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Medical Marijuana: Florida Petition Drive Under Way

In a true grassroots effort, a group of Floridians organized as People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) has begun an effort to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2010 ballot. The group needs some 687,000 valid signatures of registered voters in the next nine months to qualify.

The group is not affiliated with any national organization and says it needs $5 million for the signature gathering drive and the election campaign. Unlike more traditional initiative campaigns, PUFMM is relying heavily on Internet-based activism. The group's Facebook page already has 4,800 members, and PUFMM is counting on cascading new memberships to gather what it hopes is 1.2 million signatures, providing a very comfortable cushion at validation time. PUFMM is also hoping for each signatory to kick in $5. That way, the group could meet its self-imposed budget goal.

"Patients need a safe, affordable and effective medication. We hope Florida will lead the nation in marijuana research to further its uses as a medicine," PUFMM head Kim Russell, whose father suffers from Parkinson's Disease, told the Cape Coral Daily Breeze."There is absolute support, we just have to get everyone organized," she said, citing favorable national polling data.

If approved, the petition would create a constitutional amendment that reads as follows:

"(a) No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property or otherwise penalized for the cultivation, purchase, use or possession of marijuana in connection with the treatment of Alzheimer's, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, chronic nervous system disorders, Crohn's disease, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, diseases causing muscle spasticity, or other diseases and conditions when recommended by a physician.

"(b) This section shall be self-executing. The legislature, however, may provide by general law for the voluntary registration of persons intending to exercise their rights hereunder and for the regulation of the distribution and sale of marijuana to persons intending to exercise their rights hereunder.

"(c) Nothing herein, however, shall be construed so as to prevent the legislature from enacting laws penalizing the operation of motor vehicles, boats, watercraft or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana or regulating the use of marijuana by minors. Similarly, all laws in effect at the time of adoption of this section penalizing the operation of motor vehicles, boats, watercraft or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana or regulating the use of marijuana by minors shall remain in force."

The proposed amendment does not create limits on the number of plants or the amount of usable marijuana patients may possess. It appears to leave that up to the legislature. In fact, PUFMM would prefer that the legislature just went ahead and passed a medical marijuana bill and is asking people to write to their representatives in the hope of achieving just that. "We are hoping they will submit a bill rather than a ballot initiative," Russell said. "The Internet is a huge resource for us."

While the effort is just a week old, it has already been denounced by the Florida Sheriff's Association and by Bill Janes, director of Florida's Office of Drug Control. "When we increase the availability of marijuana we increase the availability for young people," Janes said. "What this petition doesn't address is how the marijuana will be controlled. Will we just allow random growing of marijuana?"

Feature: Michigan Medical Marijuana Law in Effect

As of last Saturday, legal medical marijuana has arrived in the Midwest. On that day, Michigan's medical marijuana went into effect as the state Department of Community Health began accepting applications from patients to register for the program. By day's end Saturday, the department had received 85 applications, 16 more arrived in the mail Monday, and more have been dribbling in since then.

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Jon Dunbar
No one is yet carrying a state-issued registration card, but the first ones should arrive in mailboxes within a couple of weeks. The department can take up to 15 days to review an application. Once it is approved, it will be sent out within five days.

"We should be issuing the cards probably by the end of April," said James McCurtis, a spokesman for the department, which will oversee the program.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative last fall, but it did not go into effect until last Saturday to allow the department time to craft its rules and regulations. Under the law, patients can grow up to a dozen plants. Caregivers can grow for up to five patients, as well as themselves. Patients must have a doctor's recommendation and suffer from a specified list of diseases, symptoms, or conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

As last weekend's opening day rush of applications suggests, there is pent up demand for medical marijuana in Michigan. Advocates estimate that 50,000 people may qualify under the state law. The Chronicle spoke with two of them this week.

Lynn Allen of Williamston suffers from AIDS and hepatitis C, contracted from a blood transfusion. He has been on disability since 1996, the last time he was able to work. Marijuana works for him, he said.

"I've been through periods where I lost a lot of weight, and I need medical marijuana primarily to develop my appetite," he said. "It causes the munchies."

