Medical Marijuana

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Uh-Oh! Medical Marijuana Raid in San Francisco

Very unsettling:

Federal drug agents raided a medical marijuana facility in San Francisco Wednesday night.

The raid occurred at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard Street. DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry told CBS 5 the documents regarding the raid are sealed, so the DEA was not able to give many details.

"The documents relating to today's enforcement operation remain under court seal. Based on our investigation we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well." [CBS]

By claiming the case involves violations of state law, DEA is able to maintain the appearance of abiding by the attorney general's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws. We're left to wonder if that will now become their blanket justification, to be invoked each time they elect to move in on an established medical marijuana provider. No one was arrested in today's raid, so we'll likely be waiting a while to find out what the hell happened.

The skeptical interpretation is that nothing's changed, that the feds will simply be more careful with the wording they use to describe future enforcement efforts that target medical providers. A worst-case scenario would the adoption of a policy in which the full force of federal law is brought down upon any medical marijuana provider who is accused of even a minor violation of state law. Defendants facing only federal charges would have no means to contest the grounds on which they were targeted to begin with. The practical value of Obama's purported policy shift would be negligible.

However, even if that's DEA's gameplan (which wouldn’t surprise me at all), I doubt it could withstand scrutiny. The salient question of why DEA is usurping the responsibilities of state law-enforcement won't escape notice and press coverage of these events grows increasingly competent as the issue continues to boil.

Obama's position on medical marijuana owes a great deal to pure political pressure resulting from the deep unpopularity of the raids themselves. The public simply hates this and won't be satisfied with a fictitious shell-game solution that merely reframes what DEA is actually doing.

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Full New Hampshire House, 234-138

MARCH 25, 2009

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Full New Hampshire House, 234-138

Vote Marks First Time House Has Passed a Medical Marijuana Bill

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, (603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire House passed a bill today, 234-138, that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it – a first for either chamber of the state's legislature.

    Now that the bill – HB 648, sponsored by Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster) – has cleared the House, patients and advocates are calling on the Senate to pass it and send it to Gov. John Lynch to make it law without delay.

    "This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill that the House passed today. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

    In 2007, a bill similar to the one currently under consideration was defeated by only nine votes – an incredibly slim margin considering it had been negatively recommended by the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee that year. The same committee gave HB 648 an "ought to pass" recommendation March 18. Also, a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire voters support such a law, and medical marijuana advocates say legislators have learned a lot in two years about both medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy.

    "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," said Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy executive director. "Public opinion may soon become public policy."

    Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws which effectively protect qualifying patients from arrest and help them safely access marijuana. Michigan became the most recent last year when 63 percent of voters passed its medical marijuana law by ballot initiative. Of the 11 states that have collected such data, not one has seen youth marijuana use rates increase after establishing a medical marijuana law. In fact, each of those states, including California, has actually seen youth marijuana rates decline, in some cases dramatically.


United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Passes House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee, 9-6

Minnesota Cares logo

MARCH 24, 2009

Medical Marijuana Passes House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee, 9-6

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)........................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee passed the House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, H.F. 292, today by a vote of  9 to 6. The vote is the latest in a string of solid committee wins for the House and Senate versions of the popular measure.

     Norm Stamper, former chief of police for the city Seattle, testified in favor of the bill. "As Seattle's police chief, I had real-world experience dealing with Washington's medical marijuana law, and can say from first-hand knowledge that medical marijuana is not a problem for law enforcement," Stamper said. "The Minnesota bill has solid safeguards built into it, and the problems being speculated about by some opponents simply do not reflect reality."

     Laws protecting patients from arrest and jail for using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation are in effect in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Michigan's is the most recently enacted, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote last November.

     Organizations that have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among others.


St. Paul, MN
United States

Obama ends federal raids on medical marijuana!

Dear Friends:

We're in a new era.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government will now defer to state governments on medical marijuana — a 180-degree reversal of the Bush administration's anti-democratic policies.

The impact was immediate. On the day of Holder's announcement, New Mexico announced that it had issued the first license that any state government has ever issued to a medical marijuana producer in any state. That first nonprofit provider will be able to grow and sell medical marijuana to card-carrying patients without being harassed or raided by local, state, or federal law enforcement officials.


