policies.

Please help ASA get SJR 14 adopted by making a special contribution of $100 today.

The President and US Attorney General Eric Holder have talked about a new federal policy concerning medical cannabis, but there is still a lot of work to do in defining what that policy will be. SJR 14 supports ASA's National Policy Agenda and is part of our strategic campaign to shape a more reasonable and compassionate federal policy - one that ensures safe and legal access for all patients nationwide.

The resolution calls on the President and the US Congress to (1) end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical cannabis laws; (2) adopt policies and laws to encourage advanced clinical research trials into the therapeutic use of cannabis; (3) provide for an affirmative defense to medical cannabis charges in federal court; and (4) to create comprehensive federal medical cannabis policy that ensures safe and legal access for patients.

SJR 14 is an opportunity for the California legislature to influence the development of the new federal policy, defend the state's right to choose and regulate medical cannabis, and to defend the compassionate will of the voters. But, we only have a short time to get this resolution through committees and floor votes in the State Senate and Assembly.

Please support ASA by donating today so that we can get SJR 14 adopted right away!

Thank you for your help,

Rebecca Saltzman
Chief of Staff
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. For more information on SJR 14, visit
United States

Holder Renews Pledge to Respect Medical Marijuana Laws

In case anyone forgot, the new administration promises to be nicer about medical marijuana:

ALBUQUERQUE — The nation’s top cop said Friday that marijuana dispensaries participating in New Mexico’s fledgling medical marijuana program shouldn’t fear Drug Enforcement Agency raids, a staple of the Bush administration.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking in Albuquerque during a meeting focused on border issues, including drug trafficking, said his department is focused "on large traffickers," not on growers who have a state’s imprimatur to dispense marijuana for medical reasons.

"For those organizations that are doing so sanctioned by state law, and doing it in a way that is consistent with state law, and given the limited resources that we have, that will not be an emphasis for this administration," Holder said. [New Mexico Independent]

Notwithstanding a couple of questionable raids that have taken place since Holder took office, it's good to hear him keep repeating this. The more he says it, the more scrutiny he'll be subjected to if DEA continues to push its luck. Personally, I'm not expecting the complete elimination of federal interference with state medical marijuana laws, but I think it will become clear over time that the situation has improved.

Still, Holder and Obama shouldn't get a pass on this ridiculous "limited resources" excuse for respecting state medical marijuana laws. The issue enjoys tremendous public support and there's no reason the new administration can’t come right out and acknowledge that the Bush policy was just cruel. Pretending it's about money is disgusting and wrong. Note to reporters: next time someone in the administration tries to portray the new medical marijuana policy as a matter of conserving law enforcement resources, ask whether they'd continue the raids if their budget was bigger.

Furthermore, the feds are still trying to put Charlie Lynch in prison for operating a perfectly legal dispensary in California. His sentencing will take place this Thursday, assuming it doesn’t get postponed yet again. Click here to email the Dept. of Justice and tell them to let Charlie go.

If these guys are sick of answering questions about marijuana policy, freeing Charlie Lynch is by far their best move.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes House, Now Goes for Final Senate Approval

Rhode Island is poised to become the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana law to allow for the operation of dispensaries after the House Wednesday gave final approval a bill that would do just that. The bill passed by a whopping -- and veto-proof -- majority of 64-4.
Rhode Island State House
The bill, SB 185, now goes back to the Senate for final approval. The Senate earlier approved its version of the bill by a margin of 35-2 and is expected to easily pass the final version next Tuesday.

Gov. Donald Carcieri, no friend to medical marijuana, is likely to veto the bill. But given the overwhelming vote in favor of the bill, an override vote seems destined to succeed.

The bill would allow up to three dispensaries to grow and sell marijuana to patients in the state's medical marijuana program. The 2006 bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state -- after the legislature overrode a Carcieri veto -- did not have any provision for providing marijuana for patients.

The push for the bill was led by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Medical Marijuana: Veterans Administration Says Positive Marijuana Drug Screening Will Not Void Pain Contracts for Vets with Doctors' Recommendations

The Veterans Affairs watchdog group VA Watchdog reported last week that the VA will not remove veterans with medical marijuana recommendations who test positive for pot from its pain management programs. Just don't bring your medicine to a VA facility.

In recent years, vets who use marijuana medicinally have been thrown out of VA pain management programs as "drug abusers" after testing positive for marijuana. This policy shift will provide some solace, but only to those vets residing in states where medical marijuana is an option.

The VA has clarified its policy. While restating that it remains illegal to use or possess marijuana at VA facilities because of federal law, the agency will now accept medical marijuana use in states where it is legal:

"[I]t is acknowledged that testing positive for marijuana in a patient, based upon a random drug screening, will not serve as a breach of the current pain management agreement if the patient submits documentation in support of the marijuana being prescribed and dispensed in conformity with Michigan law," wrote Gabriel Perez, director of the Lutz Veterans Affairs Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

According to VA Watchdog, the policy appears to be the same in all states where medical marijuana is allowed under state law. But the VA has not released an official policy statement on the matter.