Allen had experimented with weed back in his college days in the 1970s, but had left it behind long ago. "It's been 30 years since I tried it in college, but I decided to try it again, and it seems to work reasonably well, so I was quite happy when the vote passed. I plan to grow my own. I don't have a real good history with growing things, but this will be a fun project."

Allen hasn't sent in his application yet, but will soon, he said. "I have an appointment with my doctor to get the documentation signed, then I will submit it."

Another Michigander preparing to take advantage of the new law is 19-year-old Jon Dunbar of Kalamazoo. Dunbar suffers chronic pain from degenerative spinal problems and neuropathy and walks with the assistance of a cane.

"It started with a little bit of back pain and has gotten progressively worse for the past two years," Dunbar explained. "I am now disabled. This has taken my life from me. About a year ago, I started getting symptoms in my leg. When the nerves die, you lose function and feeling. I can't drive, I can't walk normally, I will never be able to play sports again. I have to do physical therapy because the nerves are constantly dying and I have to learn to adjust to that," he explained.

"My doctor says there is no cure and I will be on some form of pain management for the rest of my life. I've been on almost every opiate you can think of -- fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone -- but that stuff is horribly addictive. It's bad enough having to watch my nerves die; I don't want to be some kind of addict, too."

[Ed: The likelihood of a pain patient getting addicted to opiates is actually low if the prescribing is handled properly, research has found, but that's another issue. Clearly patients who prefer not to use powerful opiates have legitimate reasons and should not be forced to do so (just as patients who need or prefer opiates for pain control should not be prevented from obtaining them).]

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Michigan medical marijuana advocates at the State House
It wasn't just opiates. "This is as tough a challenge for me as you can imagine," Dunbar said. "My mom had pictures of me playing sports on the wall. It was a constant reminder of all the things I can never do again. It was very depressing, and I was on Xanax, Valium, Clonazapam. But I realized no matter how mad or sad I got, it wasn't going to change."

Medical marijuana helps him lay off the heavy meds, he said. "It helps me cut back on my need for opiates for relief, and being able to cut back even a little is beneficial for me."

Dunbar tried marijuana for pain relief several months ago, but is waiting to get legal medicine. "After I tried it, I would have switched right away if it were legal. Maybe I could cut down on the 10 10-milligram Percocets I'm taking every day right now."
The former athlete and musician is preparing his application this week. "Since I can't drive, I have to catch rides to go to the doctor and take in my application, but I'm working on that right now. I should be an officially registered patient within three weeks," Dunbar said.

Patient advocates are keeping a watchful eye on the state and law enforcement, but so far, so good, said Greg Francisco, head of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (MMMA), the leading patient group in the state, which took a busload of patients and supporters to Lansing Saturday and signed up 50 people. "We're relatively happy with the way the state has responded," he said. "It would have been nice if they had been more collaborative with us, but they didn't really collaborate with any of the stakeholders, not patients, not law enforcement, not pharmacies, not doctors. Still, I think we have a workable program here."

A handful of patients have run into problems with police since the law passed in November, but the courts have been inclined to throw out those cases, Francisco said. In one case in the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights, police raided a couple growing 21 plants, but now the city finds itself in the odd position of ensuring that the plants stay alive. While there are some grey areas in the law, things will sort themselves out, he predicted.

"Most departments are saying they will follow the law, but the state has not been good at communicating just how the program works or what are the limits and liberties," said Francisco. "We're dedicated to protecting the liberties of patients and encouraging people to stay within the limits. We're trying to create an ethic of respect for the law on all sides."

MMMA has been busy traversing the state and working with patients, said Francisco. "We've been starting compassion clubs. These are not marijuana hook-ups, these are patient support groups. They help hook patients up with doctors and things like that. Now, people may make relationships at the compassion clubs, but if they want to talk about obtaining clones and medicine, that's going to happen outside the club. That's a secondary function for these clubs; they're not dispensaries, but pure patient support groups."

While the law allows patients to grow up to 12 plants and provides for caregivers who can grow the allotted maximum for up to five patients, plus themselves, it does not mention co-ops or dispensaries. That means there is going to be some pushing of boundaries, said Francisco.

"There are lots and lots of different models being talked about," he said. "There are entrepreneurs pushing the envelope, and we encourage that. We encourage people to make good choices and go for it. We would hope that we would end up with not for profit, community-based operations, but we're really about options and pushing the envelope."