  • Rhode Island is poised to expand its existing medical marijuana law to allow for three nonprofits to dispense medical marijuana to registered patients.
  • This November, Maine voters will consider a ballot initiative similar to what Rhode Island envisions. MPP's polling shows the initiative is supported by 66% of likely voters.
  • The Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota legislatures are debating bills to create new medical marijuana laws that allow for licensed dispensing from day one.
  • In Arizona, MPP's campaign committee will be placing a similar proposal on the statewide ballot in November 2010. That initiative is supported by 65% of likely voters.
  • In California, medical marijuana is dispensed at approximately 400 collectives that are generating approximately $100 million annually in state tax revenues. They operate under a state law that allows their activity but doesn't provide for state licensing. With federal policy improved and clarified, we expect the California Legislature to pass legislation similar to our Arizona proposal.

To fully appreciate the changes we're seeing, compare the Obama administration's policy to the Bush administration's policy. In the fall of 2001, after executing the first of what would be dozens of medical marijuana dispensary raids over eight years, a spokesperson for Bush's Justice Department said, "The recent enforcement is indicative that we have not lost our priorities in other areas since September 11. The attorney general and the administration have been very clear: we will be aggressive."

As the World Trade Center was still literally smoldering and our country was about to launch two foreign wars, the Bush administration was crowing about how it was arresting medical marijuana patients. That policy was not only cruel, but stupid. Good riddance.

Now that the Obama administration has taken the Drug Enforcement Administration out of the business of busting pharmacy-like establishments, MPP will be lobbying the federal government to also do the following:

  • Congress should remove the federal ban on the District of Columbia enacting a local medical marijuana law. In November 1998, 69% of D.C. voters passed a medical marijuana ballot initiative, but every year since then Congress has attached a rider to its D.C. spending bill that prevents this law from taking effect. Even former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, the author of the federal ban, now supports lifting it — and has lobbied on MPP's behalf to do exactly that.
  • The DEA should stop preventing the University of Massachusetts from growing medical marijuana for research purposes. A privately grown, regulated supply of marijuana is a prerequisite to getting marijuana approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription medicine.
  • The Obama administration should reopen the existing federal program that currently provides medical marijuana to only three patients nationwide but that was closed to new enrollment in 1992. This could be a huge boon to patients in states without medical marijuana laws.

As you can see, it's an exciting time, with some of the best possibilities for change that I've seen since I cofounded MPP 14 years ago. But we're 100% dependent on supporters like you to help us fund our lobbying efforts ... so would you please help us take advantage of this newly receptive political atmosphere by making the most generous donation you can afford today?  I personally appreciate anything you can give to help our work.

Thank you,

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 $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Sentencing Postponed in Charlie Lynch's Medical Marijuana Trial

This is a potentially big development:

U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu asked prosecutors for a written response from the Justice Department about its position on medical marijuana prosecutions in light of recent comments from Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

Holder said last week that the Justice Department under President Obama had no plans to prosecute dispensary owners who operated within their state's law.

Wu said he did not believe that any change in policy would affect the conviction of Charles Lynch, 47. But the judge said he wanted to consider any new information about the policy before imposing sentence. [Los Angeles Times]

Even as the new administration moves towards ending federal interference with state medical marijuana laws, Lynch's prosecution remains a national controversy and a harsh reminder that the war on medical marijuana continues to claim casualties.

Attorney General Holder has only one logical choice here: tell Judge Wu to send Charlie Lynch home. It's the only option that would be morally and politically consistent with the administration's decision to respect state medical marijuana laws. Holder has been handed an opportunity to intervene and if he lets this man go to prison, he makes a mockery of everything he's said about medical marijuana policy.

This is yet another important test that will tell us a great deal about the new administration's commitment to cleaning up the mess created by a decade-long war against medical marijuana. Thus far, Obama's approach has been encouraging and I'm optimistic that justice will be done in the Lynch trial as well.

It should be abundantly clear at this point that the best way to avoid bad publicity with regards to medical marijuana policy is to support patients and providers.

Ask your D.C. Councilmembers to stand up to Congress!

Ask your D.C. Councilmembers to stand up to Congress!