Job Opportunity: Legal Coordinator, Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, CA

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. ASA works in partnership with state, local and national legislators to overcome barriers and create policies that improve access to cannabis for patients and researchers. ASA has more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states.

ASA provides legal training for and medical information to patients, attorneys, health and medical professionals and policymakers throughout the United States. ASA also organizes media support for court cases, rapid response to law enforcement raids, and capacity-building for advocates. ASA's successful lobbying, media and legal campaigns have resulted in important court precedents, new sentencing standards, and more compassionate community guidelines

The mission of Americans for Safe Access is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research.

The Legal Coordinator will answer and document calls from medical marijuana patients who have had law enforcement and other legal encounters and provide them with legal information, update legal materials, and be responsible for day-to-day support of the Chief Counsel. The position is supervised and accountable to the Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. This is a full-time, salaried position based out of ASA's Oakland, California office.

Specific tasks and responsibilities include providing information in response to questions concerning criminal defense, housing, employment and other issues as they relate to medical marijuana patients; maintaining a legal database; supporting defendants and attorneys dealing with federal trials; researching and drafting a "California Legal Tip" monthly; managing content for a "brief bank" on ASA's web site (motions to dismiss, etc.); maintaining and updating the legal FAQ, medical marijuana prisoners page, landmark decisions page, pending federal cases web page, and other pages in the legal section of the website; maintaining existing "How to Become a Legal Patient" web pages as state laws change; coordinating the recruitment of potential plaintiffs (i.e. develop criteria, create and post e-alert/distribute flyer, interview candidates, create synopses); maintaining existing plaintiff base with updates as they occur; researching and advising staff; tracking status of federal defendants by maintaining relationships with defendants, attorneys, and supporters; advising staff regarding the legal ramifications of various state & federal legislation; researching and drafting language for various legislative efforts; advising organizers in medical marijuana states, including facilitating the creation of ASA's "How to Defend a Medical Marijuana Patient" attorneys' guide and trainings; interfacing with campaign staff; assisting with emergency response efforts when federal raids occur; recruiting and coordinating activities of any interns/fellows working in the legal department; administratively assisting in the preparation of legal documents for filing; communicating via email with grassroots regarding landmark decisions, ASA court filings, ASA legal victories, important criminal/civil cases, etc.; writing and editing articles on legal matters for ASA publications; attending and speaking at conferences in order to network and build a body of educated attorneys nationally; and placing legal manuals on legal websites and in law schools across the country.

Experience and qualifications include a commitment to the mission and goals of Americans for Safe Access; knowledge of the law desirable; computer literacy, and comfortable with acquiring new skills; exceptional time management and prioritization skills; remaining calm under pressure; flexibility regarding setting (and re-setting) priorities and managing multiple projects; exceptional communication, organizational and diplomacy skills with strong written communication skills; a sense of humor, high ethical and professional standards, and a multi-cultural perspective; working well in team environment; a flexible schedule, including availability to work occasional evenings and weekends, and to travel periodically; and dedication to working closely and cooperatively in a community-based organization with diverse staff, volunteers, and community members.

If interested, please submit a cover letter and resume to No phone calls or faxes please.

ASA is an equal opportunity employer. People of color and women are strongly encouraged to apply.

Medical Marijuana: Mid-Atlantic Movement as Delaware, New Jersey Bills Win Committee Votes

Medical marijuana is on the move in the Mid-Atlantic region, as bills to legalize its use passed committee votes in Delaware Wednesday and New Jersey Thursday. The New Jersey bill is well-advanced, having already passed the state Senate, while in Delaware, Wednesday's vote was the first test of legislative sentiment.

In New Jersey, the Assembly Health Committee passed the bill, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, on a 7-1 vote, but only after making it dramatically different from and more restrictive than the version passed by the Senate. At the behest of committee chair Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), who was responding to criticism that the bill's distribution and oversight provisions weren't tight enough, the bill was amended so that only "alternative treatment centers" could grow, process, and distribute medical marijuana.

In the version passed by the Senate, patients could also grow their own or have caretakers grow it for them. In this latest version, there is no role for caretakers, because it also provides that only patients may pick up medical marijuana at a dispensary, or have a courier deliver it to them.

"This bill will be the most restrictive in the nation,'' said Sen. Joseph Scutari (D-Union), the bill's original sponsor. The bill may be too restrictive, he added.

The bill now heads for a floor vote in the Assembly. It also must go back to the Senate, which must approve the amended version.

One day earlier and one state to the south, the Delaware Senate Health and Social Services Committee approved Senate Bill 94, the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, authored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), the committee chair.

That bill would allow people with serious diseases to use medical marijuana with their physician's approval. The bill sets up an ID card system and a dispensary network. Patients could also grow and possess their own medicine, up to 12 plants and six ounces.

Does Smoked Marijuana Have Medical Value?

Yes, lots. Caren Woodson at Americans For Safe Access takes a look at the research.

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