And so the tendrils of the medical marijuana movement burrow into the fertile soil of Michigan. Soon, it may not be the only Midwest medical marijuana state. Legislative efforts are well under way in Minnesota and Illinois. Perhaps by the time the lawmakers go home in those two states, they will be ready to join Michigan as part of the third front (after the West Coast and the Northeast) in the expansion of therapeutic cannabis.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Cool Madness: The Trial of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer," by Vanessa Nelson (2008, MMA Publishing, 353 pp., $19.95 pb.)

[Order "Cool Madness" by making a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org and specificying "Cool Madness" as your requested membership premium.]

UC Berkeley-trained journalist Vanessa Nelson has found a niche for herself reporting on medical marijuana prosecutions in California. One can only hope it will not be a lasting niche; that the events of which she is reporting will soon be the stuff of history, a quaint reminder of what is was like to live in the bad old days.

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But as the recent DEA raid on a San Francisco dispensary suggests, the era of mindless persecution by the federal government of medical marijuana patients and providers is not over yet -- despite the nice words coming from Attorney General Holder. Other California medical marijuana providers are currently serving prison terms, some are waiting to be sentenced, and some are in the midst of appeals. All of them are facing (or already enduring) harsh federal sentencing laws for the crime of trying to help their fellow sufferers.

The case of Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, is among the most outrageous. A physician residing in the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Cool (thus the title) who came to embrace the therapeutic benefits of cannabis after a bout with breast cancer, Dr. Fry became an enthusiastic advocate of the herb, recommending it for patients, and, with the help of her husband, encouraging them to grow their own (and even selling them starter kits), and trying -- not very successfully -- to grow it themselves.

Fry and Schafer had consulted with local law enforcement and thought they were safe from prosecution, but they were naïve and mistaken, as started to become evident on September 26, 2001, when their home and offices were raided by aggressive DEA agents, and a whopping 34 marijuana plants seized. [Ed: This is what federal law enforcement had time to spend on, barely two weeks after major terrorist attacks on two US cities.]

Then, as is often the case with DEA medical marijuana raids, nothing happened, as if the bust had disappeared into limbo. That is, nothing happened until the US Supreme Court came down on the side of the federal government in the Raich case in 2005. Within a matter of days, Fry and Schafer found themselves indicted and arrested on federal marijuana manufacture and distribution charges.

Oddly enough, the 34 plants seized had somehow morphed into more than 100 plants in the government's case. That makes an important difference -- the difference between a short sentence, or even probation, and a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years. And that's what Assistant US Attorney Anne Pings was determined to get when Fry and Schafer finally went to trial on August 1, 2007.

Nelson provides a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings, from the defense's selection of famed defense attorney Tony Serra and his less flamboyant but equally dogged co-counsel Laurence Lichter to the bail hearing after they were convicted. In so doing, she has crafted a gripping narrative tale more akin to a page-turning novel than a dry and dusty trial transcript.

Not only is the narrative gripping, it is also infuriating for anyone sympathetic to the medical marijuana movement or who holds to the notion that trials are about justice. With Serra and Lichter forbidden to even mention medical marijuana, as is typically the case in those federal medical marijuana trials, that the prosecution would win convictions was almost a foregone conclusion to anyone other than those medical marijuana supporters so blinded by the righteousness of their cause that they couldn't see the approaching freight train. That didn't stop the defense duo from repeatedly trying to introduce the topic, leading to rapid-fire prosecution objections, repeated sidebars, and courtroom fire-works. Still, the jury that heard the case got only the faintest hints of what it was really all about.

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Fry, Schafer and family at August 2007 demonstration (courtesy indybay.org)
There were some real villains in this little drama, and some buffoons. (While Nelson was clearly sympathetic to the defendants, the following characterizations are mine, not hers.) Prosecutor Pings spared no tactic, no innuendo, no insinuation in trying to convince the jury that Fry and Schafer were money-hungry dope dealers, even going so far as to tell the jury they advertised their services on a rock radio station! Nor was she in the least reluctant to intimidate and threaten former employees facing their own legal problems into turning state's evidence and portraying the couple as mercenary marijuana peddlers. Actions like those may make Pings an effective prosecutor, but they also paint her as a terrible human being, willing to do whatever it takes to send some harmless people to prison.