Dear Friends:

Although 69% of Washington, D.C. voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998, Congress passed the Barr Amendment, which blocked the law from being implemented. As a result, seriously ill District residents continue to be treated as criminals simply for using their doctor-recommended medicine.

We now have the opportunity to get Congress to remove this anti-medical marijuana language from the D.C. appropriations bill along with other ideological social policy riders. Please take a moment to call and urge the D.C. City Councilmembers to pass a resolution calling on Congress to stop overriding the will of D.C. voters and not include these riders in the FY2010 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bills. While calling is more effective, you can also e-mail your councilmembers if you prefer.

District councilmembers need to know that their constituents care about the fate of seriously ill District residents and D.C.'s ability to self-govern. This cannot happen without your help. Also, please forward any responses from councilmembers back to me at so that we can identify a sponsor and get the resolution passed in a timely fashion.

All patients suffering from a condition that could benefit from medical marijuana, medical professionals, law enforcement, or clergy please contact me at to see how you can be of special help in passing this resolution.  Other activists can pitch in too by reaching out to supportive patients, medical professionals, law enforcement, and clergy and encouraging them to contact me.

The result of Congress' interference is tragic. On September 24, 2004, 27-year-old Jonathan Magbie, a quadriplegic who used marijuana for his medical condition, died while serving a 10-day sentence in the D.C. jail after being convicted of marijuana possession and the jail failed to attend to his medical needs. Had the will of the District of Columbia and its voters been implemented, he would likely not have faced criminal penalties for relieving his symptoms, and he could still be alive today.

A resolution calling on Congress to stop this and other interference has been drafted and is awaiting a sponsor. In addition to calling on Congress to remove the Barr Amendment, it also urges Congress to remove other ideological social policy riders that limit the District's ability to self-govern and make its own policies regarding abortion, domestic partnerships, and contraceptive coverage.

Please take a moment now to call and e-mail your councilmembers. We need the Council to send the clear message to Congress that it must stop thwarting D.C. residents' ability to determine their own policies, including their decision to protect medical marijuana patients.

Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project.


Noah Mamber

Noah Mamber
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project

Washington, DC
United States

Press Advisory: Medical Marijuana Hearing Tuesday in House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee

Minnesota Cares logo

MARCH 22, 2009

Medical Marijuana Hearing Tuesday in House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee
Former Seattle Police Chief Expected to Dispel Myths About Medical Marijuana Laws

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)........................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, H.F. 292, at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. Among the scheduled witnesses is Norm Stamper, former chief of police for Seattle, whose testimony is expected to dispel many common myths about medical marijuana laws.

    WHAT: House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee hearing on the medical marijuana bill,     H.F. 292.

    WHO: Scheduled witnesses include:
      -- Norm Stamper, former chief of police, Seattle
      -- Robert Youcha of St. Francis, a paramedic who suffered spinal injuries in a 1998 ambulance accident, leaving him in constant pain

     WHERE: Rm. 10, State Office Building, St. Paul.

     WHEN: Tuesday, March 23, 12:45 p.m.


St. Paul, MN
United States

Medical Marijuana: California Dispensary Operator Faces Decades in Federal Prison at Sentencing Monday

The Obama administration may have put an end to the DEA raids on medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal (see story here), but the legacy of the Bush administration's crusade against medical marijuana continues. Morro Bay, California, dispensary operator Charles Lynch is a case in point. After having been convicted of federal marijuana law violations, he goes to court for sentencing Monday, where he faces a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence and the possibility of up to 100 years behind bars.
Charlie Lynch (from
Lynch did everything by the book. Before opening his business in April 2006, he first contacted the DEA, which eventually told him it was "up to cities and counties" to decide about dispensaries. He also sought and received all necessary business permits from the city of Morro Bay.

But that didn't stop a local law enforcement official bent on shutting down his Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers from going after him. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges unleashed an 11-month investigation into Lynch and the dispensary. He and his deputies surveilled the premises, took down license plate numbers and stopped the vehicles of dispensary workers and clients, and even resorted to using criminal undercover informants in a failed bid to get Lynch to violate state law.