Another villain worth noting was a Sergeant Ashworth of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. At Fry and Schafer's request, Ashworth visited their properties repeatedly, enjoying their hospitality and assuring them they were acting within the law. But by the summer of 2001, when he got done sipping coffee with Dr. Fry he was reporting to the DEA. Even worse, Ashworth actively encouraged the couple to grow another crop that year, getting the prosecution to the magic 100 plant number. This kind of sleazy, backstabbing behavior deserves a response. In this case, it seems the appropriate response would be to vote his boss out of office and send Ashworth out to patrol the dog pound.

As for the buffoons, the sobriquet was earned by the DEA agents on the case, from the supervisor who seemed exceedingly clueless about the things he was testifying about to the DEA undercover agent who infiltrated medical marijuana meetings where no pot was smoked and worried that he was getting a contact high just from being there. In an even more unbelievable, but revealing, example of DEA buffoonery, Nelson relates the story of two agents at the trial who, upon heading to the court house parking lot to get in their car to go to lunch, saw a member of the medical marijuana community attending the trial walk toward that very same parking lot (!) and assumed they were being stalked. The spooked agents fled the scene on foot and called their supervisors for back-up, only to be laughed at and told to go back and get their vehicle.

The DEA guys may be idiots and the prosecutor may be a nasty person, but behind them was the full power of the federal government. Nelson's account is a very disturbing window into just how these villains and bozos managed to wield that power. Again, this should be a wake-up call for those who think federal medical marijuana prosecutions have anything to do with justice.

[Order "Cool Madness" by making a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org and specificying "Cool Madness" as your requested membership premium.]

Press Release: Report: Federal Monopoly Obstructs Medical Marijuana Research, Conflict of Interest by University of Mississippi Professor Exposed

PRESS RELEASE Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: April 7, 2009 Report: Federal Monopoly Obstructs Medical Marijuana Research, Conflict of Interest by University of Mississippi Professor Exposed Washington, D.C. -- Medical marijuana advocates issued a report today aimed at drawing attention to the federal government's monopoly on the production of marijuana for medical research. The 14-page report, entitled "Obstruction of Medical Cannabis Research in the U.S.," highlights the federal effort to impede therapeutic research on marijuana and exposes a conflict of interest for University of Mississippi professor Mahmoud ElSohly, who holds an exclusive cultivation license issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the national medical marijuana advocacy group that issued the report, draws attention to the ways in which the federal monopoly impedes meaningful research and points to the need for a new policy that can be implemented under the Obama Administration. "In the United States, research is stalled," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Government Affairs Director. "And, in some cases, research is blocked by a complicated federal approval process, which restricts access to research-grade marijuana." Specifically, the report emphasizes the way in which government agencies -- namely the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) -- selectively delay the process by which researchers obtain marijuana for FDA-approved studies. The report also highlights a federal "double standard" on medical marijuana illustrated by testimony from public officials who concede to marijuana's therapeutic efficacy as long as it is produced in pill. The report also emphasizes a 2007 ruling by the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner that "the existing supply of marijuana [for research] is not adequate" and that an expansion of such research is "in the public interest." Judge Bittner's recommendations were in response to an application by University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Lyle Craker to be another cultivator of marijuana for FDA-approved studies. The application was denied by the DEA in the final weeks of the Bush Administration and is currently being appealed. In March 2009, the Los Angeles Times editorialized that, "The attorney general (Holder) should heed calls to end the DEA's obstruction of serious research into the medicinal value of marijuana." Perhaps most alarming is the report's exposure of the federal license that enables professor ElSohly to exclusively produce marijuana for the pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt, a subsidiary of Tyco International. This arrangement appears to be for the purpose of bringing to market a generic form of Marinol (a pill of THC, the active compound in marijuana, suspended in oil) due to go off-patent in 2011, thereby directly enriching ElSohly at a price that he and/or the federal government sets. To enable this scheme, the U.S. government has requested the United Nations increase a quota (from past years) for marijuana production by 900 percent. The request to increase federal marijuana production is a requirement of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Recommendations outlined in the report include, implementation of Judge Bittner's 2007 recommendations, streamlining the approval process for obtaining research-grade marijuana, and ultimately a removal of marijuana from the list of Schedule I substances, so that it can be made available to all who would benefit from its therapeutic properties. "The current research challenge is to conduct large-scale human clinical trials that evaluate the remarkable range of potential applications for cannabis-based treatments to specific medical conditions," continued Woodson. Further information: ASA report on the obstruction of medical cannabis research in the US: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Research_Obstruction_Report.pdf DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner 2007 ruling: http://www.maps.org/ALJfindings.pdf # # #

MPP moves medical marijuana bills forward in Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York

Dear Friends:

MPP is moving medical marijuana bills forward in Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York, with very real chances of each passing this year. This would be the most progress we've ever made in state legislatures in a single year … and if all four bills pass, a full 38% of Americans would live in states with medical marijuana laws (up from 25% currently).

This spring, MPP needs to keep pushing hard to propel these bills to passage. Would you please consider automatically donating $5 or more on your credit card each month to support our long-term state legislative efforts?

  • In Minnesota, MPP's medical marijuana bill has made significant progress: The bill was recently passed by the toughest committee it had to face in the Minnesota House, despite local law enforcement's efforts to stop it. The bill is now on the brink of being sent to the full House for consideration — and on the Senate side, it's heading for a vote from the full Senate, where its chances of passing are strong.
  • In Illinois, for the first time ever, a medical marijuana bill passed out of the House committee, and we expect the full Senate to vote on the bill within weeks. We have legislative leadership on our side: Last year's Senate sponsor is now the Senate president, the current Senate sponsor is a former prosecutor, and the primary House sponsor is the deputy majority leader.

    We have a real shot of enacting the law this year, but we don't yet have all the votes we need. We've generated more than 1,500 calls from supporters, put up hundreds of yard signs, and generated more than 1,300 e-mails to legislators. We need to ramp up the pressure with TV ads and even more grassroots support, but we need to raise the funds to do it. You can watch a video of some of the patients who are counting on our help here.
  • In New Hampshire, for the first time ever, a medical marijuana bill has passed the House. The bill, sponsored by a legislator who is a former medical marijuana patient herself, passed with 63% of the vote. MPP has retained a top lobbying firm and funded a skilled grassroots organizer who has debated the attorney general's office, generated compelling patient testimony, and mobilized hundreds of supporters. Now, the bill will make its way through the Senate.
  • In New York, in both 2007 and 2008, the state Assembly overwhelmingly passed MPP's medical marijuana bill, but the Senate's then-Republican leadership refused to bring it to a vote. However, control of the Senate has shifted to the Democrats, who overwhelmingly support the bill, so we're pushing hard to get it passed. Additionally, virtually the entire state medical community, including the state medical society, nurses' association, and the deans of the state's medical schools, support medical marijuana access. And 76% of New Yorkers also support the bill, including 55% of Conservative Party members (the state party to the right of Republicans).

As you can see, MPP has been extremely busy — and making progress — this legislative session. Our lobbying efforts in Minnesota, Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York are costing quite a bit of money, but it's all paying off. Would you please donate today so we can continue pushing hard in these states?

Make a one-time donation to our work

Become a monthly pledger to provide us with ongoing funding for our work

Together, we're on the path to victory, but we need your help to keep going.

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.

Americans for Safe Access: Monthly Newsletter

Medical Marijuana Advocates Get Calif. DMV Change

Qualified Patients No Longer Subject to Arbitrary License Revocation

The ASA legal team saw the fruits of another big victory for patients in March, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a new policy on driver's licenses that ends discrimination against state medical marijuana patients.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe ElfordASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford

As of March 2, the DMV Driver Safety Procedure Manual now says that "use of medicinal marijuana approved by a physician should be handled in the same manner as any other prescription medication which may affect safe driving." The change means that medical marijuana use now "does not, in itself, constitute grounds for a license withdrawal action," as it had in the past.

The change in DMV policy stems from a lawsuit filed by ASA on behalf of Rose Johnson, 53, whose driving license was revoked because she uses medical marijuana on the advice of her doctor. Despite having driven for 37 years without an accident or a ticket, the DMV revoked Johnson's license last July. According to the DMV, Johnson was no longer able to safely operate a motor vehicle "because of...[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug." Their evidence? Her doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana.