Sheriff Pat Hedges couldn't find enough evidence against Lynch to even get a search warrant from state courts, so he turned to the DEA. On March 29, 2007, the feds hit full-force, raiding the dispensary and Lynch's home in full paramilitary attire. Lynch was not arrested at the time, and reopened the dispensary on April 7, 2007. The DEA then threatened the dispensary's landlord with seizure of his property if he didn't evict the Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers. On May 16, 2007, the dispensary shut down for good.

The DEA wasn't done with Lynch. Two months later, in yet another paramilitary-style raid, they arrested Lynch at his home and charged him with five counts of violating the federal marijuana laws.

After a trial in which -- as is always the case in federal court -- neither California's medical marijuana law nor the fact that Lynch was operating under it could be admitted as evidence, a jury convicted him of all counts in August 2008.

Lynch has received strong support from his local community, as well as sympathizers across the state and country. Demonstrations have been (and will be) held to demand justice in his case. Whether community support for Lynch or the Obama administration's commitment to not prosecute cases that do not involve violations of state medical marijuana laws will have any impact will only be found out Monday.

With the Obama administration's pronouncements so far on medical marijuana, it may be that the era of federal raids on medical marijuana providers is over. But as long as people like Charles Lynch are facing years in federal prison and others are serving sentences there, there is still some unfinished business if justice is to be served.

Medical Marijuana: Attorney General Holder Sends Another Signal -- No DEA Busts Unless You Violate State Law

Three weeks after Attorney General Eric Holder first signaled an end to DEA raids against medical marijuana providers, he has reiterated those remarks. Again in response to a question posed at his weekly Wednesday press conference, Holder said federal agents would only target medical marijuana distributors who violate both state and federal law.
Eric Holder
Thirteen states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana even though federal law considers all marijuana possession, production, and distribution illegal. The conflict has been most intense in states with the broadest medical marijuana laws, California in particular. The DEA has raided dozens of dispensaries operating in the state in recent years, and US Attorneys have occasionally prosecuted their operators, exposing them to harsh federal mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws.

"The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law," Holder said Wednesday at the Justice Department. But he was quick to add that the feds will go after anyone who tries to "use medical marijuana as a shield" for dope dealing.

"Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that's inconsistent with federal and state law."

During his election campaign, President Obama promised repeatedly to end the raids on California dispensaries, but raids continued after his election and even shortly after he took office, prompting Holder's original statement three weeks ago. No raids have occurred since then.

Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes told the Associated Press he welcomed Holder's remarks. "It signals a new direction and a more reasonable and sensible direction on medical marijuana policy," he said.

But, he added, there is still unfinished business left over from the Bush administration's crusade against the dispensaries. More than 20 California medical marijuana providers are currently being prosecuted in federal court, including San Luis Obispo County dispensary operator Charles Lynch (see story here), who could face decades in prison when sentenced on Monday.

"There remains a big question as to what the federal government's position is on those cases," Hermes said.

Another question is just how aggressive the DEA and the US Attorneys will be in determining that a given operation is violating state law. Perhaps in recognition of medical marijuana's broad support in California, the feds have tended to portray dispensary busts as targeting "drug dealers," not legitimate medical marijuana providers.

And yet another question will be the degree to which hostile local law enforcement entities attempt to sic the feds on dispensary operators, as was the case with Lynch.

Medical Marijuana: Not in Iowa, Not This Year

There will be no relief for Iowa patients who could have been helped by medical marijuana. A bill that would have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in the Hawkeye State died last week, after it failed to get reported out of committee in time for a legislative deadline.

Introduced by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), SF 293 would have allowed patients with qualifying medical conditions to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation and registration with the state. The bill would also have provided for the creation of "compassion centers," which could produce medical marijuana for numerous patients.

"The bill is essentially an attempt to address the suffering that people are in," Bolkcom said during a hearing last week. "People with severe medical conditions are not being helped by conventional medications. Studies have found that marijuana is an effective treatment."

But Sen. Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) said that while he supported the notion of medical marijuana, he thought the bill lacked "correct checks and balances." Bolkcom agreed that the bill was perhaps not perfect, but vowed to return to the issue in coming years.

The Upper Midwest has so far remained immune to the lure of medical marijuana, with the closest medical marijuana states being Michigan to the east and Montana to the west. But that could change this year. Although South Dakota legislators killed a bill last month, legislative efforts in Minnesota and Illinois are still moving ahead.

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