ASA filed suit on Johnson's behalf in November, and DMV announced their new policy in January, before her case was heard. Johnson was given a driving test, which she passed, and DMV reinstated her license.

"The new DMV policy is a significant change," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who handled the action. "Drivers will no longer have their licenses suspended or revoked simply because of their status as medical marijuana patients."

ASA had reports that the DMV had targeted medical marijuana patients in at least eight California counties, including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma. License suspensions and revocations by the DMV were done under cover of calling the drivers "drug abusers," though they were based on nothing more than the person's status as a state-qualified medical marijuana patient.

"This DMV policy change represents a victory for patients, which puts us closer to full implementation of California's medical marijuana law," said Elford.

Sentencing Delayed for Dispensary Owner

Lynch Seeks Leniency Based on New Federal Policy

New comments on medical marijuana from the U.S. Attorney General have prompted a federal judge to grant a reprieve to a California man awaiting sentencing.

Charles LynchCharles Lynch cuts the ribbon

The judge wants to hear if there are policy changes at the Department of Justice that would affect whether Charles Lynch, 46, should serve the mandatory minimum six years in federal prison for operating a medical cannabis dispensary. Defense attorneys have asked that he be sentenced to time already served, the four days he was held before posting bond.

Lynch was scheduled to be sentenced March 23, but his attorneys now have until April 30 to find and present evidence of new federal policy. The Morro Bay man, who was convicted in August 2008, has become a symbol of the Bush Administration's attempts to thwart state medical marijuana programs. Many patients and advocates have been pushing the public debate on this high-profile case and talking to the media, but among the most effective has been a member of LA ASA, Cheryl Aichele.

"Cheryl has become more and more active during this case," said ASA Field Director George Pappas. "She may be new to advocacy, but she's shown what determination and energy can accomplish."

Lynch has appeared recently on 20/20, on MSNBC, and is the focus of a Reason TV documentary with Drew Carey. Lynch is scheduled for Larry King Live the week of April 6.

"Mr. Lynch is a victim of an outdated federal approach to medical marijuana, which has changed under the Obama Administration," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "If President Obama recognizes the injustice of federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, then Lynch should serve no more time than he already has."

President Obama said on the campaign trail that he would change federal policy on medical marijuana, but his administration has been slow to announce what that will mean. Under questioning from the press, Attorney General Eric Holder has now said that the Department of Justice will no longer prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers unless they are violating both federal and state law.

By all accounts, Lynch was scrupulous in his adherence to both state law and local ordinance, obtaining business licenses and permits, and even joining the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. Though Lynch was prevented from presenting a defense based on compliance with state law or serving a medical need, his trial established that he even asked the DEA how to provide medicine to patients legally.

Lynch's medical marijuana dispensary, Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, was raided by DEA agents in March 2007. He reopened, but closed after being threatened with forfeiture of his property. Two months later, Lynch was charged in federal court with multiple felonies related to possessing and distributing marijuana.

Since the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, which re-established the ability of federal agents to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers, more than a half-dozen federal defendants have been found guilty at trial and sentenced up to 20 years in prison, despite being in compliance with local and state laws. More than two dozen federal medical marijuana cases are currently being prosecuted.

"It's time for the Obama Administration to act on its commitment to change federal medical marijuana policy," continued Elford. "Pending federal cases should be moved to state court, where juries can hear the whole truth."

The April 30 sentencing hearing for Charles Lynch will be at U.S. District Court, Courtroom 10, 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles.

DEA Hits Licensed SF Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Patients and Officials Protest Raid

Within days of Attorney General Eric Holder saying there is "a new American policy" on medical marijuana, DEA agents were again storming a California dispensary.

Though the indictment and evidence remain under seal, an unidentified official leaked word that the raid was justified because of unpaid state sales taxes. Holder had said that his department would go after only those who violate both federal and state law.

Within minutes of the raid starting, protestors alerted by ASA's emergency text message system had surrounded the dispensary. ASA and other advocates immediately called on local officials to take action, and within hours Assemblymember Tom Ammiano had issued a statement denouncing the raid. A statement from California's chief tax officer, Betty Yee, followed, saying that Emmalyn's was current on its tax payments. Other officials also denounced the raid, including Supervisor Chris Daly, in whose district Emmalyn's is located.

"I support safe and adequate access for all patients in the city," Daly said. "I condemn any force which is used to disrupt or prevent patients from accessing their medicine."

Emmalyn's was operating prior to San Francisco's 2006 development of a dispensary ordinance, and has been providing medical marijuana to thousands of patients in the city without incident. The dispensary’s attorney is Terence Hallinan, the former San Francisco District Attorney.

"There is no evidence that I'm aware of that my client is in violation of state or local law, or is errant in paying sales tax to the state," said Hallinan. "This is a slap to President Obama's face by DEA."

Medical marijuana advocates say that state law should be left to state officials.

"Medical marijuana patients and providers deserve a chance to defend themselves under state and local law," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "That's not possible once the federal government gets involved."

In recent years, the DEA has conducted more than 150 medical marijuana raids, the vast majority of which have been in California.

ASA Affiliate Profile: Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project

Lanny Swerdlow, a dedicated activist, licensed registered nurse, and talk-radio host, runs multiple monthly meetings of Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project (MAPP), an ASA Affiliate in Southern California's Inland Empire. And he and MAPP are achieving real success.

Tony BowlesLanny Swerdlow

Working jointly with the Riverside County Dept. of Public Health, MAPP was the driving force behind making Riverside County the first county in southern California to issue the state mandated medical marijuana—a remarkable achievement in an area known as a hotbed of anti-medical cannabis sentiment.

MAPP also recently succeeded in bringing a medical cannabis panel discussion to the Riverside County HIV/AIDS Conference, funded by the County itself. It was a milestone in the County's recognition of medical cannabis. Swerdlow had also hoped to screen the acclaimed medical-cannabis documentary "Waiting to Inhale" at the conference, but was blocked be the Drug Free Community Coalition, a federally funded local group with friends on the County Board. The film was shown at a separate location.

Since then, MAPP has continued to fight harder than ever. The group is engaged in negotiations with the Riverside County Sheriff's Depart-ment that could lead to a model police policy. They have succeeded in pushing medical cannabis dispensing collective regulations in an area that has long been known as staunchly opposed. And they're party to a lawsuit against San Bernardino County, similar to suits filed by ASA against counties that are noncompliant with the medical cannabis state ID card program.

The work of Swerdlow and MAPP shows that, no matter what the opposition, a vocal community can create progress with relentless pressure on public officials based on reasoned debate and scientific facts. For more information on MAPP, contact Lanny Swerdlow by email at lannyswerdlow@earthlink.net.

Dr. Frank Lucido's 30 Years in Practice: Celebration/Benefit Party for O'Shaughnessy's: the Journal of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians

This year, Frank H. Lucido MD celebrates his 30th year of providing Family Health Care in Berkeley. He began practicing at his current location on December 10, 1979. A celebration is planned in Oakland, CA (location TBA at time of reservations) in conjunction with a benefit for the next printing of O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. The new issue will include a report on over 1,000 medical cannabis patients Dr. Lucido saw in 2008. Dr. Lucido has been in the forefront of the medical cannabis movement since the passage of the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (“Prop 215”). His practice standards are rigorous, resulting in recommendation letters that are respected by law enforcement and the courts. He has addressed the Medical Board of California on numerous occasions and has even been referred patients by MBC members. These standards are described in "Implementation of the Compassionate Use Act in a Family Medical Practice" co-authored with Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, FNP (O’Shaughnessy’s, Spring 2004): http://www.ccrmg.org/journal/04spr/medicalpractice.html. Dr. Lucido’s three decades of primary care experience (as well as his experience in the 1990s reviewing cases for plaintiffs in malpractice suits) has given him a broad understanding of medical ethics. He has helped many attorneys defend legitimate patients and physicians who have inappropriately been targeted by law enforcement for possessing or recommending cannabis. He has been a member of the medical staff of Alta Bates Medical Center since 1979 and has served on the Family Practice Advisory Committee, the Ethics Committee, and the Medical Education Committee (once as Chairman). Dr. Lucido will soon be announcing an ongoing monthly community gathering on “Medical Cannabis, Health, and Health Care in America.” For more information, contact Danielle at 510-848-0958 ext. 121 or Danielle@drlucido.com.
Date: 
Sat, 04/25/2009 - 7:00pm - Sun, 04/26/2009 - 12:00am
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

ALERT: #399 Medicinal Marijuana Is Legal in Michigan

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #399 - Monday, 6 April 2009 Today over a million folks living in Michigan became eligible to apply for permission to use medicinal marijuana. It is the first day that the state Bureau of Health Professions at the Michigan Department of Community Health will accept applications. Michigan becomes the second largest state and the first in the heartland to have a medicinal marijuana program. Called the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP) by the state, application forms and details are on line at http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-27417_51869---,00.html In a vote last November, 63 percent of the state's voters said yes to medical marijuana. The initiative won in every single county in the state. Many police in the state are not happy. George Basar, president of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police http://www.michiganpolicechiefs.org/ , predicts the law will ignite widespread marijuana abuse as stated in this article http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n353/a02.html Others are accepting the new reality. For example, the Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton met Friday with advocates as shown in this article http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n388/a04.html We are starting to see calls for improvements in the law like this editorial calling for better ways for patients to obtain their medicine http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v09/n385/a02.html The Constitution of Michigan states that "no law adopted by the people at the polls under the initiative provisions of this section shall be amended or repealed, except by a vote of the electors unless otherwise provided in the initiative measure or by three-fourths of the members elected to and serving in each house of the legislature." The law does not provide for change by the state legislature. Perhaps in the future the three-fourths needed will vote to improved the law as the above editorial asks. Any change which would undermine the law is not likely. Michigan's law sends a strong message to elected and appointed officials at all levels of government that marijuana is medicine - a message you may help send, also. Most news clippings about the law and the various issues involved may be accessed at http://www.mapinc.org/topic/Michigan+Medical+Marijuana In Michigan the people have spoken. It will be interesting to see how the press covers the issue in Michigan in the months ahead just as it is in the other states with medicinal marijuana laws. ********************************************************************** Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor www.mapinc.org === . DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards and Paypal. Or, mail your check or money order to: . DrugSense 14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326. (800) 266 5759 . DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
Location: 
MI
United States

MPP testifies before Congress

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, MPP's Aaron Houston testified before Congress, urging lawmakers to rein in the DEA. You can read his testimony (posted on the House Appropriations Committee's Web site) here, or watch him discuss it below.

Each year, Congress passes a spending bill that funds the Justice Department, including the DEA. At yesterday's hearing about next year's budget, MPP asked Congress to tell the DEA to:

  • Stop interfering with state and local law enforcement in California and other medical marijuana states;
  • Immediately stop the practice of sending letters to landlords of state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening to seize their assets; and
  • Stop blocking medical marijuana research and approve the application for a medical marijuana research facility at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

MPP was the only reform organization to provide expert testimony at the hearing yesterday. In fact, MPP is the only marijuana policy reform organization with a full-time lobbyist on Capitol Hill. Would you please support this important work by making a contribution today? We appreciate anything you can give.

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.

Medical Marijuana: Oakland Cannabis Community Offers City Help on Taxes

Three Oakland city council members want to raise taxes on medical marijuana revenues, and, as is rarely the case, the objects of that potential tax are fine with that. The proposed business tax rate on medical marijuana sales would double, from $12 to $24 per each $1,000 in gross revenues, according to a report from BizJournals.com.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/oaksterdamtent.jpg
Oaksterdam tent, San Francisco Cannabis Day 2005 (Tim Castleman, courtesy SF Bay Area IndyMedia)
The move is being championed by council members Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, and Jean Quan. The trio reported in an agenda report dated for next week that the tax increase could bring in somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 a year in additional revenues for the city. That suggests medical marijuana sales in the city are running somewhere between $16 million and $32 million a year.

Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, owner of the Bulldog Cafe and SR-71 dispensary, and primary champion of Oaksterdam, the notion of revitalizing a hunk of downtown Oakland through the marijuana industry, said he had been working with council members on the proposal and that the industry was behind it. "We believe we should be paying more taxes, and we want to help the city more in its economic crisis," Lee said.

Lee also suggested that taxes should not be borne solely by dispensaries, but also by suppliers and nurseries. That would help further legitimate the industry, he said.